Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sercos at the Industrial Automation Show

This year the Industrial Automation North America (IANA) show was held in Chicago, Illinois from September 8th through September 13th. Sercos International presented multi-vendor demos to show the advancement of interoperability by using automation products that connect by using their automation bus. Several of the devices showcased were the Bosch Rexroth XLC (eXtended Logic Control) PLC, various IO devices (Inline, S20, and more), and SafeLogic compact safety control, to name just a few.

Peter Lutz, the Managing Director of Sercos International, presented a lecture on the subject of “Trends in the Industrial Communications for the Factory of the Future.” Speaking on the blended infrastructure conceptual approach of factories, he elaborated on the benefits of integrating machinery in manufacturing applications. His approach to the subject stems from his basic thoughts on the matter in that there should be less complexity and easier integration while using fewer cables. Along with reducing the complexity of the integrated systems, this approach can also reduce overhead for many companies.

Industrial Indexing Systems has long believed that factory automation motor and control system design not only guarantees system performance, but provides application and system engineering support of the highest levels. IIS, with over 30 years of experience in the field, agrees that history supports Mr. Lutz’s position of the ability of integrated machinery to lower the cost to manufacturers.

Another interesting demo at the IANA show was the Cannon-Automata A2 PC based Intel Atom dual core which is equipped with a Programmable Automation Controller. The A2-PAC family of devices can to combine the many advantages of PC-based controls with features of both PLCs and motion controllers. Another display included the Bihl+Wiedemann’s AS-I 3.0 Sercos Gateway. This equipment is used for transmitting data originating from safety input slaves to output slaves by way of CIP Safety.

Overall, the IANA show had important information on some new technology and how to provide solutions for automation systems. This information is crucial for companies wanting to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to demanding applications that require both performance and accuracy while being reliable and energy efficient.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Learning in Chicago: IMTS 2014 and Toshiba Machine

At IIS, we truly enjoy learning about new technologies in the robotics and automation field. Recently, we took two important trips that we believe will make us a better and more responsive company. In this blog, we take a closer look at our time at IMTS 2014’s Industrial Automation North America and the Toshiba Machine American headquarters.

IMTS 2014

The IMTS (International Manufacturing Technology Show) is a bi-annual event that claims to be America’s largest manufacturing show. IMTS 2014 took place at the McCormick Place in Chicago, September 8-13. IIS was proud to attend the co-located Industrial Automation North America show at IMTS 2014. We had the honor to represent the SERCOS booth, where we showed off the new Emerald Automation Controller which features both SERCOS II and SERCOS III interface. Our time at both IMTS and IANA gave us the opportunity to meet and interact with both current and future customers. It was a great opportunity to have the chance to meet other leaders within your own industry. Needless to say, we plan on attending and showing at IMTS and IANA 2016, September 12-17, 2016 at the McCormick Center.

Toshiba Machine

During our time in the Chicago area, IIS made a very important side trip. Just over 20 miles outside of Chicago in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, sits the impressive U.S. headquarters of the Toshiba Machine Company. IIS has a long history of partnering with Toshiba on both robotics and automation equipment, so we were excited about checking out the latest technology from Toshiba. We got to view three different robots, and we were especially impressed with their latest articulated, 6-axis robot designed to handle a variety of applications including loading and unloading plastic molding machines. Of course these types of robots need to programed, so we are thankful that our IIS controllers are a perfect match for all of Toshiba’s innovative robotics.

Overall, our time in the Chicago area was extremely productive. Both IMTS 2014 and our visit to Toshiba Machine went a long way to making sure that IIS stays on the cutting edge of the robotics and automation industries. If you want to learn more about our work with Toshiba, please feel free to contact us directly today.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Automation at Industrial Indexing Systems

At Industrial Indexing Systems, automation plays an important role in our everyday services. Automation is a manufacturing process that allows certain products to be constructed in an efficient manner with minimal labor needs. According to Packaging Digest, automation also helps U.S. manufacturers stay competitive by cutting costs and increasing production speeds.

Automation systems have many capabilities that enhance the manufacturing process. For example, computer-controlled systems can ensure that products are made using the exact same specifications for each product, every single time. These processes also have the ability to decrease labor, energy, fuel, and production costs.

According to Consulting Specifying Engineer, the food and beverage industry is a good example of a product segment that utilizes automation control and software. Automation World reports that a craft beer maker can save time, labor, and increase production capacity in order to serve their growing number of consumers in diverse markets. Automation aids in the standardization of systems and enhances the production process for manufacturers.

Newer machines and technology make automation a reality for many manufacturers. Our products, such as the multi-axis and single-axis automation controllers, make automation possible for various production lines. Multi-axis and single-axis products allow the automation process to be tightly controlled and efficient.

