Brandon Fuller, Eagle Technologies
The next generation of technological advancement opens possibilities to shorten manufacturing time, reduce production flaws, and mitigate recall liabilities.
A new technological wave is transforming manufacturing, enabling some businesses to leap ahead while others struggle to adapt. These new technologies, collectively bringing about what is known as Industry 4.0, have the potential to give early adaptors a competitive edge, when used effectively.
Of course, new advances in technology usually come with a sizable price tag. This can cause many businesses to hesitate making an investment—especially if the new technology is untried. While there is a clear financial incentive for adapting early to technology that promises to revolutionize the industry, doing so too quickly can also pose risks. If a technology doesn’t deliver the benefits it promised, or if it is quickly replaced by something newer and better, businesses could find themselves hobbled in the innovation race.
Fortunately, Eagle has decades of experience in assessing the advantages of new technologies and making wise choices about which are worthwhile. With the latest round of Industry 4.0 technology, we’ve already tested their benefits to confirm the value they offer our own business—and how best they can be used for our customers.
Below, we take a look at how the five main technologies driving Industry 4.0 not only improve manufacturing, but lower costs for businesses. We employ the latest 4.0 technologies at the Rockwell Automation Innovation Center in San Jose. Any of our customers who want to see them in action are welcome to join us for a demonstration.
1. Simulations: robust testing without expensive prototype costs.
Factory automation simulations can be used in several ways to improve project outcomes for manufacturers. They reduce the amount of physical prototyping necessary before manufacturing, demonstrate how a system will be set up in a physical space, and allow engineers to test more experimental designs at lower cost.
We use factory simulation in the following ways:
- Emulate 3D environments. Once your automated system is designed and built, what will the layout and setup look like in an industrial environment? Emulate3D from Rockwell Automation allows us to test the control system operational logic virtually, before project completion.
- Discrete event simulations. Factory automation involves many parts operating in unison within a dynamic system. Changes to one component will affect the entire system, making it difficult to test design tweaks using prototypes. We use simulation software from Arena to model changes to one element at a time, allowing us to see the effects of our changes, and get the design right the first time.
- Fanuc ROBOGUIDE and ABB RobotStudio. We deploy advanced robotic technology to achieve a range of goals in our factory automation systems. The simulation software provided by ROBOGUIDE and RobotStudio allows us to simulate and program robotic workcells in an offline environment.
- Siemens Process Simulate. Finally, we use process simulation from Siemens to assess the entire production workflow from start to finish. By virtually validating process workflows up-front, we can reduce the time it takes manufacturers to get their product to market.
Both Emulate3D and ROBOGUIDE are on display for visitors at your San Jose facility.
2. Additive manufacturing: efficient prototyping for automation testing.
Simulation allows us to discover and eliminate problems prior to production, but it doesn’t replace physical prototypes. However, 3D printing reduces costs and turn-around time for our own additive engineering and manufacturing processes. We are able to print components from the design specifications delivered to us by our customer, or from our own Solidworks models as we design the assembly process. As a result, we are able to demonstrate proof of concept faster and with less waste.
3. Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT): powerful sensors with centralized feedback.
The Internet of Things, when applied to industry, enables more feedback from operating equipment to be delivered to operators, wherever they most need to access it. Whether that’s from a centralized work station, or to a mobile device for a better machine-to-human interface.
IIoT devices are equipped with smart sensor technology that delivers information about pressure, temperature, flow, position, and rotation. It can also scan RFID tags as components move through the manufacturing process. The result is greater information transparency, allowing manufacturers to spot production errors before they reach the market, and schedule proactive maintenance before an unexpected malfunction takes production offline.
4. Big data: process tracking and equipment monitoring.
IIoT not only provides more real-time information during operation, it also lets manufacturers collect and store more data about each production stage. This data gives a detailed analysis of the entire system’s performance, allowing our customers to monitor production output and machine performance.
Big Data also reduces the costs in the event of a product recall. Because each component can be traced back through each stage of the manufacturing process, it is possible to pinpoint the origin of any manufacturing flaw. This tracking means manufacturers can recall only the products affected, rather than an entire production run.
5. Augmented reality: streamline training and visualize CAD data.
Finally, we use AR systems from Vuforia Studio to aid front-line operators as they engage with our technology. Combining CAD data with visual sensors, we can overlay reality with digital imagery to aid in training, deliver instructions, or identify malfunctioning components.
This technology makes training more efficient, minimizes accidents, reduces waste, and increases operator productivity and satisfaction. Our Industry 4.0 model in San Jose includes AR integration, so that our customers can experience this technology first hand.
Eagle’s expertise in Industry 4.0 Technologies is advancing automated manufacturing.
Our experience with Industry 4.0 positions us to better design automated systems for our customers that integrate these new technologies intelligently, to deliver optimal ROI. We use simulation and additive manufacturing in our own design process—so that we can design machines cost-effectively. The automated systems we build for our clients employ IIOT and Big Data to deliver insights into production processes, while AR supports operators as they assemble and use the equipment.
If you are interested in an Industry 4.0-equipped systems for your automated factory, contact us. We can discuss your project and show you how our technology can lower costs and deliver a profitable return on investment.