Innovative Automation Through The Cloud

An important topic at the SPS / IPC / Drives Congress dealt with promising high-tech trends in automation: Among other things, the focus was on automation services from the cloud and the merging of programmable logic controllers (PLCs) with robot controllers.

“Why not use automation services from the cloud, as is more and more common in business IT?” – “The classic automation hierarchy is increasingly changing to a flat automation cloud,” said the automation technology expert. Service-oriented architectures (SOA) are among the most valuable services from the cloud.

In a recent study, cloud computing is among the five critical megatrends for the future factory. According to Langmann, however, all the solutions and approaches available to date do not rely consistently enough on modern web technologies and practically do not enable any cloud applications as services for automation solutions (SaaS). Also criticized the lack of connection to the devices via standard industry interfaces such as B. OPC, which would require additional and complex hardware adapters as M2M interfaces.

BMWi Funds Cloud Project For Innovative Automation Systems

Ten automation participation companies, lean and open architectures for automation systems that consistently use cloud-based web technologies are being researched.

With the new WOAS architecture, the principles and methods from the standardized world of Internet technologies are to be transferred to the world of industrial automation. “The automation system is generated license-free from an XML core in the web browser, and the automation functions, such as trend analyses, alarm management, and measured value processing are used as chargeable services via a WOAS cloud,” described the principle.

The field devices are connected via standard industrial interfaces. A first demonstrator, which clarifies the basic principles of a WOAS and potential, could be tested during the SPS / IPC /.

Make Communication Between PLC And Linux-Based Robot Controllers More Beneficial

Another automation trend is moving away from industrial robots, which carry out their permanently programmed routines in specially designed robot cells. For this purpose, Windows-based PLCs or embedded systems are primarily used in industry today. In contrast, the robots mostly use the Linux-based Robot Operating System (ROS) as a quasi-standard for service robotics. They explained how communication between the PLC and the Linux-based robot controller could be more profitable.

The stated goal: to open up new areas of application and master more complex tasks. Using the example of control for an automated guided vehicle system (AGV), Messmer described how previous PLC systems – without major adjustments – can be expanded quickly and modularly to include functions from robot technology. Such driverless transport systems are often used in industrial intralogistics to automate the material flow and parts replenishment. AGVs have been controlled by a PLC and moved through the production area along with optical guidelines but are often error-prone due to the policies’ contamination or wear and tear.

Control Driverless Transport Systems (AGVs) Independently Of Guidelines

To eliminate the dependency on the guidelines, Messmer relies on free navigation: With the help of a camera pointing to the ground, deviations from the procedure are detected and transmitted as a control signal to the PLC. This converts the control signal directly into corrective motor commands following the implemented control algorithm. A helpful framework is used for communication between ROS and PLC.

Complex algorithms from navigation, manipulation, and image processing can fulfill demanding tasks. An AGV can only move in unknown, dynamic environments with the help of odometry data and information from laser scanners. “Such solutions are of interest to industry, for example, when it comes to not only transporting material but also performing manipulative steps directly or equipping machines.” “No major changes need to be made to the actual control algorithm of the PLC.”

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