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Smart Factory Technologies Step Up at IMTS

Pat Waurzyniak
By Patrick Waurzyniak Contributing Editor, SME Media

Smarter factory systems connected via the cloud are the grand vision offered for the future factories that will fully leverage the best available tools from automation, software and machine tool builders. At IMTS 2016 in Chicago this week, the number of new systems and know-how showcased by factory automation and software developers attested to the manufacturing industry’s level of commitment to building the vital infrastructure for making digital manufacturing and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) happen.

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At the Digital Design and Manufacturing Institute (DMDII) in Chicago, Dan Hartman, UI Labs’ director, manufacturing R&D, shows visitors the latest digital manufacturing technologies for the smart factory.

To reach the full potential of the IIoT, manufacturers have to fully connect their machine tools to the Web and enterprise systems, collecting Big Data off the factory floor for crunching in analytics software systems. At the forefront of digitalization efforts are companies like Siemens AG (Munich), with its CAD/CAM/CAE software, automation and controls technologies, and also Autodesk Inc. (San Rafael, CA), which this week unveiled its Fusion lifecycle aimed offering a complete design-through-manufacturing platform for manufacturers.

Coinciding with IMTS, Siemens showed its digital expertise off at an event held Monday at the Digital Design and Manufacturing Institute (DMDII; Chicago) at UI Labs. Siemens, a major sponsor of the DMDII, unveiled the new Siemens Digital Enterprise showcase at DMDII, one of the private-public partnerships of the newly renamed Manufacturing USA, formerly the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). The Siemens Digital Enterprise Suite offers customers a link to the Digital Twin and Industry 4.0 with software solutions including product lifecycle management (PLM), manufacturing operations management (MOM) and the company’s Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) portal for connecting operations from the shop from to the enterprise level of manufacturing operations.

“The question we always hear from customers is ‘how do we get to market quickly,’” said Raj Batra, president, Siemens Digital Factory. “The DMDII is helping the industry to retool, and it’s important that we have a presence here.”

Siemens’ mission is to build manufacturing showplace for customers, added Bob Jones, senior vice president and managing director, Americas, Siemens. “We want them to experience the art of what’s possible, but also to have a sandbox approach.”

At the DMDII factory showcase tour, machine tools from companies like DMG Mori (Hoffman Estates, IL) or Haas Automation (Oxnard, CA) are all on consignment, loaned to the institute to display the latest digital technologies, noted Dan Hartman, UL Labs’ director, manufacturing R&D. The machines are connected with enterprise systems using MTConnect, an open-architecture communications protocol available as standard on new machine tools, or via adapters for older legacy equipment, that easily adds the machines to Web-based networks for data collection.

The Siemens digital showcase at DMDII/UI Labs includes displays of its broad range of manufacturing software, from digital validation on the factory floor with its Tecnomatix Process Simulate tools to its Teamcenter product data management (PDM) and the TIA portal.

Entering the Digitalization Age

At Siemens’ IMTS booth, the company also demonstrated how its new NX 11 CAD/CAM software’s new Convergent Modeling, which enables working with geometry including combination s of facets, surfaces and solids, that greatly accelerates and improves part designs before they’re built, including use with new additive manufacturing techniques. The Siemens Convergent Modeling uses two methods, precise geometry that combines things like NURBS [non-uniform rational B-spines] and B-reps, and faceted geometry in CAE, which includes topology optimization and lattice structures, noted Aaron Frankel, senior marketing director, Manufacturing Engineering, Siemens PLM Software. “Engineering tools have evolved in silos,” he said. “This brings the two together.”

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Grant Smith, Siemens solutions consultant, demonstrated Siemens’ Process Simulate software’s Human Factors simulations that validate conditions on the factory floor with anthropomorphic models.

NX CAM also is being used on the additive manufacturing side, with NX 11’s additive capabilities developed in a partnership with DMG Mori, and the software also has been extended to drive robots, said Frankel, adding that many Siemens aerospace customers are looking at using convergent modeling on the design side and on the manufacturing side with robotics applications.

