GAIA-X starts with broad support from industry

The data space initiative, which is driven by the international non-profit organization GAIA-X Foundation, Brussels, Belgium, aims to achieve a secure, trustworthy data infrastructure and thus the digital sovereignty of Europe. Behind it is a diverse group of European companies, institutions, and associations, which is also open to other potential members. The aim is to refine and expand use-case scenarios and to build an organization and initial demonstrators in funded projects.

Within the GAIA-X initiative, more than 170 participants and over 150 organizations from France and Germany, but also from Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and Spain, have already collaborated in two comprehensive thematic workstreams. The user domains represented are energy, health care, Industrie 4.0/SMEs, mobility, public infrastructure and administration as well as smart living, finance and agriculture. Now, 22 companies and organizations from France and Germany – including Beckhoff Automation GmbH & Co. KG, Verl – have taken another major step towards a European digital infrastructure with the establishment of the GAIA-X Foundation. Its structure will deal with addressing, data availability, interoperability, portability, transparency and fair participation.

The work in the domain-specific and joint working groups gave rise to the idea of a jointly usable layer of basic functionalities for a European data space. Beckhoff actively participated in this process, particularly in the Industrie 4.0/KMU workgroup and the coordination of all domain sponsors with the infrastructure providers in the project.

“Many of the principles of GAIA-X coincide with our philosophy of an open, perfectly fitting, continuously expandable communication and data space technology for users,” said Gerd Hoppe, corporate management at Beckhoff.

GAIA-X is based on several principles to ensure the highest possible level of customer orientation:

  • simple, federally structured identification and confidence-building between data exchange participants
  • data sovereignty of all participants along the value chain
  • identical protection classes for data and services
  • Openness to adaptation by all market participants
  • hybrid data and service implementation (centralized, decentralized, cloud-based, on-premise, edge-based)
  • free choice of the level of data protection, legislation and geography for data and services

“In numerous discussions with customers and organizations, the need for a jointly usable, European data ecosystem has become and is becoming increasingly clear. The decisive factor here is that this can be used by all infrastructure providers and users within an application domain and across domain boundaries. In addition, individual and domain-specific standards must be adopted for the fastest possible acceptance in the market. GAIA-X has great potential here to avoid incompatibilities with open communication structures,” said Hoppe.

What COVID-19 has taught us so far

While COVID-19 continues to plague the globe, companies spend their time preparing for the future – the ‘new normal’.

It’s no secret that the acceleration process of Industry 4.0 has been rather slow to date but post-pandemic, the adoption rate is set to skyrocket in some of the most peculiar ways.

Adaption is key in times of uncertainty
Max Jarmatz, managing director for Nord Drivesystems ANZ believes that every crisis requires adaption under exceptional circumstances. “We’ve learned a lot from past disruptive events like the economic crisis in 2008, or the supply chain interruption after the Fukushima disaster. In the aftermath, we have decentralised our production, built up second source suppliers and increased our stock levels.

“Our highly automated production centres already rely heavily on robots and can be run even without the presence of human workers for some time. To cope with COVID-19 while meeting customer demand, we have now changed our supply chain from air to sea freight,” Jarmatz said.

Flexible, functional and digital manufacturing to fast-track ANZ
Jozef Ceh of SMC Corporation ANZ echoes Jarmatz’s sentiments saying that if anything, the pandemic has cast a spotlight onto manufacturing. It encourages us to re-evaluate our current systems and their abilities to adapt to rapid changes.

“At a time like this, we need to analyse our production lines to ensure that they are three things: flexible, functional and digital, moving forward”.

Ceh noted that flexibility has been challenged on a physical and functional level, with more emphasis on the functional software changes.  “Changing a production line to produce more units, multiple variations or a completely different product at a rapid speed has called for consideration of modular and scalable production lines.

“In terms of functionality, it is becoming more apparent that if each product, from the central processor right down to the sensor level, can possess more individual parameters it will that may be allow for a greater functional scope and reduced physical changes,” said Jozef.

“Digitally, having real time systems and a flow of data form the whole process provides a more complete picture which integrates with the CRM or ERP and leads to more accurate forecasting, production planning, use of resources and more efficient production in terms of cost of production, energy use, waste management and production capacity.”

Adopting a ‘lights-out’ approach
While FMCG manufacturers such as those producing ‘in-demand’ items like toilet paper, pasta, rice and hand sanitiser have already had to adapt their manufacturing and distribution processes, many of us are still to learn.

“Many industries can adopt a lights-out approach, especially those in the distribution of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). Fully automated warehouses have been utilised for many years and have proven themselves to be far more reliable and timelier than those using traditional manual pick-and-pack methods,” said Nick Psahoulias of Beckhoff Automation.

“By harnessing the power of live-data and automated picking machines, the process of getting goods out the door, safely and accurately, benefit both the consumer and the supplier.”

Jim Wallace of Balluff has seen various companies in the FMCG sector repurposing their production lines to cope with the demand. He says that the Industry 4.0 concept of flexible manufacturing plays a key role in aiding this rigorous process.  “The fewer components that need to by physically changed or adjusted, the faster the goal can be achieved”.

An independent approach to manufacturing
Another notable learning amid the pandemic is the need for shorter supply chains and local manufacturing. Multinationals still rely heavily on their international counterparts for assembly, manufacture and supply.

The Open IIoT panel believes that we will see a notable shift here in years to come based on the COVID-19 ‘shake up’.

Traceability and real time visualisation of the supply chain is critical at times like this to allow flexibility and fast reaction to demands. RFID systems, barcode information and software integration to ERP systems are critical to achieve this goal,” says Wallace. “In addition, traceability of employees is very important.  Who was working on which machine at what time, producing which batch of which product?”

More support is needed by local government
Psahoulias said that state and federal government should however further support local manufacturing.

“Our leaders should introduce incentives, subsidies, concessions and remove the costly red tape that is required to manufacture goods locally.”

To further curb the current crisis, Jarmatz said that Nord has once again looked to IIoT technologies to implement predictive maintenance algorithms. “Our drives can monitor the current status from anywhere in the world.”

Implement an Industry 4.0 Plan, right now
Richard Roberts of ZI-ARGUS says that seven steps can be applied to implement an Industry 4.0 strategy, sooner rather than later:

  1. Consult with Industry 4.0 experts to understand what Industry 4.0 can do for your people and your business.
  2. Identify areas in your processes and plant that can directly benefit from Industry 4.0 solution.
    1. Measure these areas to take a snapshot of the now, this will act as a KPI back into the business to measure successful implementation.
  3. Generate a scope of works to implement I4.0
    1. Break it down into phases, each successful phase leading onto the next.
    2. Earmark local subject matter specialists to liaise with I4.0 experts to assist in the transition.
  4. Engage Industry 4.0 Experts to implement these phases:
    1. Measure each phase upon completion comparing the changes from area previously identified.
  5. Educate local staff members on the tools used for the Industry 4.0 solution
  6. Continue to measure to ensure the solution is still making an impact on process/ production.
  7. Be open to simplicity for a solution and define budgets to accommodate. Consider an operation costing model to support on-going development and implementations rather than a traditional capital costing model.

 

As a collective, the team believes that COVID-19 will rapidly accelerate IIoT technologies and local manufacturing. Use this time to speak to your preferred automation consultants, upscale your production in your quiet times to reap the rewards post-pandemic.

One-click dashboard eliminates an entire work step

Many machine builders and systems integrators looking to transform their business models have identified machine and plant process data as being a core fundamental.

When it comes to tailoring new data-driven services to individual customer requirements, however, they need solutions that are as cost-efficient as possible. Here, keeping the engineering as simple as possible is a key factor. TwinCAT Analytics supports this kind of Engineering 4.0 approach with the one-click dashboard, a new feature that reduces the once time-consuming process of dashboard creation to nothing more than a simple mouse click.

Beckhoff’s TwinCAT Analytics’ automated functionality for converting analysis configurations into executable PLC code now also includes dashboard generation. With one-click dashboard, 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 click of the mouse. When the process completes, users receive a network address that they can then use to access the dashboard in a web browser. This ability to generate dashboards without the need to write a single line of code or design graphics is a time-saver 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.

Generated automatically, tailored individually
Automatically generated dashboards can be customised by configuring individual user settings. For instance, users are able to pick their own header colours and logos, and can even choose to show geographically distributed machine locations on a world map. In addition, the controls are available in a choice of layouts and themes as well as multiple languages. It is also possible to switch between light and dark themes, and to automatically set links to methods that reset the algorithms. Despite this high level of flexibility, dashboards that are created automatically may not always meet every user’s needs, so when TwinCAT 3 HMI projects are generated, they are integrated into Visual Studio as well. This enables users to adapt their dashboards to their requirements in the graphical editor. Even with dashboards that need extensive customisation, the engineering process still involves fewer clicks than the conventional approach, saving time and expense

Distributed servo drive system for modular machines

The AMP8000 distributed servo drive system provides suitable support for the implementation of modular machine designs. For this purpose, a servo drive can directly integrate into a servo motor, all in a highly compact design. In this way, the power electronics are relocated to the machine, reducing space requirements in control cabinets to just a single coupling module. In addition, decentralised distribution modules and the universal EtherCAT P solution further optimise the modular machine design approach.

