SPS 2019 put a spotlight on industry trends and innovations

27 January 2020

Despite the challenging economic climate, the 30th SPS exhibition once again broke records. The number of exhibitors with their own booths was bigger than ever before, with exhibitors showcasing an ever wider range of products and solutions designed to help industry meet their current and future challenges.

The direction that industry is travelling has been reflected in the new exhibition’s name, SPS - Smart Production Solutions – and this was also very much in evidence in each of the 17 exhibition halls. In addition to topics from the IT world, including machine learning, digital twins, cloud, and big data technologies, security has also become a growing focus area. 

“This year my personal highlight was once again Tuesday morning at 9 am, seeing the first visitors stream into the exhibition halls,” said Sylke Schultz-Metzner, vice president at SPS. “Every year visitors and exhibitors put their heads together, discuss and work together to find the best solution and it is the realisation that, in those three days in Nuremberg, the future of our industrial nation is determined. This is what still inspires me about the SPS!” 

Steffen Winkler, vice president sales, Business Unit Automation & Electrification Solutions at Bosch Rexroth AG, confirmed the importance of the exhibition for the automation industry. He said: " There is hardly any other exhibition at which we hold such in-depth discussions, at which so many concrete ideas are born and joint projects are launched." 

Prominent on the Phoenix Contact stand was a demonstration of the growing PLCnext Technology ecosystem for automation. To make its own PLCnext Technology expertise – along with the expertise of other users – available to other users the company created the PLCnext Store. Here it has deposited a selection of turnkey software functions as app’s. The store can also be used to market app’s developed by third-parties. 

The PLCnext Store now includes software functions in various forms, including fully-programmed turnkey solutions, modules that help develop apps more quickly, and apps that help customise the runtime environment of the controller. This means that users can find function libraries created in accordance with IEC 61131-3, firmware extensions for the PLCnext runtime system, and solution apps that can be used for automation applications without programming knowledge.

Phoenix Contact also showed its extended Axioline I/O system portfolio which includes plug-in, system-independent I/O Smart Elements featuring a compact design and up to 16 channels. 

The elements featuring IP20-rated protection are inserted into an Axioline F backplane. 

Backplane modules allow four or six Smart Elements to be inserted and integrated into the Axioline F local bus. Thanks to a double row of slots, two I/O elements can be placed one above the other which allows different functions to be accommodated in an overall width of 15mm with up to 32 channels. 

In addition to standard I/O functions, the range includes a four-channel IO-Link master and PROFIsafe modules used to acquire and output safety-related signals. Additional Axioline F I/O modules can be used to add more functions to an Axioline station. 

Highlights on the Moxa stand included a gateway solution that promises easy connectivity from the edge to the cloud. The UC series IIoT Edge Gateways are the first Azure IoT Edge certified Arm-based computers. Integrating Azure IoT Edge with Moxa’s IIoT gateways is said to benefit users in a number of ways, including secure remote connections to enable deployment in remote locations; connectivity to allow existing brownfield applications to share data with the cloud; and device management and product longevity. 

The loT Gateway UC-8100A-ME-T computing platform is built around a Cortex-A8 processor and designed for embedded data acquisition applications. It has built-in remote communication capabilities and is Microsoft Azure-ready to facilitate data transfer from field devices to the cloud. The computer comes with dual RS-232/422/485 serial ports and dual 10/100 Mbps Ethernet ports, as well as a Mini PCIe socket to support cellular modules. 

Mitsubishi Electric set out to demonstrate its ability to achieve greater connectivity of the shop floor operational technology (OT) with IT infrastructure. 

The first step in optimising OT/IT connectivity is utilising plant floor data and this is possible with edge computing solutions such as theOPC-AU compatible MELIPC. Data can be pre-processed locally and aggregated to create information locally and can seamlessly connect the shop floor with higher level IT systems such as

MES and ERP platforms.
The improved control and visualisation of manufacturing processes is another example where OT/IT crossover is in demand. Mitsubishi Electric’s SCADA system, MAPS achieves this by collecting and aggregating production data for both shop floor use and IT management systems. The recent acquisition of ICONICS has extended the company’s portfolio in this area and will be able to provide more value by exploiting the data even further. 

ICONICS’ suite of software products are designed to offer advanced capabilities on top of traditional, classic SCADA applications, as well as helping to bridge the gap between IT and OT, including advanced IoT technology that is said to bring SCADA to a new level.

