The Role of Industrial Edge Devices in Driving the Industrie 4.0 Revolution
11 Oct, 2019
As Industrie 4.0 comes of age, the rate of adopting its business models in driving production is constantly increasing. OEMs are increasingly embedding smart industrial edge devices. With the growing amount of Industrial cloud computing solutions currently available to manufacturers, options are becoming more readily available in the drive to create smart factories.
Today, diverse service providers offer intuitive solutions for enhancing IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) and reducing downtime while optimizing automation. In most cases, these vendors and service providers focus solely on the software side of things due to the increased demand for connectivity, collaboration, and real-time analytics. This means the hardware sector of Industrie 4.0 has been kept in the shadows.According to Forbes, the three areas of hardware technologies that drive Industrie 4.0 are:
Motor and motor drives
Robots and robotics
Data center servers and storage
The article further stated that these areas must experience significant evolution if Industrie 4.0 is expected to grow. This highlights the importance of smart industrial edge devices and hardware growth in driving the adoption of Industrie 4.0 business models.
This article will cover:
An introduction to smart industrial edge devices
The importance of hardware in Industrie 4.0
How smart industrial edge devices and hardware will drive the Industrie 4.0 revolution
Introducing smart industrial edge devices for Industrie 4.0
Smart industrial edge devices and hardware provide entry points into enterprise or service provider networks. In Industrie 4.0, this hardware is tasked with passing information to Industrial cloud computing servers or enterprise systems. They also perform computing tasks such as gathering data from machines, IIoT devices and storing or analyzing the collected data at the device level.
What makes these devices stand out is their ability to handle data analytics and influence the decision-making process locally. Thus, with the aid of a smart industrial edge device, legacy machines and assets can be made to communicate with their immediate environment and react to the operating conditions around them.
How innovation in smart edge hardware will drive Industrie 4.0
Innovations in the smart industrial edge device and hardware niche of Industrie 4.0 will provide an avenue for integrating automation at the deepest level of the shop floor. They basically serve as a one-to-many or anything-to-everything platform as long as the platform can receive API calls. For example, a large corporation that has invested millions of dollars on legacy systems – machines, manufacturing execution systems (MES), networks, etc.– will continue using these systems for the foreseeable future. This makes integrating Industrie 4.0 concepts a challenge.
To overcome this challenge, smart industrial edge devices can be used to implement OPC Foundation standards within the legacy system as well as having the ability to communicate with a vast array of brownfield protocols. This is because the smart hardware can receive data from shop floor machines, firmware, and the MES attached to these legacy systems. The collected data can then be transferred to an Industrial cloud computing server where the data can be used to drive automation.
Another innovative application of smart industrial edge devices that will drive growth in smart factories is its ability to provide support to the central automation or database management solution used. In this case, the device will handle the data-related tasks of a machine, thus freeing the Industrial cloud computing or PLC to handle other important tasks. The smart edge hardware can then handle the data communications, error-checks, ticketing, etc. of the machine or legacy system it is attached to.
The integration of smart industrial edge devices in robotics is also an avenue to ensure data-driven plant performance optimization as well as enhance ‘machine as a service’, as we know it today. In both situations, attaching smart edge hardware to robots will enable the collection of data and the connection of the robot to the Industrial cloud computing servers. The collected data can then be used to make decisions concerning just-in-time delivery and material handling thereby optimizing these processes across the shop floor.
In terms of driving machines as a service, the collected data from the smart device attached to a manufacturing robot can be integrated into another client’s production process. OEMs can then outsource these machines to assist manufacturers with their manufacturing tasks. In the end, the proceeds from production are shared between the manufacturer and the OEM.
The features smart industrial edge devices and hardware should have
The features and capabilities smart industrial edge devices need to drive Industrie 4.0 include:
The ability to interface with smart electronics such as sensors, actuators, and motion systems which enables the collection of machine data.
The ability to connect with devices within its deployment area. This puts assets on the network making them controllable from the central Industrial cloud computing server and requires multiple brown and green field protocols.
Internal processing and analytics features which make it possible for the smart industrial edge device to execute stand-alone tasks.
A durable build that can withstand the extreme working conditions and vibrations that occur in manufacturing shop floors.
The ability to interface with an industrial cloud computing server using opc ua, mqtt or one of the other cloud to machine protocols.
Integrating high-performance computing (HPC) hardware to drive Industrie 4.0
Large manufacturing corporations that handle thousands of customized orders on a regular basis can integrate Industrie 4.0 to simplify the design, prototyping, and manufacturing process. To accomplish this, computers with the ability to deliver high-performance computing and work with collected data is needed.
Here again, computer hardware innovation and integration into Industrie 4.0 must be executed. High-performance computing involves the arrangement of computer hardware in clusters to deliver increased computing powers. The HPC ecosystem creates an avenue for running complex product designs and stress analysis in real-time. The prototype data can then be transferred to the central Industrial cloud computing database to drive production. HPC computers can also integrate production data from manufacturing equipment into the design and prototyping stage. The combination of HPC and smart industrial edge devices will speed up the automation process, which is crucial to the success of the smart factory.
The role of hardware in driving Industrie 4.0 and enhancing the options available today is an important consideration if factories are to become smart. So, focus should be placed on developing smart devices and computing hardware that can handle the rigors of manufacturing shop floors. Achieving this will also drive the app economy which will see the development of even more applications that keep equipment running more efficiently in tomorrow’s factories.