News

HandsOnMetrology platform for makers and manufacturers

The new digital platform HandsOnMetrology.com was set up for companies that want to integrate the benefits of optical 3D metrology into their quality control processes. Metrology experts share their know-how during tutorials and how-tos ‑ from unboxing to the first scan and from part inspections to data analyses. Makers tell their personal stories and provide insights into various application areas of metrology solutions.

For the first time in optical metrology a platform provides in-depth information about GOM and ZEISS 3D scanning solutions that will solve several measuring tasks and offers hands-on advice. The platform focusses on the new to the market hand-held measuring systems ZEISS T-SCAN 10 and T-SCAN hawk as well as GOM’s compact 3D scanner ATOS Q. These systems excel at their precise measuring results and allow for a mobile and flexible use around the shop floor. The GOM Inspect Suite software is pre-installed on all three systems and supports user during inspections and analyses. It also walks users through the entire workflow from 3D scanning to the evaluation, including the inspection report.

Tutorials and How-Tos

Which measurands can I cover? Does the measuring system meet my requirements? How do I set up and operate the system I opted for? Platform videos featuring metrology experts will provide answers to these typical user questions. Users will also find tips and tricks as well as demonstrations of measuring processes and video instructions for the GOM Inspect Suite inspection software. Step-by-step instructions help users to operate their measuring system. HandsOnMetrology.com gives them all the support they need to get started with 3D scanning.

Stories from Makers for Makers

From quality control of first articles and individual 3D-printed components through to reverse engineering for oldtimers ‑ the applications of optical 3D metrology know no bounds. Real makers talk about their passion in personal video-clips. That’s what HandsOnMetrology.com is about: from makers for makers in all manufacturing fields.

Unique global network

The platform HandsOnMetrology.com consists of a unique, global network of companies selling the 3D scanning products. If interested customers want to know more about the measuring systems presented there, a company in their region will answer their question and the customers will profit from local sales and support.

Many inspection features for free

With its all-in-one GOM Inspect software, 3D metrology specialist GOM has become a standard in many industries. GOM’s new software platform GOM Inspect Suite embraces and facilitates the complete workflow from scanning to reporting for maximum ease of use. GOM Inspect Suite offers a host of inspection features and is available for free after registration. The full version of GOM Inspect Suite provides the full extent of data analysis and template capabilities. Users can download a free 30-day trial version to test out the software and its professional features.

Discover new 3D scanning solutions: www.handsonmetrology.com

STMicroelectronics works with Alifax on rapid point-of-care medical testing

STMicroelectronics and Alifax, a producer of clinical diagnostic instrumentation, have worked together on a rapid, cost-efficient portable solution that will be available from Alifax, for point-of-care molecular diagnostic detection using highly reliable real-time Polymerase Chain Reactions (PCR) to amplify genetic material (RNA and DNA) in patient samples.

Leveraging technology developed and licensed from ST, Alifax is manufacturing the Molecular Mouse, a small portable instrument that contains a broad range of ST components, including STM32 MCUs, sensors, amplifiers, and other devices. Connected to a PC, the Molecular Mouse uses medical reagents created by Alifax to manage the control and testing of multiple targets or samples on a tiny disposable cartridge, manufactured by ST using its high-volume Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) semiconductor process technology. Test results are available in less than hour.

“One crucial lesson from the current global pandemic is the importance of rapid, cost-efficient point-of-care testing that allows immediate remote diagnosis, and then, if necessary, patient isolation,” said Alessandro Cremonesi, Chief Innovation Officer, STMicroelectronics. “ST has been investing in its Real-Time PCR platform convinced that innovative semiconductor-based diagnostic solutions can positively impact our lives.“

“Leveraging our high-volume semiconductor-manufacturing technology and long-term leadership in microfluidics, we’ve developed a rapidly customisable, highly flexible cartridge and instrumentation platform that delivers rapid and precise point-of-care diagnostic results, which Alifax has used to respond almost immediately to present pandemic and future diagnostic needs,” added Benedetto Vigna, President Analog MEMS, and Sensors Group, STMicroelectronics.

ST has demonstrated its efficacy and efficiency to scale reliable, high-volume manufacturing of semiconductors and its expertise in microfluidics for more than 25 years. Moreover, roughly 10 years of proven success in developing MEMS-based Real-Time PCR technologies has now culminated in a product generation that Alifax has rapidly adapted to address the current global pandemic.