The AMP8000 system consists of three main components. It has a single-channel, or alternately dual-channel, coupling module that forms the starting point, and the only component that still needs to be installed in the control cabinet. The coupling module establishes a connection between the DC link, 24 V DC supply and EtherCAT communication. For use with the high-performance AX8000 multi-axis servo system from Beckhoff, the AX883x coupling module is connected to the AX8000 supply module in order to provide a link to the IP 65-rated devices with one or two outputs.

In combination with the AX5000 digital compact servo drive, the AX503x coupling module can also be used in stand-alone mode due to an integrated power supply unit. In this way, 20A (per output in the case of the AX883x and as sum current in the case of the AX503x), 600V DC link voltage, 24V power supply and EtherCAT networking are available via the EtherCAT P outputs (B23 sockets).

This power is initially supplied to an AMP8805 distribution module as a second system component. As an IP 65-rated component that is integrated into the machine layout, it supplies up to five AMP80xx distributed servo drives. It can be mounted either directly (brick style) or using a bracket available as an accessory (book style) and adapted ideally into individual machine designs. The distribution module has an internal capacitance of 1120 µF to support the DC link. Additional EtherCAT P Box modules, such as for I/Os or for a second feedback system, can be connected simply and quickly via an additional EtherCAT P M8 output.

The third system component is the AMP80xx distributed servo drive. It is identical to the standard servomotors in the AM8000 series with regard to its mounting dimensions and performance data. Only the overall length has increased in comparison with the standard motors due to the integrated power electronics. Since this added length is not usually critical for the installation, most existing machine designs can be upgraded without the need for modification. The AMP80xx distributed servo drives are initially available in the flange sizes F4 and F5. Various versions are available with rated outputs of 0.61 to 1.18kW and standstill torques of 2.0 to 4.8Nm (F4) or rated outputs of 1.02 to 1.78kW and standstill torques of 4.1 to 9.7Nm (F5). The STO and SS1 safety functions are integrated as standard and a range of extended safe motion functions are currently being prepared. In addition, the new flange sizes F3 and F6 are in development and will complement the AMP8000 distributed drive system in the lower and higher power ranges.

The components in the AMP8000 system are universally connected with the uniform One Cable Automation (OCA) cabling technology, which connects via identical cross-sections and connectors. This is a dynamic, drag-chain compatible EtherCAT P cable with ECP-B23 connectors, which means the one cable solution features a hybrid cable that combines EtherCAT P (communication plus 24 V system and peripheral voltage) with additional power cores. Also, preassembled cables and connectors facilitate easy installation and minimised errors during cabling.

The AMP8000 system is also cascadable via the distribution module, meaning even highly complex machines and plants can have a simple and clear-cut topology layout. For this purpose, one or several additional distribution modules are connected to one of the module outputs in place of a distributed servo drive. For example, one main distribution module can supply five sub-modules, to which a maximum of 25 distributed servo drives can be connected, assuming an adequate supply of power to the individual motors is provided.

Compact drive integration in optimised design
With the AMP80xx, the integration of drive technology has been implemented in an exceptionally compact design, made possible through the use of the latest output stage technologies. The power module is attached at the rear end of the servomotor shaft, ensuring that the attachment dimensions are identical to those of the corresponding standard servomotors in the AM8000 series. Only the overall length is about seven centimetres larger. For machine builders, this means only a small amount of additional space is required, making it possible to change their drive concepts without any fundamental design modifications.

Apart from the small overall volume, the elegant and slim design of the AMP80xx offers further advantages over certain servo motors commonly encountered on the market, where the power electronics are mounted on top. With the AMP8000, the two dissipated heat sources – motor and power electronics – are clearly separated from each other and ensure much better heat dissipation by design, without the need for additional installation space or heat sinks. As a result, the distributed servo drives easily attain the same excellent properties as the corresponding standard AM8000 servo motors.

One cable solution for automation in processing factories

The One Cable Automation (OCA) philosophy from Beckhoff is based on the connection of individual field devices, decentralised terminal boxes, and machine modules using only one cable.

This cable technology combines ultra-fast communication via EtherCAT, with the power supply required by the connected components. For the 24V field level, this was implemented using the EtherCAT P technology expansion connected via special M8 connectors. To provide additional power supply capabilities via a one cable solution, Beckhoff developed the new ENP and ECP connector families. These combine EtherCAT or EtherCAT P communication with additional power conductors in one cable, and are easy to use, mechanically coded to prevent installation errors and offer a high waterproof rating of IP67.

One Cable Automation has a flexible design that is suitable for use in a range of applications. Different sections in a network can be connected selecting a suitable one cable solution for devices and components according to their individual power requirements. The unrestricted openness for mixed network topologies is a key benefit, which allows flexible transitions between:
• EtherCAT P communication with integrated power supply (one cable solution with M8 connector).
• A one cable solution using hybrid cables that combine an EtherCAT or EtherCAT P communication element with additional power conductors (one cable solution with the new ENP or ECP connectors).
• A conventional two-cable solution with separate power supply (EtherCAT via M8/RJ45 connector or EtherCAT/EtherCAT P via ENP/ECP connector).

The new ECP and ENP connector series implements the combination of communication and power elements in different performance classes that range from 3A to 64A, all in a compact design. The system is a new product development and meets the full scope of OCA requirements regarding connected devices and modules, including drives, sensors/actuators, control cabinets and machine modules.

Reducing the system to the essentials – namely the EtherCAT or EtherCAT P communication element and DC or AC power supply lines – creates a cost-effective connection concept. In addition, the system is easy to use due to the bayonet connections with mechanical and colour coding. The ECP variant for EtherCAT P also provides another benefit – the power transmission integrated into EtherCAT P enables the elimination of the four wires normally required for 2V x 24V. This allows the use of thinner, lower-cost cables and alternatively, the supply of other voltages.

EtherCAT P as an OCA solution for 24V I/O systems
With EtherCAT P, the company has expanded the globally established EtherCAT technology to combine ultra-fast EtherCAT communication with a 24V system and peripheral power supply (US or UP), all in a standard Ethernet cable. Beckhoff developed special M8 connectors for EtherCAT P with mechanical encoding that eliminates possible confusion with connectors used for standard EtherCAT slaves.

The design of a specific machine or plant installation is simplified using a TwinCAT software tool that helps specify all individual EtherCAT P consumers and cable lengths to configure the highest performance and most cost-effective EtherCAT P network. For that purpose, the new and highly compact EPP9022-0060 EtherCAT P Box module, with dimensions of only 30mm x 86mm x 26.5mm, can be used to gather important data. This module measures the US and UP voltages along with the IS and IP currents in the system and passes on the information to the controller. Provided the system has the data from all consumers, it can also take the individual devices’ power consumption over time into account. For example, if two actuators never switch at the same time for logical reasons, this can be taken into account when configuring the maximum current. This introduces additional savings potential with regard to the required number of power supply feeds and power supply units.

Connector series for EtherCAT and EtherCAT P
If higher power or additional supplies are required in addition to the 24V system and peripheral power supply via EtherCAT P, power can be supplied via corresponding hybrid cables together with the ECP and ENP connector series developed by Beckhoff for this purpose:
• ECP (EtherCAT P + Power): This connector series combines a compact, trapezoidal EtherCAT P element (using the same pin allocation as the EtherCAT P encoded M8 connector) with additional power pins. In this way, the 24V supply integrated into EtherCAT P is complemented with an additional power supply line.
• ENP (EtherCAT/Ethernet + Power): These connectors combine a trapezoidal, central communication element with additional power pins in the same way as ECP. The trapezoidal element has an inverse design to prevent incorrect connections and provides data transmission via EtherCAT, standard Ethernet or other Ethernet-based communication protocols.

Different connector sizes from B12 to B36 are available with a varying number of power pins (two to six pins) so that they can be easily adapted to the requirements of different network types and the power consumption of connected consumers. The complete and full-length 360˚ shielding of the central trapezoidal element continues the typical high performance of EtherCAT. Furthermore, the compact design also provides adequate space for the power pins, ensuring high current-carrying capacity and dielectric strength. The quick and easy-to-use bayonet connection, along with the broad flange spectrum in the diverse housing variants for rear panel, front panel and square installation, provide additional user benefits. Additionally, there are versions for field assembly that enable extreme time-savings during installation.

