Smart Machines & Factories
The way to a true smart factory
Published:  25 October, 2016

At the PPMA Total show in Birmingham, Omron unveiled the company’s Industry 4.0 philosophy, and provided an insight to how the concept could look in reality by demonstrating a fully operational simulated Smart Factory. Smart Machines & Factories reports.

Manufacturing is currently at the beginning of a journey that will revolutionise every stage of the processes involved in making a product which will start a movement towards a batch size of one, where every product is personalised to each individual customer. To get to this point will require flexible production management and product traceability throughout the entire supply chain. The foundations being laid now will lead to that goal in the future. But in that time, high productivity must be maintained, while overall equipment effectiveness is increased.

The first step in creating a fully automated Smart Factory, is gaining a complete understanding of the overall concept, as well as the individual components that make up the concept. To demonstrate how each part of Industry 4.0 interacts with each other to form a coherent, beneficial whole, Omron launched its ‘Innovation by Automation’ philosophy at PPMA Total. The philosophy is based on three key pillars; Integrated Automation, Intelligent Automation and Interactive Automation, which together form the basis of a successful Industry 4.0 implementation.

Omron also formally announced its acquisition of Adept Technologies at PPMA. The Smart Factory demonstration featured three Adept robots, including two state-of-the-art autonomous indoor vehicle (AIV) Lynx robots.

To demonstrate that ‘Innovation by Automation’ is not just for a theoretical future and can translate into present reality, Omron incorporated its latest products into a real working Smart Factory at the exhibition. The factory application consisted of autonomous robots loading and unloading a robot cell, which inspected and sorted the products on the robot-supplied pallets. All relevant data was captured and uploaded to a database through open standard communication protocols.

At the beginning of the process, the operator created an order on Omron’s NA HMI by selecting different boxes on a pallet. A Viper 6-axis articulated robot assembled the order on a pallet using product from the buffer and also from the warehouse, which is delivered using a Lynx AIV. The incoming pallets were then inspected by an Omron FH vision system upon delivery to the robot cell. The order was then picked by the Viper robot and once finished, was inspected again. If the inspection was good, the Lynx AIV then delivered the pallet. To further demonstrate the flexibility of the system, each box had a different colour and 2D code which is logged in the SQL database ready for further analysis.

Integrated automation

The Integrated Automation pillar of Omron’s ‘Innovation by Automation’ philosophy states that every machine and device must be smart and connected to ensure complete control and total visibility. Advanced integration of logic, motion, safety, robotics, together with database connectivity using open networks and communications protocols facilitate this process.

In the demonstration, the Integrated Automation function was handled by Omron’s Sysmac integrated automation platform. The Sysmac platform is the backbone of the system, integrating and synchronising all of the Smart Factory’s components and providing control and management functions.

Intelligent automation

According to the Omron philosophy, in a Smart Factory the foundation for precise evaluation and intelligent visualisation of the process is the collection and organisation of data from relevant machines and quality data from inspection systems.

The Omron Sysmac NJ5 controller was used to show Intelligent Automation. As with other current generation Omron controllers, the NJ5 has an integrated SQL-database interface, allowing data to be evaluated securely, quickly and easily. The NJ5 collected data from every stage of the process - from the warehouse to visual inspection - and fed it to the SQL database, which then used algorithms to analyse the data for performance metrics. Remote monitoring also allowed performance and process parameters to be accessible anywhere.

Interactive automation

In a Smart Factory, humans will have to work in close proximity to robots to give the optimal combination of human cognitive skills and flexibility, and the strength, accuracy and data capability of robots. This new generation of advanced robots are known as collaborative robots (cobots).

Omron’s Adept Lynx is a high payload, autonomous indoor vehicle (AIV) that doesn’t need marked routes or targets to navigate like the older generation of AGV robots. It uses lasers to map its surroundings and can then intelligently guide itself within permitted areas. It can work safely and efficiently with humans as it reacts and changes route in real-time to avoid any obstacles.

To demonstrate human interaction with machinery, Omron’s Sysmac Studio programming software helped to provide control over machine programming, integration, configuration, monitoring and support.

From vision to reality, Omron displayed the future of manufacturing at PPMA Total 2016.

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