“Building on our passion for research and excellence in innovation, Alifax has established its strength in hematology and bacteriology for diagnostic purposes. By working closely with ST and combining its foundational microfluidic and other technology in the Molecular Mouse and our pathogen-specific assays, starting from a COVID-19 test, we’re ready to contribute to rapidly diagnosing, isolating, and ultimately stopping the spread of pathogens,” said Paolo Galiano, President Alifax.

Certified to CE-IVD the Molecular Mouse, disposable test cartridges, and assays are available now from Alifax.

You can watch a video on Molecular Mouse at https://www.alifax.com/products/nuova-category-page/show/molecular-mouse.

 

Institution of Mechanical Engineers announce winners of prestigious awards

Jessica Reading, an apprentice at Siemens, has won the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Bryan Hildrew Apprentice of the Year 2020 Award.

Jessica helps to promote STEM during career fairs, and outside of work she works as a personal tutor to GCSE students where she encourages apprenticeships.

“An apprenticeship was always the pathway for me as I love developing real-world skills, alongside excellent on the job training and development whilst studying Engineering at college. I have loved every moment of my journey so far and all the opportunities that are opening up for me. I would recommend an Apprenticeship pathway to everyone!”

Jessica was nominated by Siemens Training and Development Manager, David Thomas, who praised her for being a great role model, encouraging other people to consider a career in engineering by improving the inclusivity of their programmes.

The Brian Hildrew Apprentice of the Year Award winner will receive an educational grant of £1,500 to support their career development

Engineering Technician of the Year 2020

For the first time, we have joint winners of this award — Euan MacLean who works at Babcock International and Rebecca Simms who was nominated by her colleagues at missile manufacturer MBDA UK Ltd.

Working closely with the apprentice recruitment team at Babcock, Euan presents to schools and potential candidates, telling them about his journey through apprenticeships and to where he is now. Euan also offers support to candidates who are preparing for interviews and keeps in regular contact with them.

“This prestigious recognition is important as it helps me to show how apprenticeships, combined with challenging work environments and surrounding oneself with knowledgeable colleagues can support young people in launching into a successful and rewarding career in engineering.”

During her time as a STEM Ambassador, Rebecca delivered over 250 hours of STEM engagement activities. She also helps to organise and oversee all the STEM Outreach and Work Experience activities at MBDA Bolton.

“It is a real honour to win this award, and I am excited about how it will support me in continuing to promote STEM subjects and inspiring Young People to consider careers in STEM, said Rebecca.

Ben Sudworth, Senior Manufacturing Engineer and Outreach Lead at Bolton MBDA, praises Rebecca for her passion towards encouraging young people, in particular females, to consider careers in STEM and the defence industry.

The EngTech of the Year Award provides the winners with £2,000 to extend and continue their activities in promoting engineering to young people.

EngTech Visionary of the Year 2020

Matthew Crofts, Apprenticeship Assessor, and Internal Quality Assurer at Babcock International Marine Training was awarded with the EngTech Visionary of the Year Award “for his outstanding and successful promotion of the value of professional registration as an EngTech and general support of apprentices”

In his role, Matthew assesses 1,200 Royal Navy Marine Engineering Apprentices every year, and according to his Apprentice Assessor, Chris Matthews, he “captures the attention of the young Mechanical Engineers on the fleet ships and onshore with humour and engineering stories.”

Matthew strongly promotes the importance of self-learning in the engineering environment, ongoing CPD and membership of IMechE. Since Matthew joined IMechE as an EngTech member in 2019, he has been energetic and enthusiastic in promoting the value of professional registration as EngTech to all completing apprentices.

Apprentice Provider of the Year 2020

The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) were presented with the Advanced Apprentice Provider of the Year Award for their “well-rounded scheme which is very active in its outreach and has a high retention rate and has widened the appeal of engineering as a career.”

This award recognises the significant role employers and educators have in promoting EngTech registration.

Clare Davis, UKAEA’s People Development Manager, “We are incredibly proud to receive this award and to be recognised for the work we do in enabling our apprentices to fulfil their potential.”

