Better data, less machine downtime
Advanced tool machines are valuable assets that must be kept in production with as little downtime as possible in order for a factory like Zannini’s to work efficiently.
Digital solutions can contribute significantly to keeping expensive equipment running well. They can provide remote notifications to operators to help them recognize and fix unexpected machine stops earlier. They can link islands of automation in order to make support processes more efficient, for example by dispatching a material transport automatically when a container is full. And not least, they can make better information about the machine utilization and performance available faster, helping to improve work scheduling and condition monitoring.
However, processes and equipment are diverse, so integration must be highly individualized. Conventional programming approaches are often time consuming. Legacy equipment is not able to provide information through a computer network. Commercial solutions did not fit Zannini’s need for a system that could scale dynamically under their own control as their requirements and experience developed.
A truly open system
The INCOMING system is a new solution to integrate industrial manufacturing equipment of all kinds and generations for data acquisition and high-level control. It is designed to be easily set-up, scaled and modified, thanks to its open architecture.
It provides remote equipment status notifications to any web browser, such as an operator’s smartphone; it collects information about equipment usage and performance, such as a machine’s actual in-production time and average cycle time per day, and makes it available to explore for managers through the spreadsheets that they are familiar with; and it links sensors, controllers and manufacturing IT together with custom automatic sequences.
The system consists of machine add-on units (INCOMING DACB – Data Acquisition and Control Box) and a central server, which communicate over MQTT, a widely used open protocol standard for the Internet of Things. The DACBs connect to the machines using wide-spread industrial communication standards: 24 V discrete digital signals and OPC UA.
Zannini’s DACB proof-of-concept is based on the STMicroelectronics STM32MP1 series fast prototype board and X-Nucleo expansion, an industrial platform featured by FED4SAE. The DACB software uses the open-source Eclipse 4diac platform for distributed automation and control, another advanced technology promoted by FED4SAE, which follows the IEC 61499 standards.
The central server is based on an off-the-shelf solution package using popular open-source software components such as Node-RED and Freeboard.
The Zannini team designed a custom rail-mount enclosure for the STM32MP157A-DK1 Discovery Kit and the X-NUCLEO-PLC01A1 extension board for 24 V industrial digital I/O, which was then 3D printed. Together with a DC-DC converter to connect to the machine’s existing 24 V DC power supply, the DACB forms a DIN-rail assembly of devices that an electrician can install easily inside a machine’s electrical panel with only a short machine downtime.
After a series of lab tests and software iterations, Zannini has put the solution to the test on the shop floor. In its first deployment at the Zannini Castelfidardo plant, INCOMING connects to three CNC lathes of different generations and with different control and communication interfaces. Their current status is shown in real time on web-based dashboards, while the central server keeps track of how much time was spent in each state and logs the cycle times. Whenever an ultrasound sensor detects that the container for metal chips is full and needs to be exchanged, the factory IT system is triggered to deploy an AGV (automatic guided vehicle) to the machine. For all three machines, a significant increase in OEE (overall equipment efficiency) up to 4.3% over a 70% baseline was achieved thanks to the automatic interventions taken by the INCOMING system alone; additional decreases in machine downtime were enabled by operators and managers being alerted to degraded performance faster. Having proven its real-world potential and reliable operation, the system now is a permanent part of Zannini’s manufacturing operations, and several future use cases have already been identified.
The rollout of the INCOMING system will be continued at Zannini’s domestic and international sites. In addition, it forms the basis for a future product to be offered to external customers and supported through Zannini’s spin-off Z4tec, enabling them to monitor and optimize their own manufacturing processes.
FED4SAE support and opportunity
FED4SAE has enabled Zannini to find better solutions for data acquisition, control, presentation, and analysis. New technologies now make part of Zannini’s knowledge portfolio that embodies different and innovative approaches. Discussions with the partners and other FED4SAE Open Call winners offered valuable technical and business insights.
Both the STM32 platform and 4diac were applied in the application experiment with concrete benefit. Together, they enable an open and low-cost prototype for the machine add-on unit (DACB) of the INCOMING system.
For INCOMING, fortiss has integrated 4diac with the OpenSTLinux distribution provided by STMicroelectronics for the STM32MP1 and has added support for the X-Nucleo-PLC01A1 to the Eclipse 4diac public codebase. STMicroelectronics contributed technical support specific to their platform, and Blumorpho provided focused business innovation coaching and networking opportunities.