The term Industry 4.0 refers to the use of information and communication technologies for production and automation. The digitisation and networking of processes from the corporate management level right down to the sensor, actuator and the workpiece, even across factory and company borders, provides great potential for value creation. The key lies in the flexibility and increased efficiency of the production process and in the engineering of products and production facilities. An essential requirement of manufacturing companies is the high availability of production processes in order to make the best possible use of production facilities and so ensure competitiveness. Disruptions or even failures of such facilities are usually associated with high follow-on costs. Industry 4.0 creates the basis for technologies and solutions that enable manufacturing companies to identify shortcomings and imminent disruptions in their production processes at an early stage, giving them sufficient time to take action before a failure occurs. The concepts “condition monitoring” and “diagnostics” combine various technologies to enable the status of processes and production systems to be continuously monitored, changes to be detected and give advice on how to optimise them.
Dr. Markus Köster works in technology development at Weidmüller and is an expert in the field of Industry 4.0
Information transparency is currently considered to be unsatisfactory. This means that the impact of the operating conditions on the service life of the electronics is often not known. While errors can be detected, if is often without precise information on the affected equipment or its location. If malfunctions do exist, they can often only be diagnosed via local signalling or even group alarms. Determining causes and corrective measures is usually costly and time consuming. And finally, maintenance, i.e. control or calibration, is currently performed at fixed time intervals, regardless of actual usage. The implementation of information transparency poses several challenges. It is often the case that not all the available information is transferred to higher levels, just the control-relevant data. Important status information for system diagnostics often remains hidden at the field level. Furthermore, although information is escalated via communication chains, accessing the control variables often involves extra work. It is also frequently necessary to convert protocols and modify data. Finally, there is a lack of manufacturer-independent standards
The infrastructure box for the distribution of power, signals and data in future modular Industry 4.0 systems
Information transparency with Industry 4.0, on the other hand, has the following elements: enhanced cloud-based information processing, implemented end-to-end data security, conversion of raw data to useful information and communication-enabled processes and systems. The core functions of Industry 4.0 are therefore digitisation, networking, analysis in superordinate IT systems, derivation of optimisation measures and feedback from processes. Modern production systems are therefore associated with increasingly complex structures and extremely elaborate automation designs. As a partner in Industrial Connectivity Weidmüller is driving forward the intelligent networking of production. This can be illustrated by a number of real-life examples.
The “Energy-efficient process optimisation through condition monitoring and diagnosis” demonstration machine is a conventional injection moulding machine that is incorporated into an Industrial Ethernet production network using communication-enabled components. The built-in power monitor measures and records all the relevant electrical parameters of the machine and makes them available to the energy management system. Communication-enabled ACT20C signal converters convert analogue machine data into digital data, which is subsequently processed and analysed in the cloud. ACT20C modules can be integrated into Industrial Ethernet structures thanks to their communication interface. What is remarkable about the signal converters is that they include comprehensive diagnostic functions in addition to typical functions such as signal acquisition, preparation, standardisation and output. The subsequent transfer of data to the cloud enables production and manufacturing data to be adapted together with other information such as current energy prices, and thus provides complete transparency of all production data. Another advantage of ACT 20 C signal converters is that they can be integrated via Ethernet interface directly into existing Industrial Ethernet structures.
Weidmüller system solutions consist of network components, the u-remote remote I/O system, including integrated web server, additional communication-enabled automation components and, not least, the u-link web-based remote support solution. u-link facilitates the custom design of remote maintenance solutions and is synonymous with high-level machine availability, simplified service and increased plant productivity. The more comprehensive the design of remote maintenance solutions for machines and systems, the more complex and time-consuming their management tends to be. The two major challenges are the creation of dedicated, secure functional connections to the existing IT systems and the emergence of increasingly globally networked systems. For many users, each of these pose major hurdles. u-link was designed as a web-based remote maintenance solution and provides impressive simple, fast and secure access to machines and systems. The intuitive interface of u-link can be configured to match the system and quickly customised to meet specific design requirements. In addition to an innovative cloud service running on secure, high-availability servers in Germany, u-link also provides an online platform with secure “containers”, i.e. data is protected from being accessed by “third parties”.
Since its presentation at Hannover Messe 2011, both production and automation have been occupied with Industry 4.0. The concept refers to the use of information and communication technologies for machines and systems, based on a symbiosis of information technology and engineering and adapted to the environmental conditions and requirements of the user. The term industry 4.0 also involves a paradigm shift that redefines the value creation and business models of manufacturing companies. That this has long ceased to be an empty vision is borne out by the examples given. They pinpoint key areas such as condition monitoring and diagnostics, the web-based remote maintenance solution for increased machine and plant availability, information transparency and communication capability as well as the infrastructure of future systems. The solutions presented here are an important step in this direction and help to make Industry 4.0 more comprehensible.
Solution for the SmartFactoryKL - Weidmüller is helping to turn the plug-and-produce principle into reality