Broad range of applications
The ECP and ENP connector families, together with the EtherCAT P-encoded M8 connector type, cover all applications from 24V DC on the I/O level to drive systems with 480V AC and a maximum of 64A. The flexibility of the connection system is available in every application area. Depending on specific needs, EtherCAT, EtherCAT P or a mixture of both can be used. Typical engineering requirements for small- and mid-sized systems are covered by EtherCAT P with up to 3A for US and UP in combination with M8 or ECP connectors. In contrast, the ENP connector series is the ideal solution for larger installations involving longer transmission distances. The same also applies for applications without EtherCAT P, such as an endpoint with a 24V power supply unit or for the supply of 24V consumers with high power demands.

Expanding the One Cable Automation concept through the growing diversity of the EtherCAT P, ECP and ENP devices and components constantly expands the range of application options for users. Current examples are the two new infrastructure box modules EP9221-0057 (1 channel) and EP9224-0037 (4 channel) from Beckhoff. Via B17-ENP connectors, these power distributors provide two 24V supplies and a protective conductor along with EtherCAT communication in the trapezoidal element. The power cable has a cross-section that is approximately five times larger than the EtherCAT P element and can bridge longer distances or conduct significantly higher currents (up to 20A at ambient temperature).

Xplanar streamlines drive systems for the modern era

The ground-breaking XPlanar system from Beckhoff offers boundless potential for streamlining production machines and plant design. It utilises planar movers that float freely over floors of planar tiles that can be arranged in any kind of pattern.

What characterises the new XPlanar drive system is that it is based on the principle of flying motion. Like the XTS linear transport system, XPlanar is much more than just a drive system – it’s a solution designed to make product transport flexible. Compared to XTS, XPlanar adds movement in a second dimension and allows the movers floating over floor tiles to overtake one another and to be held in buffer zones or to bypass them. The free-floating planar movers also have a further important advantage – because of the contactless drive principle, they are silent and completely wear-free.

So, what kind of functionality does this system provide for implementing transport tasks?
“Basically, a transport system simply moves products from one processing station to the next – from A to B, then from B to C, from C to D, and so on,” said Prüßmeier. “With XPlanar, these stations need neither to be in a linear arrangement, nor visited in a fixed sequence.

This means that a given product need only travel to those stations that are essential for processing it. By incorporating the second dimension, XPlanar opens up several other options, too, including the ability to discharge individual movers from the production flow, or to create special waiting zones in order to optimise processing sequences. Enabling faster movers to overtake slower movers is also important, as it allows sub-processes to be executed swiftly, in parallel. Not only is each planar mover controlled individually, as a single servo axis, it can also be synchronised precisely with other movers if necessary.”

The movers can also travel with six degrees of freedom. They not only travel to processing stations, they can also move into them. They can turn, rotating the payload they are carrying through all three axes so that it can be processed or inspected easily from any side. The movers can also be raised or lowered slightly and even tilted. For example, a little tilt can be useful to prevent spills when accelerating quickly while carrying a container full of liquid.

In spite of all the complex motion options that XPlanar supports, the system is simple to set up and deploy from a user standpoint.

“Right at the start of the development process, we decided it was important that the system should be highly integrated and that users would only have to plug in two cables – one for data communication over EtherCAT G and another for power supply,” said Prüßmeier. “As a result, all other functionality has been fully incorporated into the modules. Design-wise, they are also extremely compact – the distance between the working surface of each planar tile and the carrier frame beneath it is just 4cm.”

The system builds on one basic component – a planar tile measuring 24 x 24cm. The tiles can be arranged in any floor or track layout. In addition to this standard tile, there will be another version in the future, identical in shape and size, over which planar movers can rotate through a full 360 degrees – that is to say, infinitely. The movers available differ only in terms of their size and their load-carrying capacity. They currently range from 95mm x 95mm for payloads up to 0.4kg, through to 275mm x 275mm, for a maximum payload of 6kg.

The TwinCAT software also plays a key part in the system’s ease of use.

“Our main objective is to make sure that users find the planar motor system easy to manage,” said Prüßmeier. “In TwinCAT, the planar movers appear as simple servo axes, capable, in principle, of supporting all six degrees of freedom. However, given that the degree of flexibility available with six axes is not always needed from a practical perspective – or, at least, not throughout the XPlanar system – TwinCAT provides a way to reduce this complexity. It does this by representing each mover as a one-dimensional axis capable of optional additional movements in other dimensions – lifting, tilting and turning, for instance – that are available when it reaches a processing station. This means it’s enough, initially, to just set the desired route, or track, across the XPlanar floor. This simplifies operation significantly.”

And how important is TwinCAT Track Management when implementing complex motion sequences?

A key factor in XPlanar’s flexibility is that its ability to transport products is not confined to the aforementioned single tracks, according to Prüßmeier. Users can define additional tracks, and movers can switch between them. To keep things simple for users, even when operating multiple tracks, TwinCAT offers Track Management, a user-friendly tool designed to support complex motion sequences, including the ability to overtake slower movers on the same track, or to accumulate movers in waiting zones. To do this, it allows users to define parallel lanes, bypasses, or tracks to other plant areas on the XPlanar floor.

Track Management allows movers to switch smoothly from one track to another via a short parallel segment. All this takes is a “switch track” command, without users having to deal with the specifics of merging in and out of the flow, or avoiding collisions. Movers can also be positioned with freedom, without having to follow any preset tracks. Using Track Management, they are sent to specific coordinates within the defined XPlanar floor space – again, without any risk of colliding with other movers.

According to Prüßmeier, there are plenty of advantages for the users for building a XPlanar floor from individual tiles.

“Here, too, we put flexibility front and centre,” he said. “The tiles can be arranged in any shape – and even wall- or ceiling-mounted – so the XPlanar system can be configured to perfectly suit a given application’s requirements. For instance, you can leave gaps within the tiled floor to accommodate processing stations, or lay tracks around plant components. This means users can set up a transport system in a cost-optimised fashion and, at the same time, reduce machine size to a minimum. In addition, it’s easy to modify the planar motor system subsequently just by adding more tiles when necessary, that is, to accommodate new processing stations or gain extra space to optimise motion through curves.”

And how can users best exploit this innovation’s potential? According to Prüßmeier, XPlanar opens up new avenues in machine and system design. Users need, literally, to experience the system’s new possibilities hands-on in order to grasp them, so at market launch Beckhoff is offering easy-to-use starter kits, just as it did with XTS.

“These consist of 6 or 12 planar tiles installed on a carrier frame, along with 4 movers and a small control cabinet with an industrial PC, complete with preinstalled software, and the requisite electrical components,” said Prüßmeier. “This offers machine builders an ideal basic kit on which to trial XPlanar in their own environments and then go on to use later in real-life applications. In addition, offering this kind of preconfigured system makes it a lot easier for the Beckhoff support staff to answer any questions that might arise.

Prüßmeier also said that there are almost no limits on using it with production plants and machines. The only requirement is that a product’s weight and volume are within the limits of what the planar movers can carry. Where this applies, users can benefit from all the system’s flexible positioning capabilities. These are particularly interesting in sectors with special requirements in terms of hygiene and cleanability, zero emissions, or low noise.

This is the case in the food and pharmaceuticals industry, as well as in laboratory environments or processes that require a vacuum (in semiconductor production, for instance). The latter two sectors in particular can benefit from the fact that products are carried on floating movers, abrasion- and contamination-free. Depending on the needs of a given application, users can also apply plastic, stainless-steel foil or glass plates to the XPlanar surfaces to make them easy to clean without residue.

XPlanar was first exhibited at the SPS IPC Drives show in Nuremberg in November 2018, with the product attracting interest among visitors.

“It also spawned lots of ideas for possible applications, because many users have been looking for a flexible solution to solve specific transport problems in their production facilities for years now,” said Prüßmeier.

He gives an example from food processing.

“In the production of high-quality confectionery, there are always minor deviations in the colour of chocolate coatings,” he said. “This is not a problem as such, provided there’s no variance within individual boxes of chocolates. However, at a production rate of 100 chocolates per minute, selecting 10 individual chocolates with the same colour for each pack is difficult using conventional means. It would require using several pick-and-place robots to check and sort all the chocolates, which would be costly in terms of time, floor space and throughput rate. The problem can be solved much more efficiently using individually controlled planar movers operating on a single floor. Movers transporting individual chocolates could easily sort themselves at the end of the production line according to the chocolates’ particular shade of colour. Or, if movers were designed to carry an entire box at once, each mover could automatically travel to the system ejection point for the appropriate colour of chocolate to pick up the products. Both of these approaches could be implemented much faster and, importantly, with lower space requirements than, for example, the robot solution I mentioned.”