The automation trend in manufacturing is increasingly seen as a way for manufacturers to cut costs and produce more products. More and more manufacturers will begin to use automation to benefit their companies.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Newest and Latest with SERCOS

There has been a lot happening in the SERCOS world recently. As SERCOS members, we are closely tied to the association and, therefore, are excited for all of the great things that have been coming out of that area. Not only was there the recent SERCOS PlugFest event, but we are also excited about the annual meeting and Board of Directors announcement.

SERCOS N.A. Member Meeting

The meeting, held June 17th and hosted by Bosch Rexroth, took members through the latest in the SERCOS world. First, there was a review of what has happened since the last member meeting, and then into the nitty-gritty of the association. SERCOS’ Managing Director Peter Lutz discussed the newest developments in the software and association as a whole. Then, there was a look at SERCOS North America, specifically at the past promotional and marketing activities, promotion plans moving forward, and administrative and management reports. As members, at any point in time, we have the opportunity to submit topics for review.

New Board of Directors

SERCOS recently announced their newest board of directors. The new board now includes Dr. Thomas Burger of Bosch Rexroth, Klaus Weyer of Schneider Electric Automation, Professor Alexander Verl of Fraunhofer Institute, and Matheus Bulho from Rockwell Automation. At the official meeting when the announcement was made, attendees were also privy to new technological development of the SERCOS software. According to a SERCOS press release, Lutz said, “Strong growth in the spectrum of manufacturers and providers accelerates the implementation of innovative automation concepts and is, as the same time, proof of the high level of acceptance of SERCOS in machine and systems engineering.”

As a company with strong ties to SERCOS, we are always excited to be a part of their events and hear about the latest news and developments. With that said, we are looking forward to what’s next!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Innovation is a Key to Improvement: A SERCOS PlugFest Recap

Innovation and technology are two ways to make your business better and stronger. Here at IIS, we not only look for ways to innovate and integrate the newest and latest into our products and services, but we also look to surround ourselves with the best and brightest. What is one way in which we do this? By being a part of SERCOS North America and utilizing the SERCOS automation bus in our servo products.

Recently, we were invited to attend SERCOS PlugFest, which took place in May and was an event catering to manufacturers of SERCOS devices. Specifically, twenty-five technology and automation companies attended the event and helped SERCOS International extensively test the interoperability between SERCOS devices. According to SERCOS, over thirty products were tested, including drives, CNC’s, PLC’s, and motion controllers, as well as pneumatic ancillary components.

As a result, SERCOS said in their press release that “a total of 100 master-slave combinations were also successfully tested. In addition, extensive network configurations were tested with drives and various slaves of different vendors.”

As a manufacturer of SERCOS products, we were honored to be invited to participate in the 13TH PlugFest, as well as help improve the SERCOS automation bus and ensure it is as efficient as possible. Innovation is an important asset to our company and any way we can help foster it, we do. Can’t wait for the 14th PlugFest!

Monday, June 23, 2014

FIRST Robotics Competition 2014 and IIS

Everyone at IIS is extremely proud of the students we mentored in this year’s FIRST Robotics Competition. If you don’t know about the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), it is the premiere international high school robotics competition started by inventor Dean Kamen in 1991. Over the past three decades, FRC has grown into a massive, global competition. According to the FRC website, this year’s competition, which took place April 23-26, included 2,720 teams from 17 countries, and 68,000 high-school students (grades 9-12) who participated in 54 regional events, 40 qualifying district competitions, and four qualifying championships for a chance to win over $19 million in college scholarships.

The challenge is different every year, but it involves building a robot that can take on that year’s challenge. These robots, which usually weight around 120 lbs., must be built in six weeks from a common kit of parts provided by FIRST. This year, the challenge involved the robots playing with 2 ½ ft. medicine balls; the robots needed to pick up the ball, line up, and shoot it into designated areas. There were six robots on the field at once.

Over the years, IIS has sponsored quite a few successful teams, including last year’s Team 3003 that advanced to the qualifying championships! We work with the Canandaigua Academy every year, and this 2013-2014 season, we had about forty students on the team. While this year’s Team 3003 didn’t advance as far, we are still very proud of what they have accomplished. We can’t wait until next year’s competition! 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Our Participation in SERCOS III PlugFest

As members of the SERCOS N.A. family, we continue implement SERCOS-based systems and express to our customers how this technology betters our automation systems. We are thrilled, then, to have been invited to the 13th SERCOS III PlugFest, occurring May 7th-8th at ISW, University of Stuttgart.

All manufacturers of SERCOS III devices have been invited to PlugFest in order to perform interoperability tests with SERCOS’ testing laboratory, which will examine the connections between the masters and slaves of the devices in different configurations. This will allow SERCOS to determine how to best implement the SERCOS III system, based on the compliance with different products. Furthermore, the testing with SERCOS III manufacturers will provide the opportunity for improvements for this specification.