Moving manufacturing fully into the digitalization mode will be a long-term process, spanning decades, noted Mark Forth, industry strategy and business development manager, Autodesk. “If you look around the CAD/CAM hall here, the customers we serve have more than one of these point solutions,” Forth noted, “but trying to connect the dots is a nightmare.”

With the new Fusion platform announced at IMTS, Autodesk customers get a lightweight system that helps them tie the many elements of design and manufacturing together. Autodesk now offers data management, design, and manufacturing functions, including its additive solutions, that help ease that task. “The heart of this is going to be Fusion,” Forth said. “It accesses the power of the cloud to collaborate worldwide. … Talking to all of these machines, you will not get there quickly—it will take decades, but we have to take the first steps. You always get early adopters.”

Keys to digital production are designing and simulating before the part is built, Forth noted, using 3D tools like topology optimization to build parts better—including additive processes. “We have a really good example here of residual stress that actually builds up in the part as it’s 3D printed,” Forth said, holding an engine part model. Using topology optimization on the part before it’s built enables accelerating the process and greatly decreasing scrap rates.

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Automation suppliers increasingly are linking robotic workcells operational data via the cloud, as with FANUC’s Zero Downtime (ZDT) system that gives manufacturing managers key metrics from factory robots. Here, a super-payload FANUC R2000iA robot is shown demonstrating the company’s Dual Check Safety (DCS) system while lifting a Chevy Corvette.

The cloud-based Fusion lifecycle management is the centerpiece of Autodesk’s strategy, he said, offering customers a more lightweight platform that costs only $25 a month on a subscription basis.

Tying in Automation

Factory automation and robotics developers also are spurring the integration of systems into Industry 4.0 and digital manufacturing. At IMTS, KUKA Roboter GmbH (Augsburg, Germany) announced its new KUKA Connect, a cloud-based software platform that enables data collection and monitoring of KUKA robots via the web.

“Factories have lagged in adopting Web access, but with KUKA Connect, manufacturers can get faster cycle times and optimized processes,” said David Fuller, KUKA chief technical officer. “This will enable you to instantly access your robot data from anywhere, any time.”

At FANUC America’s (Rochester Hills, MI) booth, the company showcased its new FIELD (FANUC Intelligent Edge Link & Device System) and Zero Downtime (ZDT) systems, both of which play into optimizing manufacturing processes with the connected factory. FANUC’s ZDT has been in a pilot system at General Motors Co. (Detroit) and other customers.

The ZDT system, which helps ensure zero downtime for factory automation systems, is scheduled for general release to customers at the end of this year. FANUC currently has about 6000 robots using ZDT that are deployed in 37 factories in five countries, noted Joe Gazzarato, director-engineering, ZDT Service Center. “This is really a tangible thing to help customers,” Gazzarato said. “We think we’re leading some of the industry with the cloud and analytics—and we’re really not after the reactive, but the predictive, with this system.”

At IMTS, Forcam Americas (Cincinnati) demonstrated the company’s Smart Factory Starter Kit, which is aimed at starting shops on their smart factory journey at a cost-effective price. The Forcam Force shop-floor management system offers manufacturers real-time shop-floor metrics including Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) for managing manufacturing processes.

Forcam Americas CEO Mohamed Abuali demonstrated the Force and Smart Factory Start Kit at the booth, where the company was joined by partners including Wago, Orion Quality Software, WinFreeCNC, Predictronics, and LillyWorks. “At IMTS here we have live integration, showing a legacy controller, a FANUC controller and others linked by Forcam Force, which is machine agnostic,” noted Abuali.

More smart factory developments at IMTS included Memex Inc. (Burlington, ON, Canada) unveiling its MTC-One, an advanced, easily configurable MTConnect board for legacy machine tools and other IIoT devices. The MTC-One, Memex’s third generation of MTConnect connectivity boards, offers users a fast ARM microprocessor capable of running Linux, MTConnect adapters, agents and other IIoT software.

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