Products & Solutions
What is Digital Retrofit and Why is it Important?
At the heart of IIoT discussions is data transparency, which is the ability to easily access and work with data no matter where the data is located or from what application the data originated. For the IIoT to work, different types of data must be able to communicate with one another.
When the decision is made to integrate IIoT, there are two possible strategies. Either a company can invest in completely new machines and equipment that were developed exclusively for this need or they can upgrade their current machines, otherwise known as legacy machinery, and equipment with devices, such as edge computers that make this type of communication possible. Digital retrofit here means taking a device that produces or uses data of some sort and connecting it to a device that can allow that data to be a part of a larger data pool.
What Can You do with the MICA Basic Ethernet Kit for Digital Retrofit?
1.Remotely access legacy machinery by eliminating the sneaker net
For manufacturing companies, lot sizes are getting smaller. This results in an increase in the frequency that tools are changed, which can increase downtime. Setting the configuration data of legacy machines is most often a manual process that occurs directly at the machine. The sneaker net is a term to describe how people walk to the machine that needs to be reconfigured with a floppy disk, USB drive or a piece of paper. By retrofitting your legacy machines, with devices like edge computers, they can be accessed remotely. Configuration data can be written automatically to the machine via the standard Ethernet network.
2.Prevent unexpected downtime by monitoring conditions of the machine
When machines operate at their limit or beyond their anticipated lifetime, there is an increased risk of the machine breaking down. By monitoring the condition of the machine through sensors, the operator can see if parameters or sensor values change. This allows the operator to act accordingly and prevent downtime before it happens. Like monitoring a person's health, monitoring the health of machines can increase their life spans.
3.Compute data directly at the machine
Cloud storage is expensive, and for most applications, decisions need to be made quickly and locally at the machine. Gathering sensor data from the machine is only possible at the machine, known as the edge. It is unrealistic and expensive to send all of the information to the cloud. For critical applications, waiting for data computation to be made in the cloud is risky. A digital retrofit application that is located at the edge, with an edge device, can filter data so only the most important data goes to the cloud. It can also make decisions locally at the machine much more quickly than in the cloud.
4.Unify data across different machines using OPC-U
In industrial automation, OPC-UA is a machine-to-machine communication protocol integrated for data collection and control. OPC-UA is open and cross-platform, so it is easy to access and not tied to a single operating system or programming language. This means that users can retrofit different machines and be confident that the data can be collected and collated.
MICA Basic Ethernet Kit
Get started prototyping your solution with the HARTING Basic Ethernet starter kit. This kit is ideal for those who are looking to connect peripheral devices through the Ethernet that can communicate over protocols such as Modbus-TCP or OPC UA. It contains all of the cabling required to get started and a basic version of the HARTING MICA and software. As with all the other starter kits, this one comes with fast Ethernet capabilities, eight digital GPIO ports and the ability to be powered over PoE or 12V/24V.
Does this kit not meet your needs? See the other kits we have available or contact us about a larger integration solution.
OPC UA Translator
A new injection molding machine needed to be integrated into the company-wide IT system via a standard industrial PC (soft PLC). Both devices were made by different manufacturers. Although both communicated over OPC UA, it was soon apparent that the standard IPC clients could not exchange data with the OPC UA server of the injection molding machine.
After a long investigation with all three participating companies, bugs were found in the implementation of the data definitions. A solution on the OPC UA server side would have taken several months.
Instead of relying on the device manufacturers, the company looked to a digital retrofit solution that featured an open software architecture, so it could be programmed to communicate over both protocols. The solution was a HARTING MICA Basic with an OPC UA container that could communicate with both terminals. Both terminals were then configured as OPC UA servers with MICA Basic receiving the inputs. The node.js OPC UA container of the MICA serves as an intermediary between the incompatible devices. Following the installation of the HARTING MICA Basic, both devices were able to communicate.
The solution took less than 48 hours to implement compared to the several months that it would've taken if working with the original equipment manufacturers.
Industry 4.0 promises to streamline operations and create efficiencies through the collection, processing and communication of data across machines, factories and even countries. This, however, requires a lot of modern communication peripheries and functionalities. Many machines from decades past are still functional, which makes it difficult to justify the purchase of an entirely new machine. This is why digital retrofitting is so important, because it allows legacy machines to be upgraded with Industry 4.0 capabilities, without the costs, time, and risks of investing in brand new equipment.
