Siemens bolsters digital factory proposition with new AI and edge tools
Siemens has bundled a number of edge devices running artificial intelligence (AI) applications into its digital enterprise portfolio, and bolstered its partner activity and support around its MindSphere platform alongside.
Siemens has booked out an entire hall at the SPS IPC Drives 2018 event in Nuremberg, in Germany, this week to showcase edge and AI tools in a broad-ranging suite of Industry 4.0 functions, including machine tools, production machinery and process plants.
Its new ‘digital factory’ IoT and automation division has been a boon for the company recently, with profits jumping 28 per cent in the fourth quarter, leaving the company about all-square in the period.
It has used the Nuremberg event to launch a module with an AI-enabled chip for its Simatic S7-1500 controller and ET 200MP I/O system, enabling quality controls and robot handling in industrial set-ups to be optimised with machine learning algorithms.
The new TM NPU module is equipped with Intel’s new Movidius Myriad X ‘vision processing unit’ (VPU) chip, billed as the first in its class with a hardware accelerator for trained neural networks.
It enables AI to be applied to data gathered from industrial sensors, and from the computing units itself, to automate and accelerate edge computing for applications like image-processing.
It suggested the solution brings particular advantage for pick-and-place style applications, where robots are required to select components lying randomly in a crate, for example. The solution can be trained with image data around certain visual parameters, to bring more “human-like” quality checking.
“The integrated image processing unit together with the computing unit for neural networks makes the Myriad X the trailblazer for computer vision applications,” the company said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Siemens is also showing its Sinamics G120X converter series of devices and Sidrive IQ digital platform at SPS IPC Drives 2018.
The Sinamics family is optimised for pump and fan applications in the infrastructure industry, and works with the company’s MindSphere IoT platform to analyse data from converters, drive trains and machines.
The cloud-based Sidrive IQ platform, for analysis of data from networked drive systems, is now also available for motors and converters in the medium and high voltage ranges.
Siemens is rolling out AI in its own facilities, it noted in Nuremberg. Its electronics factory in Amberg, in Germany, has AI running in components at the network edge has seen unscheduled downtime from motor damage on PCB milling machines eradicated, it said.
In Nuremberg, Siemens presented three new application packages for MindSphere, as well, called Connect & Monitor, Analyze & Predict, Digitalize & Transform. The trio are geared for faster, simpler implementation of IoT projects, and for predicting and preventing unscheduled downtime in plant operations.
The MindSphere programme is building, Siemens said, with infrastructure support now in place for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Alibaba Cloud, and the company’s August acquisition of ‘low-code platform’ Mendix is priming small and medium-sized enterprises for digital transformation besides.
The number of members of its MindSphere World programme now stands at 55, with 37 in Germany and 18 in Italy, it said.
Klaus Helmrich, member of the board at Siemens, commented: “An ever-increasing number of industrial enterprises, particularly SMEs, are well on the way towards Industrie 4.0, and are already improving their competitive standing with digital solutions.
“This applies to all sectors of industry with rapidly changing market demands in which products have to be manufactured ever more quickly, flexibly and in diminishing quantities. With the further integration of technologies such as AI and edge computing into our portfolio, we’re paving the way for the future of industry.”
Meanwhile, Siemens said it shares the vision of the OPC Foundation to extend the scope of OPC UA, including to TSN-enabled Ethernet networks at the field level.
Siemens, a founding and board member of the OPC Foundation, and a fixture among standardisation bodies, said it will contribute to relevant OPC Foundation working groups, which started several months ago.
OPC UA over TSN will enable use cases like multi-vendor controller-to-controller communication and vertical communication from devices to upper systems.
The company has set up the international IEC/IEEE 60802 to harmonise the so-called ‘TSN Profile for Industrial Automation (TSN-IA Profile)’.
The idea is to enable different industrial communications protocols like OPC UA, PROFINET, and EtherNet/IP to be able to share the same TSN network infrastructure and run on the same hardware base.