Standards form the first part of the networking process. More and more end users are working on their networking strategies and are specifying standards for communications and data formats. Manufacturers of machine tools can meet these requirements only if they use open standards in their automation architecture.
The discussions about Industry 4.0 and the factory of the future have now entered their sixth year – and they are producing results among more and more machine users. Even if many people were initially skeptical, increasing numbers of companies are exploring the idea of networking their production operations. The automotive and aviation industries are fueling this development in particular. This is reflected in TIER 1 and TIER 2 suppliers who are closely integrated with OEM production. In addition to increased productivity, machine buyers increasingly want one or more interfaces that can be used to network machines.
The provision of interfaces for networking requires more and more investments for machine manufacturers. They have to program and maintain interfaces. The effort required rises with each addition interface. For this reason, a consensus regarding the usefulness and necessity of open standards for networking has been achieved. This is the only way that users will be able to rapidly and economically implement the innovative potential of the digital economy. By contrast, proprietary systems complicate the process of independently using third party innovations. With open systems, it is easy to integrate third party software like special CAD/CAM programs into the control unit. The open CNC system is also ready for these requirements. For instance, machine manufacturers can easily integrate marketable programs for the optimal design of sheet metal and the generation of NC programs.
The MTX from Bosch Rexroth has supported all widely used real-time ethernet protocols since the first generation with a real-time ethernet protocol. As a result, manufacturers have been able to meet a range of customer communication specifications without making any extra effort for years. Other standards are added as networking is introduced. Nearly all major makers of control systems in Europe and the United States have announced their intentions to facilitate M2M communication via OPC UA. During the early years of OPC UA, Bosch Rexroth operated the European test bed and has been intensely involved in enhancement work.
OPC UA has already had some practical impacts. Machine and automation manufacturers like Bosch Rexroth are currently working on the standardization initiative “Connectivity for Industry 4.0” organized by the German Machine Tool Builders Association. With the universal machine tool interface, or umati, data from a range of machines can be read with a number of different control systems of various generations and transferred in a standardized data format.
This will significantly reduce the effort required for efficient communications both on the machine level and in communications with the assigned automation periphery or superior management systems. The first machine manufacturers have already used umati with the CNC system MTX.
Right now, a number of control system manufacturers, including Bosch Rexroth, are working on the real-time expansion Time Sensitive Network, TSN, for OPC UA. The stated goal to which the participating automation providers have publicly committed themselves is a cross-manufacturer standard in which systems and machines are really compatible.
With the introduction of the new mobile communications network 5G that will have 10 times today’s bandwidth and significantly enhanced robustness, end users will increasingly share data wirelessly. Here, too, Bosch Rexroth is working with leading network equipment makers to directly integrate stable solutions into the MTX immediately after 5G launches.
The networking of machine users is moving rapidly ahead, and M2M communication is a key requirement. Machine manufacturers will be able to meet these new requirements in a future-proof manner only with open standards like OPC UA. The CNC system MTX will fulfill the needs of end users for openness and interfaces in a future-proof manner.
Learn in the next section how machine manufacturers are independently expanding the functional range of their CNC standard control systems and are optimally protecting their know-how in the process.
Author: Thomas Fey
After studying mechanical engineering with a focus on automation and forming technology, he initially worked as a project engineer for machine manufacturers in Germany and North America. Since 1997 he has been employed at Bosch Rexroth AG in Lohr am Main in the area of Business Development and Product Management. He currently heads product management for motion control solutions.
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