UKAEA has an apprentice scheme with over 100 apprentices. It encourages the apprentices to go out and organise talks schools, promoting apprenticeships and engaging with the local community.

Advantech receives 2020 IoT Edge Computing Excellence Award

Advantech has announced that MIC-730AI, Edge AI Inference System based on NVIDIA Jetson Xavier has received a 2020 IoT Edge Computing Excellence Award from IoT Evolution World, the leading web site covering the Internet of Things (IoT) marketplace.

This award recognises the companies emerging as leaders in the growing edge computing space. Companies selected for this award have proven that their products are enabling advanced IoT deployments by offering edge solutions that bring real-time computing, data availability, analytics, AI and machine learning to edge devices.

“Advantech MIC-730AI, the edge AI computing system powered by NVIDIA JetsonAGX Xavier platform delivers all the performance of a GPU workstation in an embedded module. With Advantech’s MIC-730AI, businesses can take huge steps forward in making AI a reality for smart manufacturing with advanced computer vision at the edge as an example. It can analyse the cause of product’s defectiveness and provide suggestions for improvements. Besides smart manufacturing, Advantech’s MIC-730AI can also enable autonomous robots in fulfilment centres without relying on human intervention and cloud connectivity. Those autonomous robots execute tasks like picking, packing, and inspecting to reduce human contact but still keep the fulfilment centre running during a challenging situation like a pandemic and also optimising efficiency,” said James Yung, Product Management Manager, Advantech North America.

“The solutions selected for the IoT Evolution Edge Computing Excellence Award reflect innovation driving the fast-growing Internet of Things marketplace. It is my honour to congratulate Advantech for their innovative work and contribution to this rapidly evolving industry,” said Ken Briodagh, Editorial Director, IoT Evolution.

“It is my pleasure to recognise MIC-730AI, an innovative solution that earned Advantech the 2020 IoT Evolution Edge Computing Excellence Award,” said Rich Tehrani, CEO, TMC. “I look forward to seeing more innovation from Advantech in the future.”

MTC in top 100 apprentice employers

The Coventry-based Manufacturing Technology Centre has been named in the prestigious 2020 Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers list. The MTC has been listed at number 53 in a national ranking of leading employers of apprentices.

The list, compiled by the Department of Education-sponsored Education and Skills Funding Agency, aims to recognise and celebrate the top employers who are leading the drive for apprentices and getting more people into skilled jobs.

More than 100,000 businesses and organisations in the UK are now apprenticeship employers and the awards showcase the nation’s top 100 employers that have done the most to provide successful apprenticeships over the last year.

Managing director of MTC Training, David Hughes MBE, said he was delighted that the MTC’s commitment to supporting the next generation of talent in Great British manufacturing had been recognised on the national stage.

“Taking on apprentices is a key element of our development strategy to future-proof our workforce and bring in fresh new talent. Our apprentices also bring new ideas, helping existing colleagues innovate and upskill as they support our learners’ journeys. For our apprentices, the opportunity to earn while they learn, and gain valuable workplace experience alongside an industry-recognised qualification is a fantastic kick-start to their early careers and accelerates their future progression,” he said.

As well as developing its own apprentices at all levels of the business, the MTC encourages its industrial members, technical partners and supply chain to do the same through the MTC’s apprenticeship programme.

David Hughes said, “We are strong advocates for apprenticeships, and so we’re thrilled that so many of our industrial partners are also in the Top 100. We hope that this award helps us inspire even more people to embrace the fantastic opportunities that apprenticeships offer to both employers and learners.”

The rankings have been developed by the National Apprenticeship Service in partnership with High Fliers Research who independently assessed and compiled the national leader board. The awards were open to employers with more than 250 employees and a minimum of 25 apprentices, and received hundreds of entries, whittled down to the final Top 100.

The awards considered each employers’ overall commitment to apprentices, their creation of new apprenticeships, the diversity of their apprentices, and the progression of their apprentices onto further apprenticeships and employment. Points were weighted depending on the total size of the employer to give a final score, and those employers with the 100 highest scores were included in the rankings.

Commenting on the Top 100, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said,Now more than ever we should celebrate businesses who are driving our efforts to build a stronger, fairer, and more competitive economy. High-quality apprenticeships give people from all backgrounds and ages a real choice in life, providing them with the skills employers value, which our economy needs, and which lead to better paid jobs. These modern employers are at the heart of levelling up our workforce, and with the extra support we are providing will help the country build back better from Coronavirus.”

The Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers was organised by the ESFA, and announced in a live broadcast on YouTube which be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-maVG8viIAc . More information can be found by visiting: https://www.topapprenticeshipemployers.co.uk/

The MTC was founded by the University of Birmingham, Loughborough University, the University of Nottingham and TWI Ltd. The MTC’s industrial members include some of the UK’s major global manufacturers.

The MTC aims to provide a competitive environment to bridge the gap between university-based research and the development of innovative manufacturing solutions, in line with the Government’s manufacturing strategy. The MTC is part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, supported by Innovate UK.

ABB teams up with Forescout to enhance its cyber security portfolio for customers

According to a recent report by the MIT Technology Review, up to 96% of local industrial control systems are vulnerable to cyber-attacks. To offer its customers further choice and cyber security capabilities, ABB is uniting with Forescout, the leading provider of cyber security solutions for enterprise and industrial operations.

The collaboration will integrate Forescout’s cyber technology within ABB’s portfolio of industrial expertise and cyber security solutions to enhance operators’ abilities to detect known and unknown control system threats.

“The threats to businesses and infrastructure from network intrusion and data breaches are growing, and the rapid increase in remote operations in 2020 has fueled this further, said Pedro Abreu, Forescout Chief Product and Strategy Officer. “Now more than ever, it is crucial that critical industries have robust, sophisticated cyber security solutions in place. Working with ABB, and its deep domain expertise in the energy and process industries sectors means that customers get the best of both worlds – world-leading industrial knowledge combined with the latest technology, to better protect their control systems.”

Gino Hernandez, Head of Digital for ABB Energy Industries, said, “Cyber security is a real concern across industry, and there is significant value to be gained from better network monitoring. Breaches in network security can cost millions of dollars in repairs and fines, have potential impact from unplanned downtime, and affect a business’s reputation. ABB’s partnership with ForeScout will give customers a high level of network visibility and greater protection across their systems.

Through greater integration of physical technology and software, ABB will help to deliver efficiencies as the need for manual asset inventorying and non-cyber security network monitoring is reduced. Customers will gain comprehensive cyber security visibility into operational technology environments, and receive insights to respond to any incidents, faster and in a highly targeted way.

Hernandez continued: “Ensuring compatibility with legacy control systems and deploying the latest cybersecurity technology is of utmost importance. The collaboration between ABB and Forescout enables this – providing a clear path to securing installed industrial control systems, while future-proofing it through new cybersecurity applications.”

ABB will also provide, through a reseller agreement, Forescout’s industry-leading eyeSight, eyeInspect and eyeSegment security solutions with a focus on addressing the convergence of operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT).

Forescout’s eyeInspect and eyeSight solutions offer customers a means to identify all connected devices on control system networks, and extract information to centrally monitor and protect a complete asset inventory. The solutions also identify and detect vulnerable operational technology devices.

Offshore windfarm development boosted by £2 million research

In a move that could significantly boost the UK’s renewable energy growth, contracts have been awarded to Thales, QinetiQ, Saab, TWI and Plextek DTS to fast-track their ideas for technologies that could mitigate the impact of windfarms on the UK’s air defence radar system.

By guaranteeing essential defence communications are not affected, more wind farms can be built, creating a greener and more technologically sustainable Britain in record time.

The MOD’s Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) is spearheading the innovation competition on behalf of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Royal Air Force (RAF), and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).

Defence Minister Jeremy Quin said: “We want more offshore wind farms to help deliver our ambitious environmental agenda while retaining the protection that radar provides.

“This is a great step forward in achieving this goal and shows Defence’s determination to support sustainability and deliver our green goals for Britain.

“The innovation contracts are part of the MOD’s commitment to the Government’s 2019 Offshore Wind Sector Deal, which expects wind power to fuel 30 percent of the UK’s electricity need by 2030.”

Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, Kwasi Kwarteng said: “The continued growth of offshore wind is a national success story and this funding will ensure we continue to build bigger and more advanced projects vital to tackling climate change.

“The UK’s innovative spirit is second to none, which is why we are drawing from all areas of the country’s expertise to drive forward our incredible renewable energy fleet.”

