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The internet of services in Industrie 4.0

Manufacturers need to think through their business model with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or Industrie 4.0 and ask how can a product become a service with a long-term revenue stream.

Author: Mike James

There is much talk about the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). However, ‘things’ are just part of the plumbing. We connect devices, giving them, no more than, nominal intelligence. The real innovation is the internet of services. Manufacturers need to think through their business model and ask how can a product become a service with a long-term revenue stream. Many manufacturers, however, recognize this and are exploiting the opportunity to improve their operations. For example,

Tesla is delivering vehicles with hardware and software which can be upgraded, their cars are sensor ready and software upgrades will provide extra intelligence, delivered via the internet. The customer could pay for the upgrades which then generates extra revenue for Tesla.

Otis is supplying elevators/lifts with sensors which send data into their cloud. The data is analyzed and Otis sells a predictive maintenance services package, again adding a long-term revenue stream.

Additionally, a catering company in The Netherlands is supplying custom meals to hospitals. Each meal is prepared for the patient based upon data received from the hospital about the patient’s needs. The meals are prepared in an automated plant.

The individualization of mass production and the internet of services add additional revenue. The smart manufacturing plant needs to be flexible and deliver intelligent products. A major misunderstanding is that this is not a cost saving exercise; it’s a new business model to increase revenue and profitability.

It’s important to map out opportunities and match them against the realities of today’s technology. A manufacturer who was heavily investing in a factory of the future did not build this type of strategy. Enthusiastic engineers ordered additive manufacturing (3-D printing machines only to learn they could not connect them to their network using international standards. They paid a heavy price for this error and damaged the initiative’s reputation. It’s worth taking independent advice before completing a company’s manufacturing strategy.

The best way to avoid these mistakes and build a successful strategy is to learn from other manufacturers in a safe space. MESA is a safe harbor to share best practices and lessons learned so that the industry can collectively rise to Industrie 4.0.

Mike James is chairman for MESA International Board of Directors. This article originally appeared on MESA International’s blog. MESA International is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, CFE Media, cvavra@cfemedia.com.

 

View the original article and related content on Control Engineering

Copyright: Copyright 2017 CFE Media LLC

Automate Showcases Future of Industrial Robotics, And It’s Remarkable

Attending the recent Automate Show in Chicago was an extraordinary experience that allowed me and more than 20,000 other attendees an opportunity to peer into the future of industrial robotics. Being part of a company that is at the forefront of the industrial robotics and manufacturing automation industries still provides only one perspective, and Automate brought together leaders from all corners of the industry, such as Fanuc, ABB, Kuka, Keyence and Cognex, to showcase advances and share insights. The range of technologies on display that were designed to enhance processes, improve product quality and lower manufacturing costs was astonishing. I walked away from the show with a deeper sense of awareness of two notions: the rise of robots is upon us, and machine vision provides robots with the artificial intelligence that will forge the future of robotics in our increasingly globalized society.

The Rise of Robots

Material removal, end-of-arm tooling by Concept Systems

As many in automation are aware, robots are becoming an increasingly popular answer to completing dangerous or repetitive tasks: grinding, deburring, bin-picking, part inspections, etc. Several manufacturers and esteemed integrators assembled elaborate booths displaying various robot capabilities, many currently in use and others as possible future applications. This alone is indicative of the rise of robots, but it is only the beginning. The leading robot manufacturers all appear to be focused on making robots simpler to program/configure and easier to integrate with technologies that create incredible functionality. The result: collaborative robots.

The show floor featured a number of collaborative robots performing a wide variety of tasks from part handling to packaging, some even bagged candy to hand out or served ice cream in a cone. Using various sensing technologies, the applications for collaborative robots to work with human counterparts are infinite. Long gone seem to be the days of robots in hard guarding and being tucked away in the corner, wrapped in ominous metal fencing. Today’s robots are becoming more flexible in their range of applications, friendly in their interface, and free to be placed anywhere on the manufacturing floor.

Forging the Future

machine vision, part inspection, Concept SystemsAfter seeing the surprising versatility of machine vision applications on display at Automate, it became clear that machine vision is the technological advancement that will launch industrial robotics into the future. When combined with the interconnectivity of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and other smart tools such as mobile analytics, machines equipped with technologies like 3D embedded vision, multispectral and hyperspectral imaging, and deep learning will possess a primitive form of artificial intelligence that allows greater flexibility in application and the ability to actively learn processes without programming.

