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Siemens: Automated Production Processes

Artikel | von Siemens | 11. März 2013
The use of industrial-grade SIMATIC RF300 HF tags helps controlling the assembly process of transmissions. The use of industrial-grade SIMATIC RF300 HF tags helps controlling the assembly process of transmissions. BILD: Siemens AG

Industrial Identification as Backbone Technology for „Industrie 4.0”

In the course of the fourth industrial revolution (Industrie 4.0), as a high-tech initiative of the German Federal Government, even shorter innovation cycles and application-specific product availability are among the future challenges faced. At the same time, inventories need to be reduced through just-in-time concepts and production facilities be optimally utilized. The use of RFID and optical identification results in flexible production concepts, which in the future will allow for fast material flows across companies and provide manufacturers with competitive advantages.

Transparent processes and fast commodity flows are necessary to create a flexible production. It has to be known which components and materials are located where and what state of assembly they possess.

Transparency enables maximum Flexibility

Based on this knowledge, it is ensured that the end product can be produced according to plan. It can be recognized that the production has to be stopped due to missing components, which makes it possible to change the order of production and move up other products for which all necessary components are present. The plant thus remains utilized and a plant stoppage is avoided. This flexibility, however, is not only advantageous with highly automated production processes as prevalent in the automotive industry – where each vehicle has to conform to specific order details. The production of standard devices – such as consumer electronics or household appliances – also requires the timely availability of the right individual components. The foundation for high flexibility and process transparency is provided by identification systems. Here, individual components are detected through optically readable codes or by reading RFID tags. A component can thus be identified at any time. This unique identifier can be forwarded to a higher-level controller for further use. In order to meet the high requirements concerning flexibility, quality and traceability, these identification technologies have become an integral part of today‘s optimized production environments.

Requirements determine the proper Technology

To quickly control production steps via data stored directly at the component, RFID technology is employed in closed production loops. An example of this can be found in the production of transmissions, where the HF tag (high frequency RFID; 13.56 MHz) holding the production data is affixed directly to the workpiece carrier. Thanks to the exceptionally high data transfer rates between the data medium and reader of the Simatic RF300 system, production and quality data can be directly read or written during the assembly process without slowing down the original production pace. Optical codes as well, such as data matrix codes and plain text markings (OCR – optical character recognition), are increasingly employed for the unique identification. This type of marking is cost-effective and by means of different methods, for example laser, can also be applied onto difficult surfaces. These advantages, though, are countered by the limited quantity of data that can be used as well as the read-only nature of the code. This means that during the ongoing process, an optical code can no longer be changed. Depending on the application requirement, this may be sufficient or even be demanded, if – for example – a unique serial number is present that must not be changed. Changing object information is then typically carried along in a database, whose contents are referenced to by the serial number. Through specially developed evaluation algorithms of the Simatic MV400 code reading systems, codes and plain text can be reliably recognized even on highly challenging objects – such as reflecting and curved surfaces.

Optical codes, such as data matrix codes and plain text markings, are increasingly employedfor the unique identification - here at a vehicle partIntelligent Production Plants

The term Industrie 4.0 has become a synonym for the „Informatization“ of the traditional production engineering. It stands for smart factories that organize and optimize themselves. Information from the process is continuously provided through the clear identification of the objects along the entire supply chain. This data can then be used for further production and process control. The real material flow is thus permanently assigned to the associated object information. Since RFID and the optical identification have already established themselves in the production environment of closedloop applications, these intelligent production cells, in a next step, need to be linked to form a production network – the Smart Factory, and that also across production sites. Hybrid identification concepts, with optical codes and RFID for example, will be employed here. The identification technology suitable is determined by the requirements, feasibility and cost effectiveness. An important key to success are the versatile possibilities to integrate identification systems into higher-level automation and IT structures. Through the open, but also standardized, integration possibilities of the Simatic RFID and code readers, identification systems can also be integrated into different production environments later on, for example via Profibus, Profinet, RS232 (serially), TCP/IP and EtherNet/IP.

German Government promotes Cross-Company Material Flows

In the future, the identification of industrial goods by means of networked supply chains will assert itself more and more. One reason for this are legal regulations that demand the traceability of goods. In the pharmaceutical industry – for example – a complete product tracking & tracing is stipulated to ensure the quality and genuineness of the products and/or to find and remove from circulation counterfeit products. In the completed research project RAN (RFID based Automotive Network), which was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, experts with the collaboration of Siemens studied the consolidation of production-relevant information for material flows across locations and companies. Consistent identification technology based on UHF RFID (ultra-high frequency, 868 MHz in Europe) allowed carmakers, suppliers and logistics providers to make selected production and logistics chains more transparent than before through expanded and useful information. Downstream processes, also at other locations and companies, can thus be planned and controlled with a higher quality.

Boundary Conditions require proven UHF RFID Concepts

In addition to UHF installations in logistics applications, this radiobased technology also must reliably operate at the production steps. A reliable operation makes very high demands on the RFID system – for instance with regard to reflection and cancellation of radio waves in metallic environments. Thanks to the sophisticated and tried and tested UHF-for-Industry algorithms of the Simatic RF600 readers, these requirements can be easily overcome. At a German carmaker, the installation of over 500 Simatic RF600 readers results in a continuous identification throughout the production process – and thus an overall availability exceeding 99.9 percent. Controlled using heat-resistant UHF smart labels (Simatic RF680L), the car bodies go from the body shell construction to the painting to the final assembly. At any production stage, the precise state of the car body can be communicated. The application of Simatic Ident is a step in the direction of continuous identification and thus a step toward the Smart Factory of the future.

Letzte Änderung am Montag, 11 März 2013 13:32
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