The road to tomorrow’s production
TRUMPF is investing in Industry 4.0 and is setting guideposts along the way toward the Social Machine and the Smart Factory.
Manufacturing will become more efficient, flexible and productive, even when making up just a single item. This is what Industry 4.0 promises. Behind this concept is the vision for the factory of the future: the Smart Factory. The implementation of this vision is being called the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
TRUMPF, market leader and technology pioneer in machine tools engineered for flexibility in sheet metal operations, sees this development as a major opportunity. It will help to ensure its customers’ competitiveness on world markets. That is why, with great foresight, this German mechanical engineering company is investing in the necessary technologies and is supporting research projects dedicated to Industry 4.0. Even today the company can present some of the initial modules for a Smart Factory.
A vision: the Smart Factory
At the heart of Industry 4.0 is the Smart Factory, comprising self-configuring production resources and the associated planning and control systems. It uses a network to connect virtual and physical production elements by introducing the “Internet of things and services” to manufacturing operations. Five terms designate a cyber-physical system like this: augmented operator, social machine, global facility, smart product, und virtual production.
The central element in this kind of network is the human being, the “augmented operator” who controls and monitors manufacturing from a remote point. “Both as a source of experience and decision maker, the human quite consciously retains an important role in all the pertinent procedures of the production network. This is because he or she can modify targets, taking the situation and the context into account,” confirms Klaus Bauer, Head of System Development Fundamental Technology at TRUMPF Werkzeugmaschinen GmbH + Co. KG.
The augmented operator is supported by IT-based assistance systems. Included here are planning systems and virtual production, by way of which manufacturing sequences can be organized for optimum results. In addition, the augmented operator can also intervene in production, using mobile devices, from any point on the planet, and can monitor operating and production states by way of real time images.
Intelligent networks connect social machines
To be found on the manufacturing floor are social machines, connected with each other and with supplier and customer systems by way of intelligent networks. Considering the current situation, they can independently and immediately respond to potential deviations from the plan. This means that the global facility will achieve the overall optimum in productivity.
Passing through the manufacturing line are smart products which incorporate a chip, for instance, to communicate with their environment. Even the blank for a product is “aware” of its own status, its history and its destination. In this way the product can tell the machine how it is to be processed. This way, products with a batch size of just one can be produced just as economically as in mass production.
Human involvement as the intelligent decision maker
In a networked production system like this, no capacity bottlenecks and no underused resources go undetected. The system is transparent and can respond flexibly to deviations. If need be, it will call for human involvement in the role of intelligent decision maker.
A smart factory like this is still a vision. Implementing it at large scale is, at present, hindered by the lack of standards for the infrastructure, interfaces and information media. IT security is also a challenge in a networked system like this. In their efforts to identify solutions, various technical fields will have to undertake interdisciplinary cooperation and learn one from another.
TRUMPF lays down a roadmap for the smart factory
“The term ‘Industry 4.0’ is new. But the idea behind it has been around at TRUMPF for several years now,” Bauer notes. Here he is referring to products and development projects at TRUMPF, with which the vision for the smart factory will be transformed into reality, step by step. One particular focus of this machine tool manufacturer’s work is the development of the social machine.
As early as 1996, TRUMPF implemented remote diagnosis as a standard feature; it has in the meantime been installed in more than 30,000 machines. At the start, the company used analog modem technology, in the main. In the year 2010, the Cloud-based “Telepresence Portal” was implemented. If need be, a machine in China can, for instance, contact an expert at TRUMPF in Germany. That expert can read the machine’s status and even intervene in the production process. Several thousand machines are intelligently networked with TRUMPF by way of this new platform.
Controlling production from all over the world
A further step in the direction of decentralized control of networked production systems is effected by utilizing intelligent manufacturing control systems and the introduction of mobile terminal devices. With its TruTops Fab concept, TRUMPF offers software with which customers can monitor various machine tools on their production floors. In addition, they can insert customer orders and plan the production sequence. TRUMPF customers can already access some of these functions, from all over the world, using an iPad, provided that Internet access is available.
The trend toward using mobile terminal equipment in manufacturing continues. “Mobile equipment, in the framework of Industry 4.0, will find ever more integration into modern production operations,” Bauer confirms. In the future it will be possible to operate TRUMPF machine tools via an iPad.
This German mechanical engineering company can also present initial approaches to the subject of smart products. In laser cutting machines, lenses focus the laser beam on the sheet metal. In April of 2013 TRUMPF, at its Intech in-house show, presented lenses with an integrated RFID chip, in which specific data on the technology are stored.
Thanks to this RFID, the intelligent lens can, when queried by the LensLine status monitoring sensors, report whether it requires cleaning. The machine’s operator thus learns – easily, positively and quickly – whether to clean or change out the lens and can keep track of the lens cleaning cycle. Unnecessary cleaning operations are eliminated, costs are lowered, and the availability of the machine climbs.
The beginning of intelligently networked production
Using just these initial elements of Industry 4.0 makes it possible to depict a scenario for an integrated industry. The operating officer will monitor manufacturing from a remote point using an iPad and the TruTops Fab app. If, for instance, a capacity bottleneck is detected, contact can be made with the local production manager. If that person lacks certain technical knowledge, then an expert at TRUMPF can be called upon. The Telepresence Portal delivers an exact view of the machine, so that the expert can provide highly qualified help.
The objectives of developing Industry 4.0, also adopted by TRUMPF, are more flexible, efficient and transparent manufacturing processes, increased overall productivity and improved resource utilization. “This will help our customers maintain a competitive edge in the world’s markets,” Bauer explains.
Contact us: MastersofSheetMetal@trumpf.com
This article was first published in spring 2013.