For example, Cognex and Keyence both have solutions that can compare 8-10 different part characteristics in a fraction of a second. These are designed to be mounted on the end of a robot so you have a complete solution that is capable of part picking and inspection. Part picking and part inspection are tasks that are often hard to fill and results can vary widely as operators tire throughout long shifts.

In another instance, Fanuc is working on developing the ability to configure a robot through learning instead of programming, specifically the capability to give a robot a task, like picking objects out of a bin and putting them into another container. In this scenario, once the robot it is configured it will spend some amount of time figuring out how to complete the task via trial and error, and within a short time the robot will have mastered the task as well as if it had been programmed by an engineer. It seems apparent that as we continue to combine advancing vision technologies with low cost, power processing abilities the future is endless as to what can be accomplished.

Although the next Automate isn’t until April of 2019, I highly recommend that you get this event on your calendar early and plan to attend. The Automate show attracts more than 20,000 visitors, all looking for new ways to enhance their manufacturing processes, lower production costs, and increase their competitive edges.

HoloLens Review: Step into the Star Wars Universe

HoloLens review by Concept Systems

The HoloLens is kind of like a marriage of a holographic projector (ala Star Wars R2D2), a Kinect, a computer, and a stereo headset with other cool accoutrementsL

While Microsoft’s new HoloLens won’t replace the universe’s most loveable robot, R2D2, any time soon, it can give you a taste of what it might be like to live in a Star Wars universe.

Concept Systems’ Doug Taylor recently tested out the HoloLens, and here’s what he has to say about it: 

 The HoloLens is kind of like a marriage of a holographic projector (ala Star Wars R2D2), a Kinect, a computer, and a stereo headset with other cool accoutrements.  Basically, it is a 3D computer interface.  And it works.  It works really, really well.

 The device comes in a hard blob like case that has a device, a wall charger & cable, and a clicker.  The device fits many different styles of heads from my massive (but yet tasteful) pumpkin shaped head to my wife’s petite and attractive apple sized head.  Above the ears are a pair of speakers that aren’t too loud, but are pretty close to great.  The device has all sorts of lenses and whatnot and what looks like four Kinect style 3D mappers pointed in various directions. 

 First, let’s talk about localization, or basically how well does it know where it is.  Short answer: perfectly.  When you put a screen on the wall, it stays there regardless of how you move in the room and when you get closer to it, the screen gets larger and totally appears to be stuck to the wall.  If you place screens sticking out of things, they stay there.  You can place screens or what have you anywhere.  I fired up Microsoft Edge, logged into Netflix and started watching a movie.  I walked around the room and could hear the movie, but could only see it if I look where the movie was playing.  The localization engine on this device is as close to flawless as I could imagine.  No, I do not know how it does it, but I guess that it is just like a Kinect but with a 6 axis accelerometer.

 Next, lets talk specs on this bad boy:

Device Specifications

Optics

·         See-through holographic lenses (waveguides)

·         2 HD 16:9 light engines

·         Automatic pupillary distance calibration

·         Holographic Resolution: 2.3M total light points

·         Holographic Density: >2.5k radiants (light points per radian)

Sensors

·         1 IMU

·         4 environment understanding cameras

·         1 depth camera

·         1 2MP photo / HD video camera

·         Mixed reality capture

·         4 microphones

·         1 ambient light sensor

Human Understanding

·         Spatial sound

·         Gaze tracking

·         Gesture input

·         Voice support

Input / Output / Connectivity

·         Built-in speakers

·         Audio 3.5mm jack

·         Volume up/down

·         Brightness up/down

·         Power button

·         Battery status LEDs

·         Wi-Fi 802.11ac

·         Micro USB 2.0

·         Bluetooth 4.1 LE

Power

·         Battery Life

·         2-3 hours of active use

·         Up to 2 weeks of standby time

·         Fully functional when charging

·         Passively cooled (no fans)

Processors

·         Intel 32 bit architecture with TPM 2.0 support

·         Custom-built Microsoft Holographic Processing Unit (HPU 1.0)