Lenze put a focus on the opportunities offered by digital transformation which, it says, is fed by the increasing ability to link available data more closely – not just in production but also during machine and system development. 

One of Lenze’s key tools for digital engineering is the EASY System Designer. This web-based planning tool will very soon support users with the complete planning of machine solutions, consisting of automation and drive components as well as software. The tool checks the feasibility of the system solution that has been developed and documents everything necessary for those involved in the engineering process. This can save valuable planning time, shortening the decision-making process and reducing project risk. The solution can also be made available for further engineering tasks and the complete solution can be transferred immediately to the EASY Product Finder shopping cart to accelerate the quotation process. 

The planned system solution can then used as the basis for developing a corresponding PLC program. The programmer will have access to the information on the machine’s structure, selected hardware components and software modules, as well as the application parameters and other relevant project data, in their engineering environment. This means that they can finalise the PLC program and get the machine up and running quickly. 

HARTING Technology Group showcased a variety of new connectivity solutions for digital and smart automation. A key feature on the stand was promotion for the new SPE Network, an alliance of technology companies which are jointly developing future-proof connectivity solutions for Single Pair Ethernet (SPE).

The collaboration between HARTING, TE Connectivity and HIROSE in the field of Single Pair Ethernet (SPE) has recently expanded by the creation of the Single Pair Ethernet - Industrial Partner Network and the news that Würth Elektronik, LEONI, Murrelektronik and Softing IT Networks are now also supporting SPE technology as a future infrastructure solution for the IIoT. 

Harting introduced its T1 Industrial, which is said to be the first standardised SPE interface in line with the release of IEC 63171-6, which brings data and power on one pair of wires to previously unattainable locations.

Also on display was the MICA Edge Computing System which demonstrated its ability to work in conjunction with machines and the Cloud. 

Blurring boundaries
Under the motto ‘Faster. Better. Connected. discover hybrid automation in a new dimension’, Festo used the event to demonstrate how the boundaries between pneumatic and electrical automation are blurring, with the introduction of many new pneumatic, electrical and hybrid automation solutions. It also set out to focus on its smart production solution, in the context of digitalisation.

With the Simplified Motion Series Festo is expanding its product portfolio in the field of electric drives. The six drives are designed for simple motion and positioning tasks. In addition, the drives can be quickly put into operation without software, previous knowledge of programming or electrical connection technology, with integrated IO-Link offering extended functions.

A highlight on the stand was Automation Suite which includes a range of software tools for commissioning the entire electrical drive package from mechanics to control. The software combines parameterisation, programming and maintenance of Festo components in a single program.

Gigabit EtherCAT
The EtherCAT Technology Group (ETG) used the event to highlight its support for gigabit EtherCat technology, in the form of EtherCAT G, following its acceptance as an addition to the EtherCAT standard.

Commenting on the addition, Dr Guido Beckmann, Chairman of the ETG Technical Committee,  said: “EtherCAT is already the fastest industrial Ethernet fieldbus, and will remain so, due to its special functional principle. With EtherCAT G particularly data-hungry applications, such as machine vision and high-end measurement technology, can now also be integrated. This extends the range of applications for EtherCAT technology and makes it even more viable for the future.”

It is expected that the existing 100 Mb/sec EtherCAT technology will continue to offer the best solution for the majority of applications. However, EtherCAT G offers additional user advantages, especially in applications where particularly large amounts of process data must be transported per device. This can include machine vision, high-end measurement technology or complex motion applications that go beyond the scope of classic drive control. As an extension of standard EtherCAT technology, EtherCAT G is fully compatible; existing devices designed for 100 Mb/sec can be seamlessly integrated into an EtherCAT G system, and EtherCAT G devices in a 100 Mb/sec EtherCAT system behave like classic EtherCAT devices.

The central element of EtherCAT G is the use of EtherCAT Branch Controllers, which fulfil two main functions: On the one hand, they act as a kind of node for the integration of segments from 100 Mb/sec devices; on the other hand, they enable parallel processing of the connected EtherCAT segments. This significantly reduces the propagation delay in the system, which increases system performance many times over previous levels.

Beckhoff demonstrated the benefits of its TwinCAT Analytics offering for machine builders and systems integrators looking to transform their business models through the use of machine and plant process data. 

