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Industry 4.0 Digital MTConnect Interface for Controllers — Digital and Independent

Author / Editor: Benjamin Böhm / Dr. Jörg Kempf

The digital transition requires increased networking between different components, machines, production facilities, and even companies. Learn how to allow networking of machines using the license-free, open-source standard MTConnect.

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The processing industry goes digital. But, Industry 4.0 can only function if all of the relevant information is available at the right time.
The processing industry goes digital. But, Industry 4.0 can only function if all of the relevant information is available at the right time.
(Source: © industrieblick; © WS-Design / Fotolia.com; [M] Beeger)

Gradually, manufacturers are equipping their machines to exchange information. Yet many machines that are currently used in the processing industry still function as closed units. At most, the machines have access to sensors for detecting temperatures, setpoints, and cycle times. However, they do not have the ability to forward these valuable data. Thus, digitalization could already end at the machine level.

Which conflicts with the basic concepts of Industry 4.0. In quick summation: Industry 4.0 refers to the collection and use of data to make processes more efficient, to produce with maximum efficiency, and to leverage these to create competitive advantages. This means that Industry 4.0 can only function if all of the relevant information is available at the right time.

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The ability to monitor, adjust, and control every aspect of a manufacturing area in realtime thus becomes increasingly important. Machines must be able to communicate among themselves and with higher level systems. For this reason, approaches that strive for a common communication standard are becoming more common.

The History of the Common Machine Language

Although the vision of a uniform machine language sounds easy and logical, there have been only a few conventional approaches to a solution. However, they are often difficult and expensive to implement.

For example, if a machine already has a modern controller, the software can be modified so that important data can be sent over a network. However, the controller software must still be programmed by software professionals, which sounds expensive and time-consuming — because it is. Another approach is to fit each machine with a individually-designed application to monitor it. However, if multiple machines are present in a manufacturing area, and a specific application is required for each individual machine, then developing all of them can be extremely labor intensive.

In addition, each application would require individual maintenance and documentation. Is there an easier solution for detecting and processing data for different machine types in order to implement the concepts of Industry 4.0? A universal, standardized machine language?

One single machine language has never actually existed. In Germany on OPC UA as the conventional M2M communication protocol in industrial production for those cases where it is important to detect data from different machine types and to convert the data to information.

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