Automation’s future: Siemens at Hannover Fair 2005

Hannover, Germany—Among product highlights from Siemens was the introduction of more models of its wide power range Sinamics family of ac drives and the launch of Simatic PCS 7 process control system (release 6.1), along with visions of future manufacturing and how universities should help.

By Control Engineering Staff May 17, 2005
To be successful, a company must feel at home in various industries it covers and then master the technologies required, explained Dr. Klaus Wucherer—member of Siemens’ Corporate Executive Committee.

Hannover, Germany— Among product highlights from Siemens was the introduction of more models of its wide power range Sinamics family of ac drives and the launch of Simatic PCS 7 process control system (release 6.1), along with visions of future manufacturing and how universities should help. The latest Simatic release adds direct control of processes via the Web to PCS 7’s capabilities, as well as asset management functions for maintainance of facilities. Besides having probably the largest exhibit at last month’s Hannover Fair for its gamut of technologies, Siemens AG participated in a number of presentations.

The company’s main press conference, “Innovative automation for future-oriented production,“ headed by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Klaus Wucherer—member of the Corporate Executive Committee of Siemens—explored trends in industrial production, automation’s future, its challenges, and how Siemens has participated in these developments.

Wucherer presented his vision of the “factory of the future,” where virtual displays and simulation play a key role throughout the manufacturing process, and where virtual product design evolves into live products with design modifications automatically incorporated along the way. Even now, many “industries demand powerful, highly available, open, and modular automation systems, which can be retrofitted or modified without long shutdown periods,” he said. “This goes hand in hand with greater complexity and shorter innovation cycles in hardware and software.” On the subject of simulation, he explained that simulation should continue at the customer’s site to further optimize products already delivered.

In particular, Wucherer mentioned technical developments in hybrid automation, industrial communication, and radio-frequency identification (RFID) as examples of Siemens’ technology innovations. He defined hybrid automation as the “convergence of production and process automation” into one approach. The presentation also emphasized industrial communication’s importance to the progress of automation systems.

A panel discussion on the “Future of Automation” followed, where Dr.-Ing. Klaus Bender, chair of information technology in mechanical engineering at the Technical University of Munich, and Dr.-Ing. Heinz Dürr, chairman of the Supervisory Board of Dürr AG (a German automotive manufacturer), joined Dr. Wucherer. “Automation is an approach rather than a technology, with goals of cost reduction and making implementation easier,” said Dürr. “Automation boils down to cost per unit; and it’s always based on information technology (IT). Being able to control the process equates to automation.” Bender added that teaching of technology is vital to industrial innovation. The challenges of teaching are also increasing. To promote technological innovation, “Universities need to teach the models and patterns of thinking applicable to automation,” he added.

System solutions

The importance of offering complete motion system solutions to customers was emphasized by Dr.-Ing. Siegfried Russwurm, president of Siemens Automation and Drives (A&D) Group’s Motion Control Systems Div., during an interview with Control Engineering at Hannover Fair. “It’s a case of proving we can increase the productivity of end-users,” he said. By “complete solutions,” Dr. Russwurm means more than just adding and assembling components one by one; rather, it includes the careful integration of various products from systems down to components—including those from other A&D divisions. “The concept of‘Totally Integrated Automation’ (TIA) is very much alive today at Siemens.” TIA was a concept launched by Siemens in 1996. The company’s Motion Control Systems Div. generates revenue of around 2 billion euro.

About two years ago, Siemens launched an ac drive product line with extremely wide power range called Sinamics, a product destined to become the company’s central ac drive offering. “While still filling out its intended wide range of drive products, Sinamics has come a long way,” said Russwurm. “Sinamics provides a uniform engineering system for motion control for all sizes of drives.” It also uses the same control architecture, software tools, spare parts, etc., he explained. It’s part of the “total solution” mentioned earlier, where life-cycle cost is the real measure of automation project cost.

Sinamics, made its North American debut in March 2005 (see March 24, 2005 Daily News ). “All newly developed Siemens ac drives are part of Sinamics straight from the initial design; it’s not a rebranding project,” he continued. The new line will eventually replace prior drive products, let’s say over a period of 10 years. He also noted that Siemens has a policy of supporting existing drive products for at least 10 years—which is counted from the last year of “official delivery.”

Siemens’ Simotion is another system product. It integrates control of motion, logic, and special functions into one system. “Simotion describes the state of a machine, grouping together all elements of motion control. It’s much more supporting than other control architectures, it goes beyond Boolean logic, for example,” adds Russwurm. Simotion comes in three flavors: controller (embedded) version, PC-based, and drive-based. “We’re not forcing customers into one solution.”

Russwurm further noted that industrial communications and standards are key to successful automation projects, citing Profinet, in particular, as having implications to motion control. Profinet now includes isochronous real-time (IRT) Ethernet—so-called Profinet IRT— to help precisely synchronize numerous motion axes in time-critical, complex motion control applications. Siemens’ stand included a demo of Profinet IRT in a web offset-printing press for MAN Roland (Augsburg, Germany), where 31 motion axes are “coordinated to ensure highly productive operations.” Profinet IRT is at work with selected customers, such as MAN Roland, with unrestricted distribution scheduled for year-end 2005. Russwurm also noted that the ASIC chip used in Profinet (developed by Siemens) now has a second-source supplier, NEC Corp.

Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Frank J. Bartos, Executive Editor