TechnologyJuly 8, 2022

Intelligence at the Edge: boost productivity and improve costs

Intelligent Actuators: PD42-1243-IOLINK Stepper Motor and EoAT Gripper

As factories strive to boost productivity and improve operational costs, the demand to deliver new technology that empowers intelligence at the Edge is increasing. ”What does the edge mean?” The Edge is where the machine meets or interacts with the real world.

In Factory Automation, Empowering Intelligence at the Edge means reducing the amount of lost productivity a factory experiences in a year. The biggest contributor to this is factory down time or when the production line stops causing the company to lose money. In fact, according to an article from McKinsey published in October 2018 on Digital Enables Reliability Beyond Predictive Maintenance, factories experience on average 800 hrs./yr. of production line shutdowns or an average of 15 hrs./wk.

This is a substantial impact to revenue and profit for a company. Take for instance that a car manufacturer loses close to $22,000 per minute when the factory stops manufacturing. This means it loses $1.3M/hr. or close to $20M per week. Empowering intelligence at the edge has already made an impact on the manufacturing line improving productivity by 10% and achieving a 20% savings in maintenance cost. So, the net result of empowering Intelligence at the edge in factories works to keep production lines running by preventing costly production line shutdowns.

While it’s clear that Empowering Intelligence at the Edge provides a boost in productivity and reduces operating costs, the real question is “What does it take to Empowering Intelligence at the Edge”?

A new way of thinking

As semiconductor suppliers, we need to deliver solutions that enable Intelligent Sensors and Actuators, support Software Configurable IO, and provide advanced diagnostics. Let’s review the importance of these four critical elements and the key capabilities they provide in Empowering Intelligence at the Edge.

Intelligent sensor technology

Sensors are found everywhere. They have become ubiquitous in our everyday lives. In the manufacturing environment, all manufactured products require an array of sensors that work in unison to help machines detect an object, determine the distance to an object, configure the colors and composition of an object, and monitor the temperature and pressure of an object or liquid.

Commissioning new sensors to replace damaged sensors or adapting a piece of equipment to enable the manufacturing of a different product is labor intensive and it contributes a significant cost burden due to loss productivity. The cost of sending a technician to the factory floor to change a sensor and then re-calibrate it to the correct manufacturing parameters impacts factory throughput. If we multiply this same level of maintenance for every sensor across a factory, changing or reconfiguring a sensor is the single-most expense all manufacturing lines incur.

IO Link is an exciting new technology that allows intelligent sensing all the way down to the machines on the factory floor. This new technology enables flexible manufacturing to improve factory throughput and operational efficiency. IO-Link is a technology that converts traditional digital or analog sensors into an intelligent sensor by providing bi-directional information exchange with the sensor. This technology adds a new level of intelligence and capability to remotely commission the sensor as well as the ability to react in real-time by making on-the-fly adjustment to the sensor parameters.

ndustrial Automation machinery now has a newfound intelligence to dynamically respond to real-time operation conditions based on the health and status of a network of sensors located across the factory floor. By tapping into this reach sea of end-to-end information across a network of intelligent sensors, a facility can create a mapping of its factory floor to provide better real-time information to an overarching AI monitoring solution that can rapidly identify manufacturing bottlenecks, points of failure as well as provide a new capability to optimize the entire factory floor for better operational efficiency.

The way IO-Link technology simplifies the commissioning process and improves factory throughput is by making sensors interchangeable through a common physical interface that uses a protocol stack and an IO Device Description (IODD) file. This allows technicians to quickly commission a sensor which results in reducing factory down-time and allowing the manufacturing line to be re-configurable on-the-fly.

The adoption of IO Link sensors continues to accelerate as companies realize the benefits of having a common interface that makes exchanging various sensors such as pressure, proximity, and temperature as easy as plug and play. According to ResearchAndMarkets, the IO-Link market continues to grow, and it is expected to reach $12 billion USD by 2023 from $3 billion USD in 2018, at a CAGR of 33.56%.

IO Link hub and software configurable IO

Omron: NXR-Series IO-Link Controller & IO-Link I/O hub with MAX14819A, MAX14827A, MAX14912/15.

Omron: NXR-Series IO-Link Controller & IO-Link I/O hub with MAX14819A, MAX14827A, MAX14912/15.

While it‘s clear that IO Link technology is the catalyst behind a set of new intelligent sensors, IO-Link is also providing new opportunities that bring intelligence to the edge through IO Link Hub solutions. These new IO Link Hubs provide a simple way to add Analog and Digital IO expansion channels as well as the integration of intelligent actuators such as Solenoid and Motor Drives.

The IO Link Hub provides a simple way to expand the type and number of channels needed to support unexpected manufacturing line re-configurations. These IO expansion Hubs provide a solution that leverages all the benefits of IO Link technology and simplifies the task to add Digital and Analog IO ports. These new class of products enable the commissioning of the sensors via the IO Link Hub which reduces factory downtime. Examples of these solutions can be seen from Omron’s IO Link Hub NXR product family where they boast achieving a 90% reduction in setup and commissioning times.