Beckhoff has already received specific inquiries from the laboratory automation sector, where there’s interest in maximising the flexibility of analyses. For the most part, samples are tested for the same substance content, but less common analyses also need to be carried out for the purpose of individualised diagnostics.

Even with mass analysis methods, XPlanar offers a way to extract individual samples; it also creates additional quality assurance advantages by making it easy to discharge or exchange particular samples. There’s similar demand in the cosmetics industry, too. For example, in one particular case, fragrances need to be filled into selectable, customer-specific bottles that are individually labelled and packaged.

“The main difference is that the XPlanar movers don’t need a mechanical guide rail, so the system offers greater flexibility in terms of movement,” said Prüßmeier. “At the same time, though, the mechanical guidance in XTS can be an advantage. Compared to the magnetic counterforce of the planar movers, a guide rail allows better dynamics and higher speeds in curves, especially in very tight curves, and even when carrying a payload. The specifics of a given application will ultimately determine which of the two systems is the better option. The bottom line is that XPlanar and XTS complement each other perfectly.”

20 years of PC-based control technology – looking back and looking forward

Hans Beckhoff gives a review of the last 20 years in PC-based control technology and an outlook on future developments.

A lot changes in two decades. In automation technology in particular, there are exciting innovations every year – sometimes even revolutionary ones; however, the actual impact on the market is not usually seen until 10 years later.

At Beckhoff, we delivered the first Industrial PC back in 1986, which means that we have had PC-based control technology ever since. And as early as 1990, during our first presentation at the Hannover Messe trade show, a journalist asked me how long the PLC would still be around? As a young engineer, I leaned back and said: Another five years – an incredibly long time for me at the time.

When this journalist asked me the same question again in 1995, Beckhoff was doing well and we had grown wonderfully with our technology – but PC-based control technology only accounted for a negligible share of the overall market. On the one hand, this is due to the time constant mentioned at the beginning. On the other hand, there is of course a certain inertia on the part of the large suppliers of control technology, which encourages them to stick with the tried-and-tested technologies – such as PLC technology.

Nevertheless, we are convinced that IPC technology is by far the most powerful and often the least expensive platform. It also is a platform that enables the best-possible integration of IT and automation features.

Also around the turn of the millennium, the hour of Ethernet began to strike in the industrial environment. In 2003, Beckhoff itself presented EtherCAT, a corresponding solution that is now internationally widespread and accepted.

We were  optimistic and knew that what we had was something good. But we weren‘t aware at the time that we were defining a kind of global standard with EtherCAT. As it happened so often in our company’s history, we progressed with a certain ‘naïve’ optimism and belief in our own strength and developed this technology out of our own conviction.

At that time, however, we were already seasoned fieldbus experts: On the one hand with regard to our own communication systems, which we had already launched on the market. On the other hand, we also knew all the other fieldbus systems – essentially CAN bus and PROFIBUS. Compared to all these existing solutions, the development of EtherCAT ultimately represented a real quantum leap: On the one hand in terms of performance, which we had optimized in such a way that we could use a single Ethernet telegram to collect bits and pieces of information from many participants in the field. On the other hand, we built distributed clocks into the system from the outset in order to integrate an absolutely accurate system time into an automation system. Another novelty we introduced: At the time, every bus had to have a master card – a fact that is almost forgotten today. With EtherCAT, this was no longer necessary; instead, the system could be operated on any standard Ethernet port.

After the first positive reactions from the market, we finally decided to make the EtherCAT technology available for open use. In this context, we founded the EtherCAT Technology Group. The release of the technology has certainly contributed significantly to the worldwide success of EtherCAT.

In 1998, we were able to offer IPCs with one CPU core and a clock frequency of 1 to 2 GHz for controlling a machine. Today we supply Industrial PCs with up to 36 cores and a clock frequency of 4 GHz. This shows that hardware development has made great progress – in other words, Moore’s law has proven its validity over the years. And we believe that this will be the case for at least the next 10 years. If today we can integrate image processing or measurement technology into the control system, if we can synchronize 100 axes in one machine instead of 20 and if path control is possible at the same time, then we owe it to this increase in performance.

Another decisive development over the past 20 years has been the combination of functional areas, for example by integrating safety into standard control technology. And as far as drive technology is concerned, such new drive types as our XPlanar, the levitating planar motor system that we nicknamed the flying carpet, and of course, the eXtended Transport System (XTS) based on inverse linear motors have been successfully introduced to the market. Basically, I see a trend for the future in specialized magnetic drive forms, because today they can be mastered algorithmically, which means that a lot of mechanical effort on the machine can be replaced by software functionality.

Especially with regard to software, the last 20 years have also been the time when the IT world has moved even closer together with the automation world. In the case of TwinCAT 3, for example, this has meant the integration of the various tool chains such as Visual C, C++ and IEC 61131 into Microsoft Visual Studio. A further advantage lies in the integration of MATLAB/Simulink and then measurement technology and image processing as a result. In short: I consider this consistent integration of functions originating from different areas or even from different companies in one software package to be one of the most important development trends of the last two decades.

All in all, automation technology has, in retrospect, become simpler and more cost-effective. Think, for example, of one-cable technology or the electronic motor nameplate – 20 years ago, this was either rare or non-existent. At the same time, costs per axis in control technology have decreased by between 20 and 40 per cent during this period.

One topic that has been on the Beckhoff agenda for over six years, but for which Beckhoff has not yet presented a market-ready solution, is completely PC-based or freely programmable safety technology. There are two different things that we have to consider here: First, we have been supplying hardware-based safety – i.e. the input and output terminals or safety logic terminals – for around 10 years now. These are freely programmable with a graphical editor and cover around 80 % of all standard safety functions. We have also decided to do without the safety hardware CPU and replace it with a purely software-based runtime. We have already developed the mathematical basics and special compiler techniques to do so. Internally, this is now a finished product – the only thing still missing is a simple graphical editor. It will be available by the end of next year and then the official market launch will take place.

Industrie 4.0 is a complex topic. Let’s start with digitisation: digitisation is something that the industry and the world have been experiencing since 1970. The further development of hardware and software concepts has permeated more and more areas of life – and thus also industry – with electronic data processing aids. In this respect, I don’t see a major leap in development, but rather a development that has been going on for a long time but is accelerating. The fact that German industry is still very competitive shows that domestic companies have done their homework quite well in this respect compared with other countries.

The third industrial age, in which we found ourselves until recently, was based on the Acatech model – which, as we know, invented the term Industrie 4.0 in the year 2011. In this model, the production environment is characterized by the local intelligence of machines. The fourth industrial age, which has just begun, is now characterized by the fact that this local intelligence is combined with cloud intelligence. This is already my main concept of Industrie 4.0 – i.e. machines that can ‘talk’ to each other via the cloud or call up services from the cloud and use them for processes on the machine. Conversely, a higher-level intelligence can also see the machines as an extended output arm.

At Beckhoff, we can well imagine that some machine intelligence is shifting towards the cloud – we call this the ‘avatar concept.’ Examples of this are the control of a machine with speech recognition running in the cloud or vibration analyses for predictive diagnoses, which do not have to be carried out online, but can be carried out offline in the cloud. Even today, however, we can ‘cloudify’ the entire PLC – depending on availability, bandwidths and achievable response times. With technologies such as 5G, a lot seems to be feasible here; however, the response times here are still above 1 ms – so a packaging machine, for example, cannot yet be controlled in this way.

Now we can make a projection and ask: What will communication look like in 20 years? Personally, I think that we will then be around 100 GBaud and, with the help of special switching and wireless technologies, we will be able to reduce the response times for centralized applications to well under a millisecond. And so in 20 years, your colleagues will be able to write retrospectively: 2018 was the time when the machines hesitantly began to talk to the cloud and retrieve services from the cloud – today, this is completely normal!

The basis for intelligence on the machine is, among other things, the hardware. This will continue to be determined in the next few years by Moore’s law, so that in 20 years we will certainly be able to use computers on machines that are 100 times more powerful than today. That would mean that you can control 100 times as many axes or cameras, or you can operate a machine with a lot of cameras 10 times faster. In this respect, we believe that, for example, the use of image processing systems on the machine – also as sensors and not just for workpiece evaluation – will increase dramatically.

On the other hand, as computing power and communication bandwidth increase, so do the cloud’s capabilities – at least by the same factor. Here, too, the engineer’s imagination is ultimately required to decide what can happen in this cloud. In this context, terms such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning emerge – topics that will certainly have repercussions on machine functionality not in 20 years’ time, but in the next two to three years. At Beckhoff, we have also already founded a working group that investigates artificial intelligence algorithms for possible applications in automation – including path planning in robotics and sensor data fusion. The first results in these fields are very promising!