A company had an injection molding machine that communicated over the Euromap15 protocol - a protocol developed back in the 1980s. They were spending a lot of time manually configuring and retrieving data from this machine, as opposed to hooking it into their IT network and accessing it remotely. The Euromap15 protocol does not support the same interface compatibility as the latest versions of Euromap, so integration with their existing IT systems was impossible. If any data was needed from the machine, it needed to be gathered manually at the machine site by an operator – a process that was very prone to mistakes, and led to very costly corrections on a regular basis.
Using a HARTING MICA Basic, a management shell was implemented according to the current reference architecture model Industrie 4.0 ("RAMI 4.0"). This created a virtual image of the machine in the digital world and allowed it to operate with modern interfaces.
Within the virtual world, the "old" machine could have the same functionalities as modern, new machines. Some of these functionalities included the ability to:
- Read operating parameters online.
- Upload production plans to the machine remotely.
- Continuously record and store information for future use, such as:
- Analytics and predictive maintenance.
- Optimization of the production process.
- Quality assurance.
The HARTING MICA's modular open source architecture enabled access to existing MICA containers and open source code, which greatly reduced the development time. The modularity and the use of an intermediate JSON format allow other legacy systems to be integrated with minimal effort. In addition, other protocols can be easily supported on the server side by exchanging a container, such as MQTT or a connector to IBM Bluemix, SAP Hana or Microsoft Azure.
Packing Site Optimization
When a company packed up an order for shipments, several devices were used to complete the packaging process. These devices included a scale, a PLC that controls the packaging machine and a film printer for the labeling.
In addition, operators also had to enter information manually into the ERP and then manually adapt work instructions, such as the welding and cooling times to the PLC. The result was an additional 5 to 15 minutes of setup time for orders. The challenge was that all of these systems used different languages and needed one device to connect to and communicate with all of them simultaneously.
The solution was a HARTING Basic MICA that was installed at the packaging site. The MICA boasts an open software architecture that can be programmed to communicate with nearly any software protocol that operates over Ethernet. This allowed it to collect, combine, and transfer information from all the different devices. It executes the intermediate steps, automatically transfers all data from one system to the next, and has a localized user interface that is accessible without the need to connect to a broader IT network.
As a result, the number of manual work steps is drastically reduced for each person packing the shipments, and the packaging process was significantly accelerated.
This solution resulted in savings of approximately $19,441 per year.
What are Legacy Devices and Machines?
Industry 4.0 promises to streamline operations and create efficiencies through the collection, processing and communication of data across machines, factories and even countries. This, however, requires a lot of modern communication peripheries and functionalities. Many machines from decades past are still fully operational, which makes it difficult for most companies to justify the purchase of an entirely new machine that provides Industry 4.0 capabilities.
Devices that are outdated, but still essential to a company's operations, or still depreciating, are legacy devices. It is unrealistic for a company to throw out assets that still hold and provide value in order to upgrade to Industry 4.0 functionality. However, the value that Industry 4.0 brings to the table is too great to ignore, and those that refuse to adjust, risk being pushed out by the market. Companies must find a way to utilize their legacy devices and legacy systems in ways that allow them to reap the benefits of Industry 4.0. This is the promise of the digital retrofit.
How Does Digital Retrofit Work with Legacy Devices and Machines?
Almost every machine is controlled by some sort of PLC or computing device. As network and communication standards were still figuring themselves out decades ago, many legacy PLCs and communication protocols from that era, inherently are not compatible with today’s modern standards. When gathering information or configuring these types of legacy machines, it generally can only be done locally, directly at the machine’s user-interface. Relying solely on human operators to import and export data to a machine, makes it impossible to track this data in real time and maximize operation efficiencies.
The easiest form of digital retrofit uses an edge-level computing device. Edge devices can be programmed to communicate over various protocols, and are especially useful when they have an open software architecture, with community support for older, legacy communication standards. An edge computing device can aggregate information from multiple machines, and convert each communication protocol into a more common, unified language. Once you have all your data talking in a compatible format, you can begin to take advantage of all the powerful tools included in our modern IT systems, such as intelligent storage, data analysis, and real-time visualization. An edge device can also take directives that translate commands back down into the older language – this makes it possible to remotely control and program legacy devices in their native language. This is just one example of what a digital retrofit can do. They can become significantly more integrated and powerful as needed.