Last year when it became clear that in-person trade shows were not possible, Festo built its own stand for organizing virtual exhibitions and virtual customer meetings. “One of the most valuable exhibits is the Productivity Master, which helps customers deal with the global challenges of today,” said company spokesman Christopher Haug. It will be at the forefront of Festo’s presence at this year’s Hannover Messe Digital Edition, an all-virtual event scheduled for April 12 to 16.
“Indeed, there are many challenges in the global market today, particularly in manufacturing. But with these challenges comes the opportunity to accelerate the development of digitalization concepts like we see on the Productivity Master,” said Nigel Dawson, Head of Business Development Electric Automation at Festo.
The Productivity Master is a modular demonstration system for generating personalized USB memory sticks. The system, essentially a production line with a series of manufacturing and handling stations, achieves an automation balancing act between mass production and individualization of a finished product. Pneumatic and electrical components, axis mechanics, drives and software are planned as a complete automation platform, an integrated and practical system to link all Festo engineering tools, products, hardware and software. This consistency saves users a lot of time from planning to commissioning — and gains process reliability — because everything fits together with seamless connectivity and Industry 4.0 compatibility. It shows how automation technology will evolve along the value chain when combined with digitalization, explained Dawson.
For example, the Productivity Master uses a cloud-based concept for registering and storing customer data complying with data protection regulations, he said. Customers can use the same concept to reduce labor costs and coordinate processes. Festo’s IoT gateway securely connects the machine to the cloud so that operators can not only retrieve production data from the cloud, but also remotely access the machine’s diagnostic data, even if they are sitting hundreds of miles away in a home office.
Festo customers are already profiting from these concepts. Despite the current challenging market, there are some areas that have seen an explosion in productivity in 2020, Dawson explained. “For instance, in mask production, and in machines for the life-science sector for things like vaccine research and mass testing that have grown dramatically.
“These two diverse applications have very different needs. One is total mass production, such as the mask area, where it is important to be able to look at the machine and actually see what diagnostic and maintenance data is required to maximize uptime and predict errors, even if the operator and maintenance engineer are working remotely. The other application is all about smaller batch sizes, and customizing those batch sizes, and the precise gathering of big data — particularly important in the life-tech industry,” he said.
“While products like masks and vaccine samples are small and light, with the Productivity Master it doesn’t matter if the product is quite heavy and weighs 100 kilos,” he continued. The system features a mix of pneumatic and electric automation, from flow sensors and pneumatic mini-slides to servo drives and electric Cartesian robots. It is how these products are connected that enables true digitalization. By leveraging industry-standard networks such as EtherCAT, OPC-UA, IO Link and MQTT, Festo can create a seamless data stream from individual sensors to remote I/O, servodrives, controllers and the cloud. “This technology-neutral approach has a major impact on energy efficiency and sustainability,” added Dawson.
The machine was designed in Festo’s unified engineering environment. This allows designers and developers to work collaboratively worldwide. For example, the Festo Handling Guide Online HGO lets users select and dimension 1D/2D or 3D gantries in just three steps. For quick and easy programming, configuration and commissioning in a shared virtual environment, they use the Festo Automation Suite. With developments in artificial intelligence, Festo is expanding concepts such as digital nameplates, digital twinning and AI-driven predictions of machine conditions for remote maintenance.