I have been asked; are the established automation technology manufacturers now running the risk of losing their ‘piece of the pie’? I don’t think so. After all, the big IT companies – Google, Microsoft and SAP – are approaching the application level from above. In other words, they have introduced edge computing concepts that in turn can contain local intelligence as well as machine control intelligence. In this respect, traditional machine control manufacturers are still way ahead in terms of their knowledge base, because automation technology is really complex. So I’m not worried that Google might suddenly offer motion controls or more complex measurement technology. And what’s more, the market is simply too small for these companies.

The large IT companies are primarily interested in the data because lucrative business models can be derived from it. Controllers or machine builders can supply this data.

As far as that is concerned, there will certainly be competition between automation suppliers and data processors. In addition, many machine end users have also developed their own strategy for this purpose.

Let me put it positively. First of all, I think that the fear for data security is much more pronounced in Germany than in other countries. However, if you want to successfully develop business models in this area, you should put that fear aside and consider what you could gain from all the data. Within the German AI community and even within the Federal Government’s ‘key issues paper on artificial intelligence’, there is a proposal to develop an anonymized general database into which personalized data can be imported and then made available anonymously as a general data pool for a wide range of different possible uses.

There are also many other practical methods: We have agreed with some of our customers, for example, that they occasionally run a test cycle on the machine that makes no statement about what has just been produced. During this test cycle, data is written that can then be used for predictive maintenance.

There are solutions to the problem of data security. I would always recommend not putting too much emphasis on fear at first, but rather looking positively at the different options available instead.

EtherCAT G: I/O performance for high-performance machines

EtherCAT reaches the next performance level with the EtherCAT G technology extension through its capability to superimpose itself on Gigabit Ethernet for particularly data-intensive applications. Compatibility with the globally established standard EtherCAT, which uses 100 Mbit/s, and the same familiar ease of use are both guaranteed. In addition, the efficient operation of parallel network segments is possible with the branch concept introduced for EtherCAT G.

EtherCAT G uses the 1 Gbit/s data transmission rate of standard Ethernet; while the EtherCAT G10 variant, recently presented as a proof-of-concept technology study, even achieves data rates of up to 10 Gbit/s. The considerable increase in data rates compared with standard 100 Mbit/s EtherCAT significantly increases the possible data throughput. In conjunction with the newly introduced branch concept, EtherCAT G (1 Gbit/s) enables a 2 to 7-fold increase in performance in relation to communication times and up to 10 times the bandwidth, depending on the application. 100 times the bandwidth is even possible with EtherCAT G10.

EtherCAT G as a fully compatible technology extension
With EtherCAT G, the proven success principle of EtherCAT can be used to leverage the high Ethernet data transmission rates that are technologically available today – without any changes to the EtherCAT protocol itself. The telegram sent by the EtherCAT master thus continues to pass through all network devices. Every EtherCAT slave reads the output data addressed to it on the fly and places its input data in the forwarded frame, but now with data rates of 1 to 10 Gbit/s. As before, the last device in a segment (or branch) will detect an unused port and send the telegram back to the master. The full-duplex property of the Ethernet physics is utilised for this capability.

All other EtherCAT properties are also fully retained. Devices with three or four ports (junctions) make extremely flexible topologies possible that can be individually adapted to the respective machine architecture. Optional machine modules can be plugged in or out by Hot Connect as required. A comprehensive internal network diagnostic function helps to minimise machine or plant downtimes and thus to increase availability with familiar efficiency. The integrated distributed clocks concept also remains available and enables synchronisation accuracies of better than 100 ns between devices. Conformity with the Ethernet standard IEEE 802.3 is also guaranteed.

Rollout of EtherCAT G made easy
Exceptional performance and ease of use have always been the hallmarks of EtherCAT communication. The same applies to EtherCAT G. Not only the protocol, but also the fundamental mechanisms and the configuration options remain the same. Only the function blocks necessary for physical access to the communication cables have been replaced by corresponding Gbit/s variants. The master therefore requires no new software, just one Gbit/s port – which usually exists in any case. The existing familiar cable types can also continue to be used: Cat.5e cables for EtherCAT G or Cat.6 cables for EtherCAT G10.

Consequently, EtherCAT G slaves can be operated on an existing EtherCAT master, provided it has the aforementioned Gbit/s port. Several special protocol extensions for EtherCAT G are currently being prepared that will allow for even higher-performance use. However, the extensions required for this on the master side will not be mandatory for the network to be operational.

Branch concept for mixed operation with maximum efficiency
EtherCAT and EtherCAT G can be operated within the same network, i.e. EtherCAT G slaves will work in a 100 Mbit/s EtherCAT network and vice versa. However, all EtherCAT G devices will switch back to the 100 Mbit/s mode in such a mixed network. In order to prevent this, the new branch concept makes EtherCAT branches possible, which enable the parallel operation of 100 Mbit/s segments in a 1 or 10 Gbit/s network through appropriate speed implementations. In this way, a branch of an EtherCAT G segment can be implemented on a 100 Mbit/s network, for example, using the new EK1400 EtherCAT G Coupler, thus allowing the extremely wide range of standard EtherCAT Terminals to be used within the EtherCAT G network environment. The 1 Gbit/s speed of EtherCAT G communication segment is retained.

Moreover, the EtherCAT G branch concept offers another crucial efficiency benefit: minimised propagation times. The CU14xx multi-port branch controllers are designed for this purpose and enable the interconnection of several EtherCAT and EtherCAT G segments. The individual branches are addressed with a single telegram from the master, which will then be processed simultaneously. This makes much shorter signal propagation times possible and therefore shorter communication and cycle times, because the telegram of a segment travels directly from the branch controller back to the master and not through all other connected segments as well. In most applications, the parallel operation of network segments results in a significantly higher performance increase than a mere increase in the transmission bandwidth would render possible.

In the coming months, the FB1400 EtherCAT G piggyback controller board will be available for the EL9820 EtherCAT evaluation kit. The FB1400 will have an FPGA with a fixed configuration as an EtherCAT G slave controller (ESC). If necessary, customers can then also create and use their own ESC configurations with the planned IP core for EtherCAT G. This will give EtherCAT users as well as master and slave manufacturers ample opportunity to evaluate the new technology. Availability of the EK1400 EtherCAT G Bus Coupler is scheduled for the second half of 2019. It will offer branch controller functionality and enables direct connection of all Beckhoff EtherCAT Terminals as well as all other EtherCAT products in EtherCAT G networks. Further products will follow, such as 3-port and 8-port branch controllers (CU1403, CU1418), an EtherCAT G junction (CU1423), an EtherCAT G10 branch controller (CU1468) and an EtherCAT G10 piggyback controller board (FB1450).

A disclosure and introduction of the EtherCAT G/G10 protocol by the EtherCAT Technology Group (ETG) is planned for this autumn. As with EtherCAT more than 15 years ago, all ETG member companies will be able to use the extension and benefit from it.

Areas of application and performance examples
For most present-day applications the high performance of standard EtherCAT is fully adequate. Accordingly, EtherCAT G communication was developed with extremely large-scale applications and many devices in mind as well as the increasing use of particularly data-intensive devices such as vision cameras, complex motion systems or measurement applications with high sampling rates. Machine vision, condition monitoring or the innovative transport systems XTS and XPlanar require transmission of several hundred bytes of process data per cycle for each device. In conjunction with short cycle times of less than a millisecond, the high transmission bandwidths provided by EtherCAT G are called for in this context.

The first practical EtherCAT G application is the XPlanar transport system, which was shown for the first time at the SPS IPC Drives 2018. This planar motor system enables motion control and highly precise positioning of passive free-floating movers with six degrees of freedom. Due to the continuous position feedback required for the unique new system, extremely large data quantities are produced that have to be transmitted within a few microseconds. This would hardly be possible without the high performance of EtherCAT G.

The following two sample calculations illustrate the boost in performance or the savings in data transmission time that can be achieved with EtherCAT G and the branch concept.

Accelerating communication times: 128 servo axes in 34 µs

  • A machine network with 128 servo axes was selected as the initial application.
  • A “standard data width” of 8 bytes in and out per device results in this case in a total of 1024 bytes in and out per cycle. With classic EtherCAT communication through all devices, taking into account hardware progagation delay times and telegram lengths, a communication time of 237 µs will result.
  • If the standard EtherCAT devices are now replaced by EtherCAT G devices, the communication time can be reduced to 150 µs just on account of the shortened frame length due to the higher data rate.
  • If in addition the branch concept is used and the complete network is divided into eight EtherCAT G segments with 16 servo drives each, a communication time of only 34 µs can be achieved – i.e. communication is now 7 times faster.

