Making digitalisation and Industry 4.0 a physical reality
The global manufacturing industry spends a great deal of time and effort discussing digitalisation and how it will affect production in the future. However, many of the ideas and principles remain abstract, and it is often difficult to portray the many facets of digitalisation in manufacturing in one place.
“The need to give assurance to procurement teams and the C-suite that their investment in Industry 4.0 and digitalisation is not just a leap of faith but a sound business decision is a practical dilemma for many an engineer or operations manager,” says Steve Sands, head of product management at Festo GB. The company has taken steps to address this problem by developing a 5m long production line, named ‘The Productivity Master’, that attempts to bring often abstract ideas into reality (see panel).
The objective of the Productivity Master is not to focus on any single product from Festo, but to showcase Industry 4.0 technology and connectivity capability. So, not only can the machine demonstrate the seamless connectivity needed to meet the needs of the future factory, it will also reach into the cloud and explore the world of digital twins, multiple communication networking, big data and online cloud diagnostics.
Sands says: “While the factory of the future will stretch the boundaries of connectivity, big data, virtual commissioning and Artificial Intelligence (AI), what will not change much is the way factories will make or assemble products. So, we chose a demonstration application which contains representative tasks that are easily transferred into other industrial applications.”
The Productivity Master takes blank USB memory sticks from typical cassettes and prints and places labels on both sides of the stick. It then loads a custom set of data on the stick and distributes the stick to the recipient from its buffer storage location. Many typical machine functions can be seen throughout the process, such as pick and place, component flipping, rotation functions, rotary table control, vacuum and gripper handling, typical label printing and placement, magazine indexing, storage location logging, vision sensing, orientation checking and placement’ and component transfer
With cloud connectivity, the Productivity Master is an ideal showcase to demonstrate the advantages of the virtual world on a physical machine. The machine operates a fully automated ‘lot size one’ process, allowing orders for USB memory sticks to be fulfilled online from anywhere in the world, producing a customised QR code for the personalised stick. The user can then redeem their order from the cloud, via the screen or by scanning their QR code on a Festo Vision Sensor on an exhibition stand. The USB stick will then be produced immediately, printed with the users’ personal message, loaded with personalised data and stored, ready to be called off by a second scan of the code.
Like the real Festo factory in Scharnhausen, Germany, the Productivity Master utilises the latest digital maintenance manager for production managers and system operators. ‘Smartenance’ from Festo provides the maintenance engineers with a clear schedule and evaluation for the Productivity Master’s maintenance and offers a fast and easy transition to digital maintenance.
The system consists of two parts: a mobile maintenance schedule in the form of an app for smartphones and tablets on the shop floor, and a web browser interface for managing and documenting the maintenance tasks in the office. “Smartenance is quick and easy for anyone to install, self-explanatory and a simple and cost-effective introduction to digitalisation,” says Sands.
The Productivity Master also takes advantage of the Festo Dashboards in the cloud. The CPX automation platform, pneumatic service units and servo drives are all connected to the virtual world via the IoT gateway. Operators can immediately gain access to the most important data generated by the machine: such as temperature, current and speeds of servos, analogue and digital signals and errors. Air pressure and air consumption can also be monitored and changes logged, enabling prediction of potential problems in the future. Data can be accessed anywhere in the world and both live and historical data can be viewed without any programming or set up, due to the preconfigured nature of the dashboards.
“There is a real need to find ways of making Industry 4.0 and digitalisation concepts far more understandable and accessible if we are to encourage the levels of investment required to equip our factories for the future,” observes Sands. “Festo’s Productivity Master demonstrates how many different technologies that are already available can be combined to achieve major improvements in automation, operations and maintenance.”
By bringing typical application examples onto the Productivity Master, Festo aims to make it easier for all those involved in the decision-making process to associate Industry 4.0 and digitalisation to real life and therefore see how future digitalisation principles can be applied to production lines today.
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