"Networking Is only just Beginning"
Interview with Christian Heller, Head of Product Management
Digitization and networking are leading topics in automation technology - also in machine safety?
Christian Heller: Absolutely. The - preferably universal - integration of safety switchgear has been a central topic and a wish of both manufacturers and users of the machines not just since yesterday.
In your article, you describe what possibilities the Schmersal Group offers here and now. Take a look into the future – or over to your colleagues in R&D: What are your developers working on? Or what is still missing at the moment?
Christian Heller: We are continuously developing our various networking concepts and equipping more and more end devices with the appropriate interfaces. In the near future, for example, there will be new variants of the Safety Fieldbox with additional functions.
In many applications in mechanical engineering, wireless technology is increasingly gaining acceptance; in machine safety, this step is still to come. When will it be ready?
Christian Heller: Indeed: A radio-based safety system would bring advantages, especially with regard to networking. But the hurdles, for example in terms of transmission security and response times, are high. We have taken a stake in a startup company that is developing wireless communication systems for safety switchgear, among other things, and are pushing the issue forward.
What are the prospects at the level of operational, i.e. non-safety-related, data?
Christian Heller: Here we are already providing users with really informative data via the SD bus, on the basis of which, for example, the availability of the protective devices and thus of the machines can be significantly increased. For example, in the future, the user of a machine will be able to record how often each individual safety gate was opened and draw conclusions from this about process steps or machine settings that are not quite optimal. But, in fact, this can be thought of even further. We are working on the next step, which will open up new possibilities.
And what does this next step look like?
Christian Heller: We will link the operational data provided by the SD bus, for example, with machine data. We are currently running trials with a demonstrator, which are very promising.
Can you please explain this in more detail?
Christian Heller: We are combining sensor data from the machine - for example, the values from temperature sensors or vibration sensors, or also performance data such as cycle times – in a cloud solution with the data from the SD bus. In this way, we not only record irregularities, but can also identify causalities and take the step from condition monitoring to predictive maintenance. The user can take appropriate countermeasures and thus increase the productivity of the machine. As mentioned at the beginning, this is made possible by networking the data beyond the safety technology. (agry)
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