Using the bandwidth advantage: scanning 200 analog inputs with 100 ksamples/s

  • The following is an existing measurement application – Condition Monitoring – where a 10 km-long conveyor belt is monitored.
  • The application consists of 200 analog channels (±10 V) with 100,000 samples/s (10 µs measurement interval) per channel, which have to be scanned with a cycle time of 1 ms.
  • The present-day solution consists of four independent 100 Mbit/s EtherCAT networks, each with 26 two-channel analog input terminals with oversampling function (EL3702). Eight telegrams with 1313 bytes each are required in every EtherCAT network, resulting in a required bandwidth of 322 Mbit/s. Thus, each of the four networks utilises 88% of the available bandwidth.
  • If the four EtherCAT networks are now replaced by an EtherCAT G network and the EK1100 Bus Couplers by EK1400 EtherCAT G Bus Couplers (branch controllers), it is possible to continue to use existing standard EtherCAT Terminals. With the same cycle time (1 ms), however, a bandwidth utilisation of only 350 Mbit/s results in just one EtherCAT G network. The remaining bandwidth of 650 Mbit/s enables an extension of the channels and the support of even higher analog sampling rates.
  • Further cost advantages are the extremely reduced cabling requirements (one network instead of four) and the reduction in the number of the ports required in the master from four to one.

Flexible one cable solution combines communication and power

The One Cable Automation (OCA) philosophy from Beckhoff is based on the connection of individual field devices, decentralized terminal boxes, and even machine modules using only one cable. This cable technology combines ultra-fast communication via EtherCAT with the power supply required by the connected components. For the 24 V field level, this was implemented using the EtherCAT P technology expansion connected via special M8 connectors. To provide additional power supply capabilities via a one cable solution, Beckhoff developed the new ENP and ECP connector families. These combine EtherCAT or EtherCAT P communication with additional power conductors in one cable, and are easy to use, mechanically coded to prevent installation errors and offer a high protection rating of IP 67.

One Cable Automation has an exceptionally flexible design that is ideal for use in a broad range of applications. Different sections in a network can be connected selecting the suitable one cable solution for devices and components according to their individual power requirements. The unrestricted openness for mixed network topologies is a key benefit. This enables flexible transitions between:

  • EtherCAT P communication with integrated power supply (one cable solution with M8 connector)
  • a one cable solution using hybrid cables that combine an EtherCAT or EtherCAT P communication element with additional power conductors (one cable solution with the new ENP or ECP connectors)
  • a conventional two-cable solution with separate power supply (EtherCAT via M8/RJ45 connector or EtherCAT/EtherCAT P via ENP/ECP connector)

The new ECP and ENP connector series implement the combination of communication and power elements in different performance classes that range from 3 A to 64 A, all in an extremely compact design. The system is a completely new product development and meets the full scope of OCA requirements regarding connected devices and modules, including drives, sensors/actuators, control cabinets and entire machine modules. Reducing the system to the essentials – namely the EtherCAT or EtherCAT P communication element and DC or AC power supply lines – creates a cost-effective connection concept. In addition, the system is very easy to use due to the bayonet connections with mechanical and color coding. The ECP variant for EtherCAT P also provides another benefit: The power transmission integrated into EtherCAT P enables the elimination of the four wires normally required for 2 x 24 V. This allows the use of thinner, lower-cost cables and alternatively, the supply of other voltages.

EtherCAT P as an OCA solution for 24 V I/O systems
With EtherCAT P, Beckhoff has expanded the globally established EtherCAT technology to combine ultra-fast EtherCAT communication with a 24 V system and peripheral power supply (US or UP), all in a standard Ethernet cable. Beckhoff developed special M8 connectors for EtherCAT P with mechanical encoding that eliminates possible confusion with connectors used for standard EtherCAT slaves.

The design of a specific machine or plant installation is simplified using a TwinCAT software tool that helps specify all individual EtherCAT P consumers and cable lengths to configure the highest performance and most cost-effective EtherCAT P network. For that purpose, the new and highly compact EPP9022-0060 EtherCAT P Box module, with dimensions of only 30 x 86 x 26.5 mm, can be used to gather important data. This module measures the US and UP voltages along with the IS and IP currents in the system and passes on the information to the controller. Provided the system has the data from all consumers, it can also take the individual devices’ power consumption over time into account. For example, if two actuators never switch at the same time for logical reasons, this can be taken into account when configuring the maximum current. This introduces additional savings potential with regard to the required number of power supply feeds and power supply units.

Connector series for EtherCAT and EtherCAT P
If higher power or additional supplies are required in addition to the 24 V system and peripheral power supply via EtherCAT P, power can be supplied via corresponding hybrid cables together with the ECP and ENP connector series developed by Beckhofffor this purpose:

  • ECP (EtherCAT P + Power): This connector series combines a compact, trapezoidal EtherCAT P element (using the same pin allocation as the EtherCAT P encoded M8 connector) with additional power pins. In this way, the 24 V supply integrated into EtherCAT P is complemented with an additional power supply line.
  • ENP (EtherCAT/Ethernet + Power): These connectors combine a trapezoidal, central communication element with additional power pins in the same way as ECP. The trapezoidal element has an inverse design to prevent incorrect connections and provides data transmission via EtherCAT, standard Ethernet or other Ethernet-based communication protocols.

Different connector sizes from B12 to B36 are available with a varying number of power pins (2 to 6 pins) so that they can be easily adapted to the requirements of different network types and the power consumption of connected consumers. The complete and full-length 360° shielding of the central trapezoidal element continues the typical high performance of EtherCAT. Furthermore, the compact design also provides adequate space for the power pins, ensuring high current-carrying capacity and dielectric strength. The quick and easy-to-use bayonet connection, along with the broad flange spectrum in the diverse housing variants for rear panel, front panel and square installation, provide additional user benefits. Additionally, there are versions for field assembly that enable extreme time-savings during installation.

Broad range of applications
The ECP and ENP connector families, together with the EtherCAT P-encoded M8 connector type, cover all applications from 24 V DC on the I/O level to drive systems with 480 V AC and a maximum of 64 A. The high flexibility of the connection system is available in every application area. Depending on specific needs, EtherCAT, EtherCAT P or a mixture of both can be used. Typical engineering requirements for small and mid-sized systems are covered by EtherCAT P with up to 3 A for US and UP in combination with M8 or ECP connectors. In contrast, the ENP connector series is the ideal solution for larger installations involving longer transmission distances. The same also applies for applications without EtherCAT P, such as an endpoint with a 24 V power supply unit or for the supply of 24 V consumers with very high power demands.

Expanding the One Cable Automation concept through the growing diversity of the EtherCAT P, ECP and ENP devices and components constantly expands the range of application options for users. Current examples are the two new infrastructure box modules EP9221-0057 (1 channel) and EP9224-0037 (4 channel) from Beckhoff. Via B17-ENP connectors, these power distributors provide two 24 V supplies and a protective conductor along with EtherCAT communication in the trapezoidal element. The power cable has a cross-section that is approximately five times larger than the EtherCAT P element and can bridge longer distances or conduct significantly higher currents (up to 20 A at ambient temperature).

 

Transitioning from energy management to condition management

Beckhoff offers an expanded portfolio of energy measurement and grid analysis solutions for a broad spectrum of applications, ranging from machines and production facilities to manufacturing plants and buildings to wind power and hydroelectric installations. Managing industrial machinery and extensive power generation plants involves a broad range of requirements, including mains monitoring, process control and high-end power monitoring. Beckhoff has released the EL37x3 series and four new EL34x3 EtherCAT I/Os.

Together with the proven oversampling power monitoring terminals and the associated TwinCAT Power Monitoring library, the new EtherCAT Terminals for energy and condition management represent a comprehensive product spectrum that can be adapted to any application.

In addition to the continuing regulatory pressure to implement the ISO 50.001 standard, installing an energy management system, as described by the International Energy Agency, delivers several direct benefits, such as:

  • energy savings = cost savings
  • supply security = production reliability
  • industrial productivity = increased sales
  • resource management = higher profit margins

Even for use as a stand-alone energy meter, the modular Beckhoff solution is superior to conventional devices. The I/O system supports the flexible combination of devices such as the compact EK9160 IoT Bus Coupler equipped with an Ethernet interface and the EL3423 power measurement terminal that is optimized for use in the IoT field. At the same time, the user benefits from proven and affordable standard industrial components.

Taking a more holistic view, on the other hand, opens the door to significantly greater efficiency improvements. The open and consistent bus terminal and software system from Beckhoff enables the implementation of energy management solutions that are simple, cost-effective and, most importantly, seamlessly integrated into the existing automation system. Acquisition of all consumer data (including those from DC-supplied consumers) provides detailed insight on the type of energy and how much of it is being used anywhere in a plant or building.

