Mitsubishi Electric is providing a glimpse of the future with human orientated monitoring and training for CNC-machines at EMO 2017 (18th – 23rd September), using smart devices offering direct integration with machine control systems.
Developed as a pilot project with the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT, the demonstration on the Mitsubishi Electric stand shows how smart tablets and smart glasses can be used as the user-interface with a CNC controller on a 5-axis CNC machine to support the user on a new digital level.
The great potential of smart devices in industrial applications lies in the flexibility they offer users for machine operation, production monitoring, system start-up and machine training, as well as for support/service and maintenance. Direct communication between the device and the machine controller provides a visual, easy to understand interface, delivering an innovative solution for real-time data analysis and evaluation within the information system. For machine monitoring, operators can display up-to-date machine and production information, such as progress, remaining time, machine status or overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).
Making such a system work depends on a direct exchange between the machine control system and the smart device. At the same time, the communications between the machine controller and the smart device must be close to real-time, as information is often time-critical, requiring immediate action on intervention. What it opens up is a higher level of real-time information transparency for the operator, as raw data is continually processed, visualised and automatically updated within the smart device. Should unexpected production interruptions or errors occur, the operator is automatically provided with pop-up information. Pre-defined error libraries and codes are translated into meaningful messages conveying possible causes and instructions for rectification. The result is that the reaction time to solve issues is reduced and OEE is increased.
Major boost for training and predictive maintenance practices
The technology also supports predictive maintenance. Engineers are provided with data analysis results and component life-cycle information via the smart device. An example might be the indication of wear on a spindle drive. The engineer would be informed of an impending service requirement in ample time to affect a repair before failure. To aid in repair or replacement, a 3D model of the spindle drive is superimposed on the actual field of view in an augmented reality environment, clarifying and simplifying the maintenance task.
The same technology can also aid with operator or maintenance staff training, perhaps with a library of videos, PDFs or other training content that can then be displayed within the smart devices. The training content can also take advantage of augmented reality to help guide personnel around the machine to reduce learning curves.
Connectivity is one of the key features of the solution
Making use of smart devices in a practical industrial environment depends on the integration and linking of the device into the relevant system, and this has been one of the main focuses of the cooperation between the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT and Mitsubishi Electric.
The proof-of-concept application on the Mitsubishi Electric stand at EMO 2017 shows how communication between the smart device and the M850W CNC controller can be implemented using the seamless message protocol (SLMP) on an Android/PLC interface. It highlights how many different Android OS devices could be integrated. Other protocols such as OPC UA can also be utilised in the system.
Human orientated support technology for the digitalisation at shop floor level
The development work that the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT and Mitsubishi Electric have undertaken shows that smart devices represent a sensible, logical and practical extension of the classical interface between the machine control system and the operator. As businesses drive towards Industry 4.0 production, operators will need more flexibility and real-time information presented to them, alongside direct machine interaction. The ability for direct retrieval, local processing, and convenient visualisation will be one of the key enablers for business to move forwards, and in that context smart devices have an important role to play.