Software Configurable Digital and Analog IO solutions allow Automation Engineers and Technicians the convenience of providing a universal IO port that can be commissioned remotely. Comparable to the benefits that IO Link provides, these new class of Digital and Analog Software Configurable IO products simplifies a factories Wire Marshalling burden and provides flexibility to physically connect any Digital and Analog IO Sensors or Actuators to any unassigned Digital and Analog IO port. This software -configurable technology is more cost effective and increases the channel density the factory floor.

Intelligent actuators

Intelligent Actuators: PD42-1243-IOLINK Stepper Motor and EoAT Gripper (TMCM-1617-GRIP REF)

Intelligent Actuators: PD42-1243-IOLINK Stepper Motor and EoAT Gripper (TMCM-1617-GRIP REF)

Actuators are used to influence and control the direction and speed a product moves across the factory floor. Since all applications require a unique set of motion control and motor drive characteristics, these smart actuators will need to dynamically adjust to its environment to form that perfect Mechatronic Cyber Physical System. Currently, Intelligent Actuators are evolving to provide an Auto-configuration capability that autonomously adjusts its performance parameters to meet the demands of its operational environment.

This is the first step in making the actuator become self-aware of its environment and allow the system to optimize its performance for maxim throughput or maximize the long-term reliability and operational performance of the actuator. In either case, the result yields lower operational costs and higher efficiency.

To empower this combination of Intelligent Motion, it requires the integration of two key elements.

  1. The first critical element is power efficient Analog Drive technology to allow high voltage operation while providing health and status of the local environment to enable optimization of the motors to achieve a balance between high efficiency and faster throughput.
  2. The second critical element is the ability to provide Motion Control algorithms to enable a smooth range of motion. This consists of the ability to detect loads placed on the motor during operation to avoid line failures and minimizing power consumption.

Motion control algorithms provide smooth and precise movement, while the Chopping Algorithms focus on making the motor more power efficient. In addition, sensing the position of the armature is important to know if the motor has moved to the correct position. This is done with magnetic sensing typically using Hall Sensors or some type of optical encoding solution.

To demonstrate the value of these next generation Intelligent Actuators, here are two new examples, the PD42-1-1243-IOLINK and the recently released End of Arm Tooling (EoAT) Gripper reference design TMCM-1617-GRIP-REF. Both solutions demonstrate the power of combining intelligent motion, driver, and IO Link communication technology from Maxim and Trinamic. These new Intelligent Actuators simplify commissioning and boost factory productivity by providing Industrial Automation Engineer access to 50 percent more configuration and performance parameters over the IO Link communication interface. Finally, these Intelligent Actuator can be adjusted on-the-fly to accommodate changes in operating environment and the implementation of advanced AI derived productivity solutions. This ability to shape the actuators performance based on its operational environment is the future of Intelligent Motion Control.

Diagnostics and real-time decision-making

Higher levels of diagnostic capabilities continue to provide a richer data set that improves real-time, edge-based decision-making to improve productivity and operational integrity on the factory floor. These powerful manufacturing-based AI algorithm platforms are expected to grow from $1B in CY18 revenue to over $17B by CY25, or a CAGR close to 50%, according to a MarketsandMarkets report published in January 2019 entitled, “Artificial Intelligence in Manufacturing Market.”

During this time, machine learning is expected to be the highest growth segment in AI due to the rapid investments being made to implement smart factories. The driving force behind this growth stems from the abundance of health and status information being generated from a network of IIoT-powered devices, algorithms providing predictive analytics, and machine-vision cameras monitoring the quality of products as well as evaluating the status and operational health of the machines.

At the IC level, more and more information is monitored, collected, and communicated via SPI bus to and from a microprocessor. The volume of these IC datagrams continues to multiply as they carry critical information such as temperature status of a device, overvoltage, overcurrent, open wire detection, short circuit detection, overtemperature warnings, thermal shutdown, and CRC. If we take a step back now and multiply the number of semiconductors providing datagrams across the entire breath of equipment on a factory floor, it becomes clear that a diagnostic mapping of the factory floor can be achieved to anticipate, identify, and diagnose manufacturing line failures.

The next big thing

One thing is clear, by empowering this “New Way of Thinking”, Smart Factories can take advantage of these new capabilities to improve throughput and increase productivity. As these new technologies continue to mature, the next generation of AI algorithms will become the beneficiaries by leveraging the higher quality of real-time data being generated from these solutions.

As a result, these new self-aware capable machines will automatically implement AI generated solutions to keep a manufacturing line operational until it is repaired or serviced by a technician. This era of self-aware machines will inspire “The Next Big Thing” in Industrial Automation.

Jeff DeAngelis, Vice-President – Digital Factory, Analog Devices