DASA launched the Windfarm Mitigation for UK Air Defence competition in March, to find innovative solutions that lessen the impact off-shore wind turbines could have on military and civilian radar systems.

Wing Commander Helena Ramsden, Air Capability Strategy, Air Command, said: “This is a positive first step in getting cutting-edge innovation off the ground to harness the best technology from the brightest minds in the country.

“We are committed to keeping the skies above the UK safe from aerial threats whilst accelerating crucial work to allow the nation to do more to combat climate change.”

The successful bidders in DASA’s competition offered wide-ranging and complex ideas to tackle radar interference.

Thales, in collaboration with the University of Birmingham and SMEs, will develop surveillance to mitigate windfarm ‘clutter’, whereas Saab is developing a radar mitigation system using Artificial Intelligence and Doppler filtering.

QinetiQ is developing two proposals – the first approach uses new materials to stop the radar from being distorted. Their second proposal will develop radar-absorbing materials that can be put on off-shore wind turbines to limit interference.

TWI will develop novel methods for creating conductive coating for turbine blades that adsorb radar in partnership with the University of Exeter’s Centre for Metamaterial Research and Innovation. Finally, Plextek DTS is developing techniques to remove the effects windfarms have on radar data.

Robert Hammond-Smith, DASA delivery manager, said: “Crucial innovation like this is vital if we are to meet our renewable energy targets.

“This competition will not only help us meet our green energy needs but it will also help boost UK prosperity, entrepreneurs and innovators by investing in their potentially game-changing technology.

“DASA is proud to be working closely with BEIS, the RAF and Dstl to lead this important work which could transform the UK’s approach to offshore wind power generation.”

The UK is investing more in offshore wind than any other country and is home to the world’s largest windfarms: Walney and Hornsea 1 in the North Sea. Walney wind farm generates power for more than 600,000 homes across Cumbria, while the impressive Hornsea 1 supports power for over one million households across the UK.

Offshore wind will play a key role in delivering net-zero emissions by 2050, with a Government commitment to scale it up to 40GW by the end of the decade.

BEIS has already invested £1.3 million into the Offshore Wind Innovation Hub and the Knowledge Transfer Network to encourage industry to come up with ways to accelerate wind farm development. This would mean a huge increase in the number of wind farms being built off the UK’s shores, needing effective connection to the grid.

Acrovision chooses thermal imaging camera from Micro-Epsilon for its fever screening system

Acrovision, a UK-based systems integrator of factory and warehouse automation, vision inspection systems and direct part marking and identification technologies, has chosen the thermoIMAGER TIM QVGA-HD-T100 thermal imaging camera from Micro-Epsilon as part of its infrared thermal detection system, the AFS-100. The system provides end users with a reliable, versatile, high accuracy fever screening system to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The thermal imaging camera was selected due to its high accuracy and ease of integration, set up and configuration.

The AFS-100 is an infrared thermal detection system which is used to detect a person’s elevated body temperature. The system meets the ISO 80601-2-59:2017 standards for “Basic Safety and Essential Performance of Screening for Human Febrile Temperature”. The built-in thermoIMAGER TIM QVGA-HD-T100 camera allows for individuals to be scanned at points of entry to buildings such as factories, airports, offices, warehouses and hospitals, or generally positioned onsite for screening purposes, providing a safe non-contact solution for temperature checks.

Paul Cunningham, Managing Director of Acrovision comments: “In current times, more than ever, we need to be vigilant of fevers or viruses and in turn the wellbeing of employees and customers in public areas. We also need to increase everyone’s confidence in knowing they are entering a safe environment. The AFS-100 fever screening system is designed to be extremely easy to install and use, yet remain ultra-accurate in its measurement results. We are also pleased to say that 10 per cent of sales of the AFS-100 will be donated to the NHS.”

As well as the thermoIMAGER TIM QVGA-HD-T100 camera, the AFS-100 consists of a Feedback Monitor and the all-important “Reference Box” that ensures the accuracy of ±0.5°C. As an option, the AFS-100 offers a Data Collection bolt-on, which allows the use of Personnel ID cards to both trigger the camera and to log individuals’ temperature measurements for further analysis or tailoring of results.

