Software Development of Intelligent Sensors for Smart Factory

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  1. Standards and Protocols in Connected Manufacturing
  2. Example of Manufacturing Plant where Factory 4.0 is Needed
  3. Intelligent Sensors Application and Use Cases
  4. Examples of Sensors Standards & Formats

Automation has evolved and now we’re waiting for an Industry 4.0 to upgrade the existing production facilities from semi-automated to fully automated. Smart factories that are supplied with sensors and machinery only.

This is a picture of Smart Factory future from brochures of ABB and Siemens. But truth be told, we’re not even close to the digitalization of all production activities, not to mention automation of the factories with robots.

It must be acknowledged that production facilities are non-uniform in their technological advancements.

Some sectors of the manufacturing chain can be much more digitized than others. For example, the supply chain can be much more efficient than the assembly line itself. In such condition application of smart technologies, and sensor, in particular, is crucial to regulating the rhythm along all production lifecycle

Standards and Protocols in Connected Manufacturing

When we’re talking about smart factories it’s important to mention digitalization movement as a whole. Because without digital transformation of your core operations it’s very difficult to establish the right standards and protocols inside your production facilities.

So firstly, we need to sort up the criteria and basic standards factories should comply with to become smart. Here are the criteria to determine whether your organization would benefit from the smart factory movement:

  • Complex Manufacturing Process: 1000+ parts per finished product; serialized parts; multi-facility assembly; a combination of different manufacturing processes; highly-regulated industry domain.
  • Custom Orders: high-value orders; manufactured across multiple plants; high degree of customization; significant contract size; long delivery cycle.
  • Long Production Line: decades of service life; maintenance required and occurs outside of manufacturing plant.
  • Establishment of New Mfg Processes: Advanced composites; additive manufacturing; faster design to delivery.
  • Counterfeit / Diversion: prone to theft; regulatory difficulty; multiple handoffs, complex distribution.
  • IoT is the part of you Product: you’ve got sensors in the products itself (connected cars, robots, drones, etc)

Example of Manufacturing Plant where Factory 4.0 is Needed

The ideal candidate is Airbus. It meets all the criteria for smart factories:

  • Airbus A350 production is run 10 aircraft per month.
  • It takes several months to produce a single aircraft from start to finish.
  • Most of its part (70%) are made from advanced composites and materials or even manufactured using 3D printing.
  • Most of the process is tracked via paper documentation, which complexifies the process. There are 7 facilities in 4 countries that work in order to create one plane.

Intelligent Sensors Applications and Use Cases

The whole idea of the smart factory is built around sensors. The sensor is the minimal unit that is required to create a smart factory. Now, if you have an automated production line, there are humans instead of sensors. Humans report, make quality checks, make delivery and control the pace of the production line from assembly to the packaging.

You can’t free of labor at a time, but there are several areas where sensors can be installed right now. Just bear in mind that there are different sensory standards applicable to different areas. Here’re use cases of sensors applications in different areas.

  • Loading Docks – ASN Validation; Quarantine management; Pick/Pack/Ship;
  • Staging Area – Pre-staging; Expedite rush management;
  • Warehouses – Inventory mgmt; Order tracking; ASN Generation; Conveyance; Customs; Documentation generation; Perishable / Hazardous material tracking;
  • Assembly Lines – Work in process tracking; Batch tracking; Component history; Audit&Atestation;
  • Rework Area – Work in process tracking; Product history tracking; Maintenance & Repair tracking;
  • Tooling Storage – Asset mgmt; Check-in / check-out; Duty cycles.

Any of those use cases require to put hard numbers behind the outcomes. Only with a clear goal in mind, you can build an intelligent plant or a part of it.

We’ve worked with sensing system as little as water quality monitoring tool and it already made a significant
reduction in costs to our client.

Examples of Sensors Standards & Formats

There are numerous internal protocol and standards that are applied around factories. The differences between standards can be as simple as database formats, or crucial like sensor modalities that are required to read the information. You need to carefully pick sensory standard for each particular use case.

Varieties of different sensory modalities:

  • PLC
  • RFID
  • RTLS
  • CMB
  • Barcode
  • NFC
  • Wi-Fi

The one most frequently used example is ATA RFID Multiple Record Format. It is used to store all information about the product from the birth to the last maintenance. It is usually stored in the High Memory Tag.

Through this simple standard you can supply your workers with all required information about parts or products they need to maintain. This record format is divided into two parts:

  1. Perma-locked data – birth date, manufacturer cage code, unique serial number, original part number, certificate tracking No, part history records, times installed, repaired, overhauled.
  2. Rewritable data – current data record, scratchpad record.

This sens and standard can be used to assure compliance to the regulatory standards, internal rules, quality checks. It also handy if you need to track component history, or have a complex staging process.

Summing Up

A vision of tomorrow’s manufacturing – products finding their way independently through the production process. In intelligent factories machines and products communicate with each other, cooperatively driving production – this is still a vision. Experts believe that it will only become a reality within the next 20 years.

Although, some real-life applications can be already implemented thanks to the wireless technology and tech advancement that made sensing technology much cheaper. With the right goals in mind, you can already improve the productivity of your factories and prepare the ground for the next industrial revolution.

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