Like all major trade shows in 2020, the Smart Production Solutions (SPS) trade fair, which is usually held annually in Germany at the end of November, has gone virtual this year under the name “SPS Connect”. The event featured an online conference program and presentations. Siemens contributed to this year’s Virtual SPS with its own half-day online event, called SPS Dialog. This combined presentations on current and future technologies with customer use cases and a virtual “showroom”. The event highlighted the company’s Digital Enterprise offering and showcased forward-looking technologies and solutions.
Focus on the digital enterprise
A leading supplier to the process and discrete automation markets, Siemens is adopting the solutions approach preferred by many end users today. The company’s Digital Enterprise suite combines automation hardware with industry-relevant software and services. On the software side, Siemens’ Xclerator portfolio combines product lifecycle management (PLM) and electronics design automation (EDA) solutions, with configuration tools from cloud solutions such as the platform Siemens MindSphere and programming for the company’s low-code Mendix development platform. This allows users to model their products and processes using digital twins that connect the virtual and real worlds. Siemens enterprise digital services complement the offering with advice, implementation and optimization support.
End-to-end digitization and the role of the digital twin
Siemens Digital Enterprise suites support the digital twin, which allows manufacturers to simulate product design and production processes in advanced engineering software. According to Siemens, with a digital twin, users can test product designs against defined constraints and then optimize them in software before building physical prototypes. This process can dramatically reduce engineering time during the transition from design to production by eliminating the “trial and error phase” of building prototypes. For production, virtual commissioning using a digital twin speeds up commissioning of a machine or entire plants with less risk.
At the SPS Dialog event, Siemens demonstrated end-to-end digitization using real machine applications. Each application is described below.
Greater flexibility with modular production
Module Type Package (MTP) refers to an emerging standard for reimagining processing equipment in modular form. Rather than creating a single machine for all process steps, this approach realizes certain process steps in individual modules. These modules, which can be rack mounted for flexibility, integrate devices such as a compressor, pumps and valves into a functional unit with local intelligence. Users can then add or subtract modules to scale up or down a process based on changing demand.
Thanks to digital twins, OEMs can develop new modules and then easily integrate them into existing production lines. The Digital Enterprise portfolio allows users to simulate, test and preconfigure modules in advance. Siemens believes that this can significantly reduce the engineering effort during commissioning and allow the modules to be quickly and easily integrated into the plant and process control system.
With MTP, users work with fully automated, pre-tested and out of the box modules that can be easily integrated in two steps (physical connection, module import).
Additive manufacturing: high precision printing and milling
The use of additive manufacturing (AM) technology in industrial applications has grown rapidly in recent years. In this Siemens application, AM is used to speed up the production of molds for lightweight components such as those used in formula racing cars. ‘Flexbot’, an innovation that combines a six-axis robot with a SINUMERIK CNC controller in a single machine, 3D prints a part and then smoothes its surface using a milling spindle – all with a degree of precision raised. Using a digital twin and simulation tools, the robot was optimized before construction to avoid collisions and increase the overall machining speed. AM offers significant potential benefits to manufacturers, including lower costs and a shorter time to finalize the product. In this application, a single machine is used for additive and subtractive manufacturing and the entire system, including the manufacturing process, has been virtually developed, planned and validated.
Using digital twins to optimize on-site machines
The digital twin offers enormous savings potential in both the design and operation phases. No one understands a machine better than those who built it, but once the machine leaves the manufacturer’s factory, it’s hard to do improvements or solve problems without access to current data.
However, by accessing data from a machine’s digital twin in the field, the builder can help their customer to continuously optimize the machine while it is on site, for example, to improve energy efficiency or optimize operations. . At the SPS Dialog event, this was demonstrated on a packaging machine from TrakRap, a small UK manufacturer of packaging machines for fast-moving consumer goods. Through simulation, the company optimized the design of its machines to reduce packaging materials and generate less waste. By monitoring industry-leading parameters, the developers were also able to reduce the machine’s power consumption. In addition, the company has reduced its time to market by 40% and overall costs by 30%, according to the machine builder. Finally, TrakRap has developed a new business model and now offers customers a service based on production measured in terms of “pay-per-wrap”.
Looking to the future: new manufacturing technologies
Siemens also shared an overview of some new technologies that the company says will change the manufacturing landscape, now and in the near future.
5G for industrial applications
5G wireless communication will have a major impact on the industry. With high data rates and reliable low latency transmission, 5G will enable complete and wireless networking of production, maintenance and logistics. While it will take another year for the version of 5G that will bring the most value to industrial applications, Siemens recently announced its first 5G router, demonstrating that it intends to be a pioneer in 5G technology for industrial applications. .
Industrial advantage: the new frontier
The industrial advantage has become the new frontier of Industry 4.0. Many manufacturers now collect and evaluate machine data for a wide variety of applications. Due to a lack of specific tools, many have written their own software that runs on local industrial PCs, but this method requires resources for maintenance, and updates can be a headache. A better solution for the edge is a local platform that manages devices, updates, and security patches centrally; manages communications with the cloud; and helps ensure industrial-level cybersecurity.
Siemens addresses these needs with the Industrial Edge Management System, an edge platform that manages edge infrastructure. The platform itself can run on-premise on a PC or industrial PLC, or in the cloud where it can manage devices regardless of where they are installed. Edge apps and software can be remotely installed on devices while their status information is centrally monitored.
Border or Cloud?
While users agree on the benefits of machine data analysis, some disagree on whether it should take place at the edge or in the cloud. The answer is, of course, “it depends”. Edge devices may be sufficient for small amounts of data, but for larger data processing tasks, a cloud-based solution may be more suitable. In a hybrid solution, data can be preprocessed locally before only key data is uploaded to the cloud for storage or further processing. This solution is particularly interesting for large manufacturers who wish to compare and compare data from several installations. While edge platforms can typically be hosted on any cloud platform, Siemens offers MindSphere as an industrial IoT solution as a service.
The weak coding makes it easy to access all this data
Machine builders often struggle to attract experienced software engineers with the skills to write the complex code needed to access and evaluate machine data. One solution for this is the development of low-code applications. For the industrial edge, Siemens recently introduced the Mendix Industrial Edge Platform, which allows users to build custom applications on the Mendix low-code platform that run locally as an Edge application. The platform is designed to ignore the complexities of data analytics and allow more people to develop their own IoT applications.
“Integration” describes how devices and software work together seamlessly. In today’s IT environment, the term also refers to the vertical integration of devices, software, and data between the edge and the cloud. In Siemens’ offering for discrete manufacturing at SPS, the common thread is the continuous integration, of hardware, software and services, to machine data with industry-leading or cloud-based industrial applications, all delivered possible by emerging technologies like AI and 5G that are changing the face of manufacturing.
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Keywords: Smart Production Solutions, SPS, Siemens, Discrete Automation, Industrial Edge, Cloud Computing, MindSphere, Digital Twin, Digital Enterprise, ARC Advisory Group.