TwinCAT Analytics – which automatically converts analysis configurations into executable PLC code –now also includes a one-click dashboard generation feature. All it takes for users to generate an entire HTML5-based analytics dashboard based on the PLC code and to load it into a selected Analytics Runtime container is a simple mouse click. When the process completes, users receive a network address that they can then use to access the dashboard in a web browser. The ability to generate dashboards without the need to write a single line of code or design graphics can offer huge time-savings within the engineering process.

Based on TwinCAT 3 HMI, the new functionality provides at least one HMI Control for every TwinCAT Analytics algorithm, each with an up-to-date tile design that follows the latest web standards. The controls contained in a dashboard can be selected individually in an algorithm’s properties with the aid of a control preview. Users can also combine multiple algorithms within an individual HMI Control.

Belden demonstrated how it is able to offer cost and time savings for a wide variety of connectivity requirements – from sensor to the cloud – to help deliver maximum productivity and uptime. 

A number of new products and technologies were shown from the Belden, Hirschmann and Lumberg Automation product ranges designed to enhance the productivity of industrial systems and machines. These included Single Pair Ethernet (SPE) technology solutions with Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) capability and the Hirschmann EAGLE40 Industrial Firewall, a ruggedised multiport cybersecurity solution which is designed to maximise uptime in automated environments. Evolving alongside data transfer demands, the EAGLE 40 includes more port options with increased bandwidth and encryption capabilities. 

Controller with software separation
On the Emerson Machine Automation Solutions stand the IC695CPL410 controller was pointed out as a highlight. It is said to be unique in its ability to create a software separation of the quad core system into two dual-cores capable of running completely separate operating systems. It does this by utilising a powerful quad-core processor and a virtualisation technique known as hypervising. 

So, one dual-core system can run the PAC systems engine just like the one that runs on the RX3i PAC systems hardware while the other dual-core system could be treated like any computer.

The design team put Ubuntu Server Linux on the hardware, which offers opportunities for software developers and customers to merge the plant floor with the tools that are taken for granted in the IT environment. 

The two halves of the CPL410 connect via an internal NIC that can pass OPC-UA data back and forth.  For any tag on the PLC side, it is possible to choose to publish the tag or not.  Ultimately, the control of this is on the PLC programmer.  Setting the publish tag to False means that the tag won’t be exposed to the Linux side of the CPL410.  Another option for this setting is ‘External Read Only’ meaning the tag can be seen by the Linux side, but not changed.  The final option is ‘External Read/Write’ meaning that the tag can be seen and changed by the Linux side. This distinction is important as it means that the PLC programmer can pick and choose which variables remain hidden and which can be changed by the Linux side.

The biggest topic for discussion on the Analog Devices stand was the the release of new industrial Ethernet physical layer (PHY) products to help manufacturers address key Industry 4.0 and smart factory communication challenges surrounding data integration, synchronisation, edge connectivity, and system interoperability. 

The ADIN1300, for example is a low-power, single port Ethernet transceiver designed for time-critical industrial Ethernet applications up to Gigabit speeds and designed to operate reliably in harsh industrial conditions over extended ambient temperature ranges. It is the latest technology developed for the company’s ADI Chronous portfolio of industrial Ethernet solutions. 

ADI Chronous Ethernet solutions encompass a range of industrial Ethernet technologies from real-time Ethernet switches, physical transceivers and protocol processing to complete network interface products. Designed to support scalable and flexible system development, the ADI Chronous product portfolio offers multiple port count, low power consumption, and flexible bandwidth. Being multiprotocol, these solutions are compatible with all existing protocols while also providing the ability to future-proof for TSN features. 

On the ABB stand visitors could find out how the company’s Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) software suite is able to streamline production by enabling seamless plant orchestration. A new version of Ability MOM software platform offers an extended range of capabilities and new digital applications designed to give operators, supervisors and plant managers the visibility and insights to take the right actions for increased productivity, quality and compliance.

New features in the enhanced MOM platform include enhanced user experience based on new HTML 5 web client; a new interactive dashboard application that provides greater visibility and collaboration; a new statistical process control (SPC) application, to determine if each process is in a state of control; and a new Batch Compare application – for advanced batch analysis

Next year the SPS exhibition will be held from 24 – 26 November 2020, once again at the Nuremberg Exhibition Center. For more information, please visit www.sps-exhibition.com.

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