Since this measurement data is directly available in the I/O system, no additional automation system is required. Bus terminals and/or software modules can be easily added to the control system as needed. This reduces the cost of collecting energy usage data while providing information about the total consumption of the facility as well as of all sub processes.

With a higher-level gateway PC, it is also possible to integrate a heterogeneous system, such as one that has grown over time, into a fully functional end-to-end system again – even if the components come from many different manufacturers.

Numerous I/O modules are available for energy data collection to form the basis of the universal solution. Established gas, water and heat meters can be easily integrated into the system with up/down counters like the EL1512 EtherCAT Terminal or the KL6781 and KL6401 Bus Terminals via the M-Bus or LON interface. In addition, users can monitor their compressed air usage (and check for energy-wasting leaks) with the KM37xx differential pressure measurement terminals or the decentralized EP3744 IP67 differential pressure measuring box. IO-Link-based sensors can be integrated via KL/EL6224 terminals. Electrical variables can be conveniently collected via the broad portfolio of system-integrated power measurement terminals, which can be used for the three application areas of maintenance, power measurement and power monitoring.

EL3483 and EL3423 for maintenance
The EL3483 3-phase mains monitoring terminal for voltage, frequency and phase can be used in place of a protection relay for the detection of asymmetry errors or frequency errors, as well as for phase protection and voltage protection for uncontrolled motors. Moreover, the EL3483 not only generates an error message after a fault has occurred. In addition, users can preset thresholds for all monitored values to enable alarm notifications and thus to be able to take corrective action proactively and avoid machine downtime.

Since the terminal provides a power quality factor and is available at relatively low costs, it can be used to install a comprehensive supply voltage monitoring system. The power quality factor is a combination of many factors that affect the quality of the mains voltage. It enables the user to assess the supply reliability of an installation in a simplified manner with only a single number and without requiring detailed knowledge of harmonic waves, distortion factors and other factors.

The second representative of this group is the first true energy and power measurement terminal, because it supplements the voltage analysis in the EL3483 with current measurement channels. As an economy version of the above 3-phase power measurement terminal, the EL3423 is a full-featured I/O device that computes its measurements in the 15-minute intervals that are common in Germany. The update speed, on the other hand, is freely selectable down to 10-second averages. In addition to determining averages, the terminal collects power minimums and maximums for the selected period. Because of the time limitations, the terminal is available at a lower price point.

If power and/or other values are to be measured in the context of machine control, 10-second measurement intervals will probably not be sufficient. In this case, an update to the next terminal category is recommended.

EL3443 and EL3453 for power measurement applications
The EL3443 is the new standard power measurement terminal from Beckhoff with many additional features and a significantly faster response time than its predecessor. The 3-phase power measurement terminal with extended functionality updates the measurement values with each full wave (20 ms at 50 Hz). It also supplies more than 400 measurement values that provide detailed information about the present status of power supply and consumption. Among other things, the terminal determines the first 41 harmonics for current and voltage on all three phases.

Two more specialized features of this component class are the detection of zero voltage crossing occurrences as well as the internal computation of residual current. The zero voltage crossing detection makes it possible to implement innovative control concepts by executing switching operations with microsecond accuracy during zero-crossovers. This protects switching components and downstream devices from inrush current peaks. The effective computation of residual current makes it possible to estimate the neutral current without explicitly measuring it. With the EL3453, which measures the neutral current directly, the computed residual current is equal to the differential current, which provides further monitoring capabilities that may be useful for other applications, such as the operation of IT server racks.

In comparison with the EL3443, the EL3453 3-phase power measurement terminal with extended functionality for up to 690 V AC adds even more speed and updates its process values with every half-wave (i.e. every 10 ms at 50 Hz). In addition, it features four independent and isolated current channels that can withstand short-term currents of 60 A. Moreover, the EL3453 computes more harmonics (up to the 63rd) and the sine wave power and energy, which makes more than 600 measurement values available.

Power monitoring for high-end applications
The third and final category consists of the EL37x3-series power monitoring terminals for high-end applications. These terminals fully implement the principle of PC-based control by collecting high-resolution current and voltage values and forward them to the controller very quickly but without any processing. The greatest advantage of this method is that the controller has all raw data at its disposal and can operate with the greatest level of detail possible. Even oscilloscopic applications can be implemented this way. Since the automation controller has much more computing power at its disposal, it is able to perform analyses in significantly greater detail. For an efficient implementation of the desired analysis functions, Beckhoff provides the TwinCAT Power Monitoring software library TF3650. While the EL3773 with 10,000 measurements per second is not as fast in comparison, it features an integrated filter and DC capability. The EL3783, on the other hand, features a sampling rate of 20 ksps and an overload capacity of 130 to 650 percent for current and voltage. This makes it possible to maintain a comprehensive data overview and not lose any measurement values even in error states.

All these capabilities make it possible to put together a company-wide energy management system that meets any user requirements. The user can decide whether to manage the data in the cloud or locally, which remains the most common choice. If a localized solution is selected, it is important not to forget the benefits of an easy-to-use interface with centralized access options. Centralized data access via multi-touch panels delivers more clarity and convenience compared to the multiple built-in devices that users had to monitor in the past. Using the HTML5-based TwinCAT 3 HMI from Beckhoff, the same visualization can even be displayed by many other end devices such as smartphones and tablets without any additional effort.

Drag-and-drop analysis functions with TwinCAT Analytics
With TwinCAT Analytics, all data acquired throughout a company environment can be easily summarized and evaluated via drag-and-drop analysis functions and also combined with other measurement data. This makes it easy to compute the energy consumption for each produced part. A holistic Beckhoff solution even supplies data that is not available to common energy management systems since the latter have no access to the machine control data. This makes it possible to first determine the energy consumption for different operating conditions and then identify deviations from the norm.

While too much energy usage may be a sign of worn bearings, for example, too little energy usage may indicate insufficient product quality. Through automatic PLC code generation, above mentioned easily created drag-and-drop analyses can even be integrated into an automated permanent analysis system. After automatic project creation, users can integrate an HMI dashboard for company-wide energy data analysis. TwinCAT 3 HMI provides the foundation for this capability. Company-wide monitoring across distributed locations and systems enables a timely response to impending faults before downtime occurs. It also enables discovery of previously unidentified optimization potential, for example, during operating mode changes. And by means of the power quality factor, users can even resolve unexplained machine problems resulting from fluctuations in the power supply without the need for extensive knowledge in electrical engineering. With these user-friendly tools, even the implementation of an advanced condition management system with a high level of detail is easy to accomplish.

 

AMP8000 distributed servo drive system for modular machines

The AMP8000 distributed servo drive system provides support for the implementation of modular machine designs. For this purpose, a servo drive has been directly integrated into a servomotor, all in a highly compact design. In this way, the power electronics are relocated to the machine, reducing space requirements in control cabinets to just a single coupling module. In addition, decentralized distribution modules and the universal EtherCAT P solution further optimize the modular machine design approach.

The AMP8000 system consists of three main components: a single-channel or alternately dual-channel coupling module that forms the starting point, and the only component that still needs to be installed in the control cabinet. The coupling module establishes a connection between the DC link, 24 V DC supply and EtherCAT communication. For use with the high-performance AX8000 multi-axis servo system from Beckhoff, the AX883x coupling module is connected to the AX8000 supply module in order to provide a link to the IP 65-rated devices with one or two outputs. In combination with the AX5000 Digital Compact Servo Drive, the AX503x coupling module can also be used in stand-alone mode due to an integrated power supply unit. In this way, 20 A (per output in the case of the AX883x and as sum current in the case of the AX503x), 600 V DC link voltage, 24 V power supply and EtherCAT networking are available via the EtherCAT P outputs (B23 sockets).

This power is initially supplied to an AMP8805 distribution module as a second system component. As an IP 65-rated component that is integrated into the machine layout, it supplies up to five AMP80xx distributed Servo Drives. It can be mounted either directly (“brick style”) or using a bracket available as an accessory (“book style”) and adapted ideally into individual machine designs. The distribution module has an internal capacitance of 1120 µF to support the DC link. Additional EtherCAT P Box modules, such as for I/Os or for a second feedback system, can be connected simply and quickly via an additional EtherCAT P M8 output.

The third system component is the AMP80xx distributed Servo Drive. It is identical to the standard servomotors in the AM8000 series with regard to its mounting dimensions and performance data. Only the overall length has increased in comparison with the standard motors due to the integrated power electronics. Since this added length is not usually critical for the installation, most existing machine designs can be upgraded without the need for modification. The AMP80xx distributed Servo Drives are initially available in the flange sizes F4 and F5. Various versions are available with rated outputs of 0.61 to 1.18 kW and standstill torques of 2.0 to 4.8 Nm (F4) or rated outputs of 1.02 to 1.78 kW and standstill torques of 4.1 to 9.7 Nm (F5). The STO and SS1 safety functions are integrated as standard and a range of extended safe motion functions are currently being prepared. In addition, the new flange sizes F3 and F6 are in development and will complement the AMP8000 distributed drive system in the lower and higher power ranges.

