Tomorrow’s manufacturing facility will still use everything from hydraulics to electrics, and automation will provide more flexibility than ever.
By now, anyone involved in the industrial sector has probably heard the term, “factory of the future.” Those four words bring to mind an industrial utopia defined by increased productivity with no downtime, round-the-clock productivity, previously untapped levels of customization, improved safety capabilities — all boiling down to more profitable production processes.
There are a number of companies offering systems, software, and other tools to help achieve these goals. One of these companies is Bosch Rexroth.
At the heart of the Bosch Rexroth approach is the automation and IoT software that could turn such a vision a reality. Dr. Henier Lang, SVP of Automation & Electrification Solutions at Bosch Rexroth defines the factory of the future this way: “Full flexibility, individuality and scalability. This is exactly what the factory of the future is about.”
The company is heavily involved in bringing these future capabilities into the present with its portfolio of automation solutions. But as automation takes up most of the factory of the future’s attention, technology such as hydraulic components, linear motion and assembly systems can easily fall out of view. Years of multi-technology expertise has made it clear that full flexibility, individuality and scalability must remain a reality.
The factory of the future and hydraulics
The future of hydraulics begins when real-time diagnostics and predictive maintenance meet Rexroth’s hydraulic technology. Here’s how the combination brings the factory of the future idea to life. Using a marriage of industrial hydraulics components and industrial control components, the company provides integrated, ready-to-go solutions. Whether this is an integrated solution with variable speed drives or industrial power units equipped with onboard PLCs, users can use the products right out of the box.
In almost all industries, machine users require increased flexibility and availability for production of small batches and continuous diagnostics of actuators and sensors. This specifically comes to life with hydraulics. For example, the Multi-Product Lineinstalled in the Bethlehem, Pa. facility brings together hydraulic power units with embedded sensor technology to provide predictive indicators for maintenance. By using CISS sensors, technicians at the facility monitor vibration and noise as part of simple predictive measures.
In addition, the general industry has an increasing demand and need for horizontal and vertical connections of machinery and systems for Industry 4.0 applications. The open standard IEC 61131-9, IO-Link, fulfills these requirements with low connection costs and energy consumption. By including an IO-Link interface into a few of its more popular hydraulic products, Bosch Rexroth promotes the integration of fluid technology into Industry 4.0 applications. Starting with select proportional control valves and pressure switches, the implemented IO-Link interface enables users to have direct access to all data provided by the actuator and sensor, in addition to the field bus, helping to enable a batch size of one. As the factory of the future progresses, a wider variety of hydraulic products outfitted with IO-Link capabilities will be available for increased flexibility, individuality and scalability to more applications.
The factory of the future and linear motion
Customization and scalability are key in the future vision of the factory and Rexroth’s linear motion digital platform allows users to design a linear motion system tuned for the specificities of that individual application. In the past, the company was already a primary provider of linear motion eTools such as the Linear Motion Designer, LinSelect and a variety of eConfigurators. With digitalization, it has enhanced its established database of linear motion tools to create a complete digital platform designed for the entire product lifecycle.
Because it’s a digital platform, the data are available anytime, anywhere, at the simple push of a button — increasing accessibility for the user. From seeking information, selection, purchase, supply, commissioning, start-up, operation and service, linear motion tools for the factory of the future guide customers through individual processes from start to finish.
The factory of the future and assembly technology
When the personalization of the factory of the future and assembly technology collide, amazing things can happen. Open communication is primary factor to success — and it extends beyond open networking capabilities. ActiveCockpit, the company’s data visualization tool, encourages open communication throughout the entire plant and provides an efficient way for workers to collaborate and view plant data in real-time. Bosch Rexroth is not just a provider of Industry 4.0-ready technology, but also a lead user of the technology.
The ActiveCockpit is a technology executed on the Multi-Product Line and plays a role in its day-to-day operations. Centrally located in the plant, the ActiveCockpit collects, filters and continually displays production data, contributing to increasing transparency, productivity and efficiency in the facility. For added flexibility, the software is compatible with mobile devices and laptops, meaning employees can access the information from anywhere in the plant or remotely. Its open software platform makes it customizable for almost any application and suitable for most any factory.
In addition to enabling smaller batch sizes and increasing flexibility, the factory of the future will be worker-centric … and the ever-developing smart workstation technology is paving the way. Harnessing the personalization capabilities that will make factories more efficient, smart workstations such as ActiveAssist make assembly tasks easier for the worker by providing interactive step-by-step tutorials on the task at hand and customizing the instructions to their individual needs to ensure a quality result.
Using web-based software, ActiveAssist makes all information available to employees at all times and is modularly designed to ensure realization of individual solutions, adapted for specific needs. The smart workstation technology embodies the personalization needed for an efficient work environment. As the industry enters into future iterations of assembly technology for factories, the innovations will only become more flexible, more customized, and more scalable.
The factory of the future and automation
Tomorrow’s factory wouldn’t be possible without the automation and electrification solutions that help drive it. Solutions such as cabinet-free drive technology enable machine manufacturers to integrate all electrical drive components directly into the machine, for cabinet-free, modular machines with minimal space needs. Advanced features that improve machine safety for a variety of applications can bring a competitive edge to operations. From drive-integrated safety functions to centralized-safety PLCs, each solution is engineered to enhance the transparency of the plant and enable a safer, more transparent work environment.
Having an efficient future factory doesn’t require new machines. Future-proof new or existing machines with an IoT gateway software solution. IoT gateways makes it easy to connect to Industry 4.0 environments without intervening in the automation logic. To illustrate the capabilities of an IoT gateway, Bosch Rexroth dusts off a human-powered lathe from 1887 once used in Robert Bosch’s manufacturing plants. It is powered by a foot treadle and adjusted with hand cranks, arguably making it a pre-Industry 1.0 machine.
By implementing one of the IoT Gateways and an XDK sensor, valuable data could still be collected, despite it being an archaic innovation. An IoT gateway allows value to be extracted from the process without replacing or redesigning the machine. The factory of the future is connected and the solutions enabling that connectivity are available Now and will only continue to advance.
The factory of the future is happening now … but today is just the beginning. Increasingly short production life cycles, smaller batch sizes and individual product design mark the requirements for future productions, and the next wave of future technologies will bring the industry closer to economic customization than ever imagined.