Cunningham continues: “As a business, we were already familiar with Micro-Epsilon and its products, including its 2D/3D laser measurement sensors. During lockdown, I attended a Micro-Epsilon webinar about its thermal imaging camera and so was confident that it would meet our strict requirements in terms of accuracy, quality and reliability. We also thought Micro-Epsilon would be a ‘good fit’ for Acrovision in terms of the high-end, high quality, German-made products they supply, but also because they sell products based on technology and technical advantages.”

A key element to the AFS-100’s method of individual screening is the accurate measurement taken from the Medial Canthus (tear duct in the inner eye area) which provides the strongest indication of an elevated body temperature. The system analyses every pixel (approximately 1.3mm) of this area and highlights the hottest region. This method removes the inaccuracies/issues of an incorrect measurement due to environmental and physiological factors that many other systems are susceptible to.

The thermoIMAGER TIM QVGA-HD-T100 infrared camera from Micro-Epsilon is supplied with a certificate of calibration that validates temperature measurements made against a traceable 35°C temperature reference source (black body). The camera is accurate to
± 0.5°C when used with the TM-BR20AR-TIM black body source, which means it can provide reliable skin temperature measurements for fever detection systems. It is ideal for integration into automated monitoring systems such as the AFS-100.

Absolute temperature measurement accuracy

Most infrared cameras with 8-14µm spectral response are specified with an accuracy of ± 2°C or 2% of the reading, whichever is greater based on deployments in industrial environments in a wide variety of ambient conditions from 0°C to +50°C. This means that many thermal imagers are unable to achieve the accuracy required to detect a fever and so give false positive readings.

Many infrared cameras are being promoted today that claim to offer accuracies of ± 0.5°C or better. However, these accuracies cannot be achieved without the use of a black body reference source. This source needs to be stable, have high emissivity and should be positioned in close proximity to the person to be scanned. It is vital to select a black body source with a very high stability, as not all black body sources are stable enough to provide a ± 0.5°C system accuracy.

The TM-BR20AR-TIM ambient black body reference source from Micro-Epsilon can be combined with the thermoIMAGER TIM QVGA-HD-T100 camera. The black body is equipped with a 16-bit digital temperature sensor with ± 0.1°C accuracy. By integrating this highly accurate reference signal to the TIM Connect software (freely provided with the camera), Micro-Epsilon can reduce camera uncertainties resulting from device adjustment, ambient temperature drift and short term stability down to a system accuracy of ± 0.5°C with a confidence interval of 95%.

“As well as the high resolution of the Micro-Epsilon camera, the other key benefits for us are its back-end software program that is easy to use and which simplified the set up and configuration of the camera, as well as simplifying the integration of the camera to our own hardware and software systems,” adds Cunningham.

“Right from the start and all the way through product development, the Micro-Epsilon team has been extremely helpful, including demonstrations of the camera, answering our questions and providing technical support, training us on how to use the camera and its software. We look forward to continuing this relationship in the future,” Cunningham concludes.

Time to futureproof your factory

As some global manufacturing sectors face unprecedented pressure, there has never been a more opportune time to implement game-changing automation technologies. Those businesses that have been adopting technologies able to provide greater transparency, higher productivity and better process management will be better placed to move forward and adapt to the new manufacturing landscape. John Browett, general manager of CLPA Europe, looks at how manufacturers can invest in key solutions that support current needs while also futureproofing their activities.

Current production challenges mean that there is not just demand for factory automation solutions that can ensure continued manufacture and supply of goods, but that provide the transparency and productivity benefits promised by Industry 4.0 too. Bearing in mind that the lifecycle times for automation hardware are as long as 20 years, there are many plants operating with aged production systems that could benefit from an update. This is where industry-leading open communication technologies can step in to deliver these necessary improvements in process transparency and productivity.

The case for Time-Sensitive Networking

As automation plant lifecycles typically last many years, it is essential to know what technologies show the most promise of longevity, rapid return on investment (ROI) and clear technical benefits. It is clear to most automation specialists that one of these will be Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN). This is a set of Ethernet sub-standards for the OSI-Layer 2 defined by IEEE 802.1. These aim to improve determinism and reliability in industrial Ethernet-based communications. by creating accurate time synchronisation across a network, in addition to traffic prioritisation.

