Weidmüller Industry 4.0 - thinking ahead for the factory of the future

We are currently on the threshold of what is being referred to as the fourth industrial revolution. The terms explained at the end include "fourth industrial revolution" or "industry 4.0", which refer to the integration of Internet technology into production processes, as well as developments such as "Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS)" and the "Internet of Things".

In cyber-physical systems, each work piece has a digital production memory that defines what it is and what will happen to it. Production systems derive their tasks from this, throughout the entire value-added chain, from the initial processing step through to the transfer to logistics.

As an Industrial Connectivity partner, Weidmüller is working with the Fraunhofer Institute to develop a self-correcting stamping-bending tool for production, while Weidmüller also offers innovative Ethernet products for the factory of the future.

Self-correcting production processes - project with "Fraunhofer Institute"

Today, automated and thus resource-saving production already significantly reduces production costs. In order to push this forward, Weidmüller considers it an essential element of its economic responsibility - particularly in view of the material resources that are increasingly in short supply. Weidmüller is working continuously towards optimising its production processes - in the case of a current project, towards self-optimisation within its own production facilities.

Sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Research and Development, innovations for intelligent, networked production systems are being developed as part of the East-Westphalia-Lippe leading-edge cluster "it's OWL". The "Self X Pro" project is just one of the projects that arose from a co-operation between Weidmüller and the universities of Paderborn and Bielefeld, as well as the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology.

As an "Internet of Things" initiative, Weidmüller, together with its research partners, has developed a solution for the self-optimisation of stamping-bending machines, in which irregularities in the production process are automatically corrected. The goal: resource-saving production through minimal material losses and an increase in quality through optimised process parameters. Self-optimisation also enables further miniaturisation of the Weidmüller products and initialises the realisation of completely new product innovations, with the best possible quality.

High-precision measurement technology and intelligent networking of machines are an essential basis for self-correcting production. A measurement system inside the stamping-bending machine records the characteristics of the produced parts and relays the information on the machine output to an intelligent control system: self-optimisation. This system then ensures that the stamping-bending machine reacts to any deviations. Tools adjust automatically and thus optimise the running production process.

In the long-term this self-correction can be used on entire production lines, where machines will communicate with each other and relay irregularities in the process. For example, if it is determined at the start of the process chain that the raw material does not have the exact required properties, this information will be automatically relayed in order that the next machines in the process chain can optimise this. In the future, it will also prevent failures in entire machine systems and plants. At the same time, this technology guarantees optimum product quality, even when the process fluctuates.

Integration of Ethernet interfaces

High-performance innovative components for Gigabit-capable communication networks are a prerequisite for establishing innovative production processes of this kind. Owing to the higher number of network subscribers, the safety requirements for communication are somewhat higher, making the use of IPv6-capable Industrial Ethernet devices imperative.

The use of Gigabit-capable Ethernet plug-in connectors, switches and routers from its practice-oriented Industrial Ethernet portfolio enables Weidmüller to incorporate reliable communication in self-correcting production processes. Another example of how Weidmüller can steer products into the future is the integration of Ethernet interfaces with autonomous intelligence.

This opens up the possibility of not only relaying local information - from sensors and actuators, for example - but also of directly processing this information on site. Thus, local activities can be triggered, or even process decisions made, in almost real-time. This will take Weidmüller a decisive step forward which, together with its research and industry partners, will soon allow it to cross the threshold to Industry 4.0.

IPv6-capable managed Gigabit Ethernet switches

The automation technology continually requires greater quantities of data. Furthermore, high bandwidths in production networks are standard in machine construction. Gigabit and Fast Ethernet support the trend towards fully automated production; for example quality checks on work pieces are run automatically through optical image processing with a large image resolution. The high communication requirements in the industrial environment necessitate a very high number of network subscribers as well as increased safety requirements for communication, in turn making it imperative that IPv6-capable Industrial Ethernet devices be used.

Weidmüller offers two IPv6-capable product families of Industrial Ethernet switches - the Value Line and the Premium Line. The managed Gigabit switches in the Premium Line product family are designed for the high-end range; they include extended management and safety functions and are therefore suitable for sophisticated network solutions. The equipment can be delivered with Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet ports. Variants with Full Gigabit Ethernet as well as Power-over-Ethernet complete the range. Thanks to integrated ring redundancy technology with a recovery time of ≤ 20 ms, this equipment increases the reliability and availability of industrial networks.

The Gigabit variants enable the use in networks with a high volume of communication, and optional SFP transceivers offer a high degree of flexibility when connecting to fibre-optic networks. Gigabit Ethernet switches in the Premium Line product family by Weidmüller are designed as full-level managed switches. Variants are available with Gigabit uplink ports and Fast Ethernet ports as well as Full Gigabit variants with up to 9 Gigabit Ethernet ports.

Weidmüller managed Gigabit Ethernet switches offer a wide area of application which ranges from Ethernet applications with high bandwidth requirements (e.g. image processing), through central switches in hierarchical networks and in redundantly constructed networks through to utilisation as standalone equipment for bandwidth management at heavily-loaded network points. Gigabit Ethernet switches are ideal for all data-intensive networks with a high density of network nodes.

Source: Weidmüller Interface GmbH & Co. KG