Weight

·         579g

Memory

·         64GB Flash

·         2GB RAM

What’s in the box

·         HoloLens Development Edition

·         Clicker

·         Carrying case

·         Charger and cable

·         Microfiber cloth

·         Nose pads

·         Overhead strap

OS and Apps

·         Windows 10

·         Windows Store

What you need to develop

·         Windows 10 PC able to run Visual Studio 2015 and Unity

 

 Now for the downside.  The format of the image is 16×9 and the resolution of the device is something like 1080×607.  Also, the device draws the colors iteratively (one color after another) rather than like a TV does.  When you move your head quickly, the red image, the green image and the blue images are drawn at slightly different locations since they are drawn at different times.  When you hold still, it does a good job, but if you are moving around quickly, it offsets things a little.  Normally this is not a problem.  Since “moving” requires neck motion, moving quickly is not something you usually do.

 

The lower resolution is partly because the HoloLens does not have a single resolution, but has two, one for each eye, and when you think about a wearable device with 1080×607 times two, it is pretty impressive.  Think of it at 1080×1200 effective resolution, split between eyes.  The “actual” resolution (since it is a mobile device) is limitless, but the field of view is limited to the frame.

 

In reality though the HoloLens requires you to mouse using your whole head and hold your hand out in front of you to interact (so it can be seen by the cameras).  All this to say is that you would have to be pretty hardcore to use this instead of a TV when watching a movie.  Also, the device is not exactly heavy, but after 15 minutes of it sitting on your nose, you notice it for sure.

 

Enough with the downsides.  This thing is absolutely the coolest device I have ever seen, or even heard of.  It is many times better than I expected.  I giggled like a schoolgirl being asked on her first date as I gleefully played with it.  It is not just awesome, it is a ALL TIME MUST HAVE category device for any geeks who love cool, which means that when these things go on sale, we are all going to be out some serious coin because once you take a drink of the elixir, you will be transported down the rabbit hole and the world will never look the same again.

Vision/Lighting 101

Because computers are always improving—think of your smart cellphone. If it’s not replaced every 2-3 years many of the applications and functions become obsolete rending the cellphone almost useless—new technologies and solutions are making robotics smarter and more capable.

One major upgrade in robotic technology is one that allows robotic vision in three dimensions (3-D) instead of two (2-D). Robotics using 2-D technology has been around for years, but for intricate work, 2-D visioning wasn’t the best way to get the job done. Thanks to improved technology and newer cameras, robotic systems can now be upgraded to see the world the same way we see it—in 3-D.

At Concept Systems, Inc., we put these visioning upgrades to work when we worked with a cake maker and decorator. The decorator used a robotics system that took a photo of the diameter of the cake as it progressed down the conveyer. Further down the line, an automated system created borders and designs on top of the cake. The camera was able to exactly diagram the surface area of the top of the cake, but every cake is a little bit different. Some were a tiny bit taller or shorter than the programmed height. The height variance meant that some of the cake designs were distorted on the finished product.

Enhancing a system doesn’t have to be costly. The cake maker earned back its investment in the updated robotic vision system in only 8 months. In some instances, upgrading from 2-D to 3-D can automate systems that were once done manually, and those cost savings add up! The cake maker’s overhead photo visioning system also made creating borders at the bottom of the cake almost impossible, so staff members were creating bottom borders by hand, costing time and labor.

While the cake maker project sounds costly and time-consuming, it didn’t require a lot of down time or new equipment expense. Existing robots were retrofitted to with a new 3-D visioning system, though laser scanners were also installed. The scanners’ lasers used triangulation to create an exact 3-D image of each cake before passing it down to the robot decorators.

The combination of the latest 3-D vision technology coupled with SCARA robots can now be used to bring automation to industries beyond the food industries. Updating and modernizing complex machinery and robots just makes sense. It can lower costs, increase productivity, simplify processes and even increase machine safety.

Let Concept Systems, Inc. put this upgraded technology to work for your business.

