With its international sales team, Beckhoff will show its complete range of solutions and latest innovations in the areas of IPCs, I/O, Motion and automation on over 1,000 square meters (roughly 10,800 square feet) at this year’s edition of the world’s leading industrial trade fair. Within a special Industry 4.0 forum at its booth, Beckhoff will also demonstrate that all basic technologies, functions and services for Industry 4.0 are already available today. New products and advances will continue to support this development over the coming years.
The purpose of Industry 4.0 is to make manufacturing more flexible, efficient and sustainable through communication and intelligence, thus increasing the competitiveness of German industry. One major component of this approach is control technology, which is still far from reaching its full potential. Improved communication methodologies and the rising convergence of information and automation technologies will deliver significant progress – something Beckhoff has always focused on with its PC-based control technology and fieldbus communication.
The convergence of information and automation technologies is at the core of this development, of which Beckhoff was the pioneer over 25 years ago with its PC-based control technology, which continues to provide the ideal control architecture for future concepts. As the core technology for Smart Factory concepts, PC-based control will be in focus in the Industry 4.0 forum at this year’s fair. With the PC as the generally accepted technology platform in combination with Automation Device Specification (ADS) from Beckhoff, the EtherCAT Automation Protocol (EAP) and the OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA), users have all the resources they need to implement the kinds of vertical and horizontal integration required by Industry 4.0.
In addition, TwinCAT 3 automation software provides the necessary modularity and object-orientation. Since TwinCAT 3 automation software is based on Microsoft Visual Studio®, users in the field of automation now have the IT world’s foremost software engineering tools at their disposal across the entire product life cycle.
The evolution of Industry 4.0
The technology demonstration from Beckhoff will cover various sub-processes for a Smart Factory:
Dr. Ursula Frank, head of project management research & development at Beckhoff, says about the basic concept of the Industry 4.0 forum: “We want to demonstrate at this year’s Hannover Messe that our open PC-based control technology makes it possible today to seamlessly integrate production systems and modules into existing or new systems so that they can communicate with each other as well as with higher-level production planning and control levels. Any changes in the job schedule or the current production run can thus have an immediate impact on the production flow. All of this already functions in practical applications. To fully implement Industry 4.0, however, additional research and development is still needed over the coming years.”
ScAut research project makes systems more intelligent
Another part of the Industry 4.0 forum is the “ScAut” (Scientific Automation) research project, which examines the integration of engineering-related findings from various disciplines into automation technology in order to make technical systems more intelligent. ScAut is one of 45 research projects sponsored by the “it’s OWL” technology network (with “it’s OWL” standing for Intelligent Technical Systems OstWestfalenLippe). The endeavour was named a “Leading-Edge Cluster” by the Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research in 2012 and is the first major project sponsored in connection with Industry 4.0.
Its goal is to provide a Scientific Automation platform for the development and operation of intelligent, self-optimizing machines and systems, where intelligent and reusable automation solutions will be supplied in the form of software modules or intelligent Bus Terminals. With the help of these developments, production systems will automatically anticipate wear and tear, reduce emissions and immissions, optimize energy consumption and avoid production errors. The results will include less waste, shorter cycle times, prolonged service life of tools and more sustainable production facilities without significant more costs for automation technology.