Therefore, businesses can combine multiple types of traffic on a single network, with no loss of performance for critical control-related tasks. The end result is an industrial Ethernet infrastructure that permits all kinds of traffic to coexist, regardless of whether it is critical safety or motion control-related data, general control information, video frames from inspection systems, periodic shift logs or even emails.

This consequently delivers several technical benefits: networks are able to fully leverage the benefits of gigabit bandwidth, their infrastructure is simpler and therefore less costly to design, implement and maintain. Ultimately, systems can be rolled out and start their operations in a shorter time.

By removing the need for physical separation of critical and non-critical networks, TSN also creates a convergence between information technology (IT) and industrial operational technology (OT). This convergence directly addresses the competitive pressure of Industry 4.0 in order to deliver corresponding business benefits. Key results include better transparency and management of processes, product quality improvements, increase in output as well as reduced downtime. In addition, the enterprise can become more responsive to customer demands and better able to support its business.

An evolving solution

While many of the IEEE 802.1 standards are now complete, some are still under development. Moreover, the IEC/IEEE 60802 working group is still standardising TSN profiles for industrial automation. Hence, TSN is still evolving.

The counterpoint to this is that projects have to be done now, and TSN’s maturity level is such that vendors have already started to market solutions. As with most technologies, TSN will continue to evolve over time. However, any risk of moving forward now is mitigated by the fact that the organisations involved have a strong track record of ensuring backwards compatibility. So while TSN will continue to evolve, future iterations will be compatible with what is available today. TSN, as it stands today, can deliver all the benefits outlined earlier, and hence this creates a compelling case for using it to maintain a competitive advantage now.

Specific examples of applications that can benefit from TSN include those that would profit from combining several types of control on one network. For example, a converting application such as a printing press could combine high precision motion control for registration with visual inspection of the process, along with systems related to operator safety. TSN allows them all to coexist on a single network, simplifying system design, reducing cost and increasing uptime.

The time to implement TSN is now

Plant lifecycles are typically measured in decades. With this in mind, current TSN solutions are a safe bet. The technology is already able to address the demands of Industry 4.0 that are emerging now by maximising the use of the increasingly common gigabit bandwidth. In addition, it holds the promise of being able to evolve accordingly to meet future demands while protecting existing investments.

Its base technology, Ethernet, was first conceived in the early 1970s and has already proved its ability to remain relevant over time. Hence, TSN will likely continue to benefit from this ability and offer advantages during the current plant lifecycles and beyond.

TSN can act as a powerful ally to support businesses to address current manufacturing challenges. Technologies that offer TSN functionalities now while also providing migration capabilities for the future are therefore ideal. The CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA) has supported businesses with state-of-the art open automation network technologies for 20 years and, as one of the key players in the sector, is in a position to continue to do so for the next 20 years.

To support advanced industrial communications, the organisation has recently developed CC-Link IE TSN, the first open industrial Ethernet to combine 1Gbit bandwidth with TSN functionalities. Thanks to these key features, it offers an ideal migration solution that can address current manufacturing needs while acting as a gateway to the future of connected industries. By implementing this technology businesses are enabled to handle the large volume of traffic associated with Industry 4.0 data-driven manufacturing. As a result, they will not only optimise their current operations, but also futureproof them.

New 3D Metrology Partners: API and MeetConsult in the Netherlands

Automated Precision Europe (API) has announced a new partnership with MeetConsult, offering closer customer proximity in the Netherlands and better solutions for 3D metrology tasks. Both companies are long-standing solution providers of laser-based metrology and measurement services for a wide range of industrial applications.

“As an API partner, we offer our customers the ability to perform industrial measurements faster and more accurately than before,” says Eelco Visser of MeetConsult B.V.. “Together with MeetConsult, API can now supply Dutch customers with innovative mobile 3D metrology, on-site measurement services, Laser Tracker calibration, and our attractive rental program, using more than 30 years of expertise in international markets and development,” adds Jens Pursche, Sales Manager of API. “Together, we will be able to reach interested parties in the Netherlands better than ever for optimal support of customer tasks through on-site visits or online demos from the API’s Virtual Showroom.”

For on-site or online demo appointments and further information, please contact: info@meetconsult.nl or info.eu@apimetrology.com.