Why 3D Scanning Can Benefit Your Business

Concept Systems provides robotic technology solutions to companies so they can cut operation costs, increase productivity, and reduce errors. 3D laser scanning systems are often a part of our automation solutions. These unique, ultra-precise systems perfectly capture 3D shapes in order to inspect and analyze real-world objects or environments, allowing for the measurement and collection of data on the exact shapes and orientations. This collected data is ideal for constructing digital 3D model solutions.
Various industries can utilize 3D scanning systems, from manufacturing and engineering, to design, development, and surveying, to movies, art, and medicine. 3D scanning results in two key things: higher quality products and less costly manufacturing processes. It’s been estimated that 3D scanning can reduce manufacturing costs by 75 percent. At Concept Systems, we provide clients with 3D laser scanner solutions so they can consistently create high-quality products that function properly.
We’ve covered a few of the businesses that can benefit from our 3D scanning solutions, but let us get a little more specific:

The Conceptualization Phase

Individuals who work in design-based businesses always go through this phase of conceptualization and idea generation. Typically done with clay lead or foam lead, 3D scanning takes conceptualizing to a new level. The scanners can be applied during the idea generation phase by digitizing objects and then using them to interpret and enhance concept diagrams.

Design Phase and Process

As mentioned, 3D scanning can be applied at the beginning of the design phase by using a physical object to design a CAD (computer aided design) model. Designers usually need to design around or fit a design to existing objects. You can scan these parts and incorporate them into the design. This results in parts that consistently fit.
3D model scanning systems can benefit the actual design process in the following ways:

  • It increases the effectiveness of working with complex parts and shapes.
  • It assists with the design of products to accommodate other parts.
  • If CAD models are outdated, a 3D scan will provide an updated version.
  • 3D scanners quickly capture all physical measurements of any object.
  • A 3D scanner ensures that the parts fit together on the first try.
  • You can capture engineering optimizations inherent in manufactured parts with 3D scanning.
  • Scanners utilize modern manufacturing on parts that were manufactured before CAD existed.
  • Allows for a comparison between “as-designed” models and “as-built” parts.

Development Phase

When a project moves on to the development phase, user requirements and documentation are followed and the project is measured by predefined criteria. It is in this phase that it is accepted by the client.

Implementation Phase

After development is completed the project can now move on to the implementation phase. This phase is the implementation of the system. It is the development of the actual tested solution. The system is configured and launched for testing. At this point feedback can be used to enhance performance and problems can be worked through. It is not unusual for the product to frequently move back and forth from development to testing. User training takes place in this phase.

Top 5 Reasons to Update Your Controls

Concept Systems, Inc. manages robotic vision technologies from start to finish. We first meet with a company that has production problems. These may be related to inefficient machinery, hazardous equipment usage, or simply not having a system that allows them to keep up with client demand for their products. Concept systems, Inc. will talk with a company about their current problem and brainstorm solutions where updated technology would be beneficial.

From here, we design from scratch or redesign current robotic controllers to become more capable of performing their designated tasks. Robotic vision has helped a variety of industries meet their unique production needs in a way that provides both consumer satisfaction and profitable returns for the company. Here are 5 reasons why businesses should consider updating their production controls and machinery.

Increase Productivity

Utilizing enhanced machine vision can increase a company’s production significantly. When the controlling technology is able to make better scans of the product, then the production process is able to speed up and put out a higher volume of work. If the technology is not currently being used at all, it can be programmed to take on a larger workload.

Efficiency and Accuracy

With increased speed comes higher efficiency and accuracy. Not only is the production line moving at a steadier pace, but the number of errors occurring during production is also cut down. This is a big bonus of having robotic vision. Human error is inevitable, but robotic technologies have little to no error when programmed and function correctly.

Less Waste

The good consequence of practically nonexistent error margins is less waste of materials and time during production and processing. This is a win for the company and the environment. Fewer resources are needed to get the job done and the resources that are used get used more fully. With less waste, the company invests less money into materials costs.

Larger Profits

Less money wasted on material costs is just part of the profits made by the company. With all the increases in efficiency and production, the company is able to get more products made or items processed through their lines and shipped out to where they need to go. Investment in robotic vision will definitely see an eventual retrieval of monies spent.

Better Safety

With robot guidance, the machines can replace or change some of the dangerous jobs once left to company workers. Special scanners and controls can be programmed to do the work in areas that are not safe for people to be around. Share a new company vision with Concept Systems, Inc.!