Specifically, PlugFest aims to “perform interoperability tests between each of the present masters and each slave, as well as between each of the present masters and multiple slaves in different configurations…test and verify features, such as ring break detection, ring recovery and hot-plugging…test and verify SDDML descriptions of slave devices with present masters and configuration tools…test and verify UCC connectivity and S/IP protocol support…and solve open issues with regard to Slave Conformance Testing,” according to the SERCOS III PlugFest website.

We are excited to have been chosen to attend PlugFest and offer our expertise with SERCOS III based systems. As partners with SERCOS, it’s important for us to keep in touch and maintain our relationship with them, as well as maintain the quality of our products.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

SERCOS is Becoming More International

SERCOS International is hitting the international circuit! As part of the SERCOS (Serial Real-Time Communications System) association, we are excited to see how the protocol will be introduced and used in various places around the world.

The SERCOS system is a third-generation, non-proprietary sercos interface automation bus system, which we utilize in our automation controllers and control systems. Recently, SERCOS International announced that they will be presenting the SERCOS system at numerous shows and conferences worldwide.

Beginning in March and lasting through the fall, SERCOS will be participating in events everywhere from Germany and Italy to Japan and China. The goal, according to a press release published by SERCOS, is to “show the latest developments and innovations in automation.” In addition to these events, SERCOS will also be offering a variety of educational seminars and conferences in order to showcase the SERCOS technology and how it can best be used by machine builders and integrators.

As users of the SERCOS system, we know firsthand the great benefits of this technology. The SERCOS system allows our automation systems to run very high cycle updates, as well as interfacing with numerous devices. We offer two SERCOS interfaces—SERCOS II and SERCOS III automation networks, each of which provides an increase in response and processing power.

Take it from us—SERCOS is worth checking out. And now, they are providing companies worldwide the chance to learn more about their technology, so tune in this year!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Our Connection to ODVA

It’s that time of year again—the ODVA (Open Device Vendor Association) annual industry conference, which took place from March 11th – March 13th. As members of the association, it’s always interesting and informative for us to see what events and seminars are taking place.

Sessions that were planned for the conference include EtherNet/IP Implementation Workshops, which look to promote the use of EtherNet/IP technology into development and products, a Special Interest Group meeting, where recommendations and guidelines for the ODVA specifications are discussed, and a Development in Conformance Testing seminar, detailing changes to the conformance tests. Additionally, there were various Technical Track Presentations: Track A focuses on the Safety, Security, and Energy for Field Applications, Track B focuses on Diagnostics and Availability, Track C focuses on Concepts for Future Innovations, and Track D focuses on Briefing Sessions. Each track involves a series of paper presentations concerning the ODVA technologies. 

Here at IIS, we utilize DeviceNet-, an open network standard introduced by the ODVA, as a connection in our industrial devices and products, including our automation controllers, I/O blocks, and Toshiba Machine robot applications. It has proved to be a great addition to our business and we look forward to future ODVA opportunities.

Friday, January 31, 2014

“Grease Monkeys” and Modern Motion Control

Source: Wikipedia page, "Line Shafts"
The history of automated process manufacturing is a fascinating study in the translation of mechanical ingenuity to electrical ingenuity.  Before electricity was discovered and transformed into the dominating and indispensable force that it is today, engineers and workers had to devise ways to manufacture things without the benefit of smoothly synchronized electric motors operating with user-friendly  interfaces that allow a few lines of code to control rooms full of machines. 

When step-by-step processes were mechanically controlled, they were powered and timed by what is known as a line shaft.  An example of a line shaft is essentially a main long steel shaft suspended above operating machines, connected to them by a complex system of other steel shafts and pulleys, and set up in such a way that the main shaft would power and turn the machines in a consistent and regular way, allowing for timed step-by-step processes.  The main shaft would generally be powered by some kind of mechanical source like a water wheel, or other power source.  As electricity, and more specifically electric motors, entered the scene, factories quickly realized the advantages, and the modern factory was born.  One other interesting fact is that we get the term “grease monkey” from the workers who had the unfortunate task of ensuring these systems of shafts and pulleys were well lubricated – those climbing up in the rafters of factories armed with oil cans and other lubricants quickly became known by the now-common moniker.

Thankfully, we have come a long way from the lumbering, loud, and less efficient (albeit ingenious) days of line shafts.  Today we use an electronic line shaft which took the place of the main mechanical line shaft, and various other “slave” processes instead of complicated pulleys and belts.  These are all integrated into the software controls on the servo products we engineer, and have made motion control a much easier (though, one could argue, vastly more complicated) task.