Universal cabling and cascadable installation via EtherCAT
The components in the AMP8000 system are universally connected with the uniform One Cable Automation (OCA) cabling technology, which connects via identical cross-sections and connectors. This is a dynamic, drag-chain compatible EtherCAT P cable with ECP-B23 connectors, which means the one cable solution features a hybrid cable that combines EtherCAT P (communication plus 24 V system and peripheral voltage) with additional power cores. Moreover, preassembled cables and connectors facilitate easy installation and minimized errors during cabling.

The AMP8000 system is also cascadable via the distribution module, meaning even highly complex machines and plants can have a simple and clear-cut topology layout. For this purpose one or several additional distribution modules are connected to one of the module outputs in place of a distributed servo drive. For example, one main distribution module can supply five sub-modules, to which a maximum of 25 distributed servo drives can be connected, assuming an adequate supply of power to the individual motors is provided.

Compact drive integration in optimised design
With the AMP80xx, the integration of drive technology has been implemented in an exceptionally compact design, made possible through the use of the latest output stage technologies. The power module is attached at the rear end of the servomotor shaft, ensuring that the attachment dimensions are identical to those of the corresponding standard servomotors in the AM8000 series. Only the overall length is about seven centimeters larger. For machine builders, this means only a small amount of additional space is required, making it possible to change their drive concepts without any fundamental design modifications.

Apart from the small overall volume, the elegant and slim design of the AMP80xx offers further advantages over certain servomotors commonly encountered on the market, where the power electronics are mounted on top. With the AMP8000, the two dissipated heat sources – motor and power electronics – are clearly separated from each other and ensure much better heat dissipation by design, without the need for additional installation space or heat sinks. As a result, the distributed servo drives easily attain the same excellent properties as the corresponding standard AM8000 servomotors from Beckhoff.

New Branch concept for EtherCAT

Thomas Rettig, senior management control system and communication architecture, at Beckhoff Automation, tells Food and Beverage Industry News about the latest news on EtherCAT from his company.

EtherCAT G and G10 are fully compatible with EtherCAT. Are there any special considerations that users might need to take into account?
Thomas Rettig: From a protocol point of view, EtherCAT G slaves will be able to operate easily with an existing EtherCAT master, provided the master is equipped with a 1 Gbit/s port. We are currently working on a number of EtherCAT G protocol extensions that will enable even better performance. There will have to be some extensions on the master side, but these will not be essential for network operation. Our new branch concept is being introduced to enable EtherCAT, EtherCAT G and EtherCAT G10 devices on a network to operate at different data rates (100 Mbit/s, 1 Gbit/s or 10 Gbit/s). Each branch connected to a branch controller represents a separate EtherCAT segment, and the EtherCAT segments can operate at different transfer rates and in parallel with one another. A few extensions in the EtherCAT master will make time- and bandwidth-optimised network operation possible.

Will the branch controller concept continue to support known EtherCAT features like processing on the fly and fully synchronised distributed clocks?
Thomas Rettig: These are both core features that have made EtherCAT such a success. EtherCAT G and EtherCAT G10 will both continue to support processing on the fly, as we already demonstrated live at SPS IPC Drives in 2018. The distributed clocks, too, will, of course, continue to be distributed for synchronisation across the branch controllers and will work in the same way as before.

Which applications already benefit from the higher bandwidth with EtherCAT G?
Thomas Rettig: The first application to benefit is our new XPlanar system. This transport system, with its planar motors, allows passive, levitating movers to be moved and positioned with six degrees of freedom and highest precision. It relies, however, on having plenty of available data bandwidth, and EtherCAT G meets that need perfectly. Similarly, any applications with high bandwidth requirements, such as machine vision cameras or high-precision measurement applications, will benefit. The branch controller approach also allows more complex EtherCAT networks to operate with shorter cycle times than were formerly possible because of limitations imposed by network size.

Will it be possible to connect EtherCAT G to TSN switches?Thomas Rettig:
Yes. The same applies to EtherCAT G as to EtherCAT. EtherCAT G is extremely efficient to integrate into a TSN environment. It requires minimal adaptation of the control system, no changes to slave devices, and just a minor extension in so-called open-mode devices used to connect EtherCAT slave segments to the TSN network.

 

When will your EtherCAT G products be available?

Thomas Rettig: We expect the FB1400 EtherCAT G piggyback controller for our EtherCAT evaluation board to be available in March 2019. This will give EtherCAT users and the makers of master and slave devices the chance to evaluate our new technology. The EK1400 EtherCAT G Coupler will follow in the fall of 2019. In our branch controller concept, the coupler makes it possible to use all of the Beckhoff EtherCAT Terminals and any other EtherCAT products in EtherCAT G networks. More products, including three- and eight-way branch controllers (CU1403, CU1418), an EtherCAT G junction (CU1423), an EtherCAT G10 branch controller (CU1468) and an EtherCAT G10 piggyback controller (FB1450), will follow in due course.

 

Open IIoT’s panel joins forces to bring a demo system to life for AUSPACK 2019

With collaboration being one of the leading drivers for Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), the purpose of Open IIoT’s live demo system at AUSPACK 2019 is to emulate exactly this.

Beyond human interaction, collaboration now reaches across all automation components – at the very edge of the production system. Through the physical layer, it is now possible to collect data, monitor the condition of components and systems, diagnose and pre-empt faults before they occur, and most importantly, enable the system to respond with dynamic changes.

The Open IIoT panel, comprising of SMC, ZI-Argus, Beckhoff Automation, Balluff and Nord Drivesystems, has now built a live demo system to showcase how their joint forces can work together to build a complete IIoT integrated system for an end-user. By combining their expertise and components, this system will circulate various sized boxes based on their size, colour, texture, RFID and external labelling.

Key areas such as predictive maintenance, energy savings, horizontal and vertical networking, dynamic changes and data analytics will be brought to light through this unique creation.

Open IIoT will also be giving away a free Industry 4.0 factory readiness audit to one lucky customer.

AUSPACK shows how connectivity unlocks value

Industry 4.0 and the Industrial internet ofThings (IIoT) are changing the game – fast – not only for manufacturers but the entire supply chain. Connecting IT and OT systems across all operations in a business is enabling data accumulation at an unprecedented scale. At AUSPACK 2019 the industry can learn about how to make this data unlock value on the production line and beyond.

As plants and production processes modernise current and legacy systems, and plant networks converge with enterprise business systems, manufacturers are gaining access to a tremendous amount of data. However, most need assistance to maximise the benefits of their data and transform it into actionable information. Now, help is at hand in the form of a new collaborative initiative between SMC, Beckhoff Automation, NORD Drivesystems, Balluff, ZI-Argus dubbed Open IIoT (stand B237). AUSPACK 2019 will be the launch platform for this open-source knowledge group set up to provide the industry with valuable information about Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things, including the ‘how to’ of implementation.

Across the showfloor, numerous exhibitors will provide access to the latest ideas and technology on Industry 4.0, from information and automation solutions, to robotics and integrated coding and vision systems.  For example, HMPS (stand G140) will showcase its newly launched its new Industry 4.0 solution, HMPSConnect, which links HMPS equipment into the IIoT, providing a dashboard for users to easily access data across all of their machines.

Heat and Control (stand D150) will demonstrate how engaging with a single source supplier like the HCI Alliance (a partnership between Heat and Control and Ishida)  can add value through increased connectivity levels and digital data exchange, along all stages of the processing and packaging production line. Foodmach (stand E065) will spruik its expertise in Industry4.0 line integration and the implementation of programming standards into production systems.

The Industry 4.0 theme will also be explored beyond the showfloor, at the AUSPACK 2019 Business & Industry Conference taking place on 26 and 27 March at the Melbourne Exhibition and Conference Centre.

John Broadbent, founder of Realise Potential, will lead a panel discussion on taking the ‘leap of faith’ towards Industry 4.0. To pull off a successful Industry 4.0 transition, it’s important to understand what this technology is and how to implement it, says Broadbent. “If you go down the path of understanding what the Industrial Internet of Things can do for you, it will help you keep the doors open – make your business more sustainable and here for the long term, and keep people in employment,” he said.

 

Another highlight at the conference will be the presentation by Foodmach CCO Earle Roberts about the $165m Dulux paint production and packaging plant, recognised as one of the top 5 Industry 4.0 plants in the world.