Seen at CIIF: Industrial AI for automation, smarter robots
At the 2023 China International Industry Fair, Siemens demonstrated artificial intelligence (AI) integration with robotics and showed how that works. Siemens and Microsoft are expanding industrial AI-based analytics.
- Understand that industrial automation industry trends include artificial intelligence integration with robotics and review an example of how it works.
- Learn how industrial AI-based analytics is expanding with Siemens and Microsoft cooperation.
- Understand how employee-driven programs can be effective with proper communication and training to help ensure long-term success.
AI for automation and robotics insights
Industrial automation industry trends at the at the 2023 China International Industry Fair (CIIF) included artificial intelligence (AI) integration with robotics as shown at the Siemens booth there.
Industrial AI-based analytics is expanding with Siemens and Microsoft cooperation.
Industrial automation trends include advanced robotics, better system integration and artificial intelligence (AI) for industrial analytics, as shown at the Siemens booth at the 2023 China International Industry Fair (CIIF). Known as the “wind vane” of global industrial development, this year’s fair again exceeded expectations, hitting record highs for exhibitors, products on display and number of visitors, after an absence of three years. The Industrial Automation Exhibition is the core area of CIIF, bringing together the world’s mainstream industrial automation manufacturers. Booths of manufacturers show status and trends for development of industrial automation, globally. The Siemens’ booth remained a popular focus, demonstrating industrial automation advances.
Industrial automation industry trends: AI integration for robotics
AI technology is being more widely integrated into industrial automation. A sorting robot was prominently displayed at the Siemens booth at 2023 CIIF, picking up parts automatically and continuously. By using the Siemens Simatic Robot Pick AI system, the AI-powered sorting robot can pick up items without training.
According to reports, the system has an advanced AI algorithm and has learned the basic geometric characteristics of a large number of objects. When the camera takes a picture of the object after the data will be transmitted to the system, the system, like a “human brain,” automatically determines the best pickup position of the object and the best gripping point, to complete the sorting of items. This differs from the traditional gripping motion control. The user does not need to carry out model matching or manual training data and can save project and maintenance debugging time. Such an AI system also can be adjusted independently with advantages for gripping and sorting varied objects, compared to a traditional sorting system.
Industrial AI-based analytics
Siemens, recognized for industrial AI, won an award at the 2023 CIIF for the Siemens Predictive Analytics System (SiePA). SiePA integrates industrial artificial intelligence and industrial big data analytics technology with built-in industry knowledge and experience. SiePA has been implemented in industries such as petrochemical, chemical, cement, metallurgy, mining, water treatment and others. By focusing on the heavy capital or key equipment wearing parts, SiePA allows users to use historical data to assess the state of the equipment, achieve predictive warning and intelligent diagnosis of the risk of failure. SiePA also provides timely and professional inspection and maintenance recommendations and programs to reduce risk of unscheduled stops of key plant equipment.
To advance industrial AI, Siemens and Microsoft are cooperating in generative AI, and more is expected. Siemens product lifecycle management software, Teamcenter, is expected to be integrated with Microsoft’s Teams, AzureOpenAI’s language models and other Azure AI capabilities. The integration would enable code generation for automation software through Microsoft’s AI, using Microsoft Azure machine learning and the Siemens Industrial Edge hardware and software platform to discover and prevent product defects.
More integrated robot control in automation systems
Industrial robots and automation control systems are two major components of industrial automation. Because of the relatively independent and parallel development of robot control and general automation controls, general automation and robotic control systems are completely different. Specialized drive control systems are commonly used for robot control, emphasizing multi-axis synchronous and precise motion control. General automation control can be achieved with a programmable logic controller (PLC) or distributed control system (DCS). [Other options include embedded controller, PC-based controller, edge controller or other logic device.] With general automation control, the focus is on the process and logical control of the equipment or production line. Traditionally, the same controller does not control general automation and robots.
With the increasing number of industrial robots on the production line, more automation is integrated. Integrating the controls of industrial robots and electromechanical equipment into an automation system will have many obvious values and benefits for manufacturing enterprises, such as lower control costs and more convenient programming and debugging.
A market trend is to use high-performance universal automation controllers combined with servo drive modules for robot control, as well as for automation control of production line equipment, for control system integration. Such integration poses great difficulties, especially in robot control where the algorithm is often complex, and the programming requirements for motion control are high. Therefore, despite advantages, such deep integration is not often achieved.
How it works: Integrated robot and automation control
Siemens showcased a method for integrating robot control in automation systems using a robot control library of programming code. The Siemens integration method retains the dedicated robot controller, which uses a Siemens S7-1500 PLC for automation control of the robot and other production-line equipment. At the same time, a Siemens interpreter is installed in the robot controller, so that the standardized messages transmitted by the PLC can be parsed and mapped to the corresponding instructions in the robot controller for execution.
With the robot integration technology and robot library, Siemens can quickly and easily integrate robots from different manufacturers into a unified architecture. Through the Siemens TIA Portal, unified robot programming is carried out without the need to know the robot programming language. In TIA Portal, the robot is controlled through a standard motion control module, such as controlling six axis robots to perform jog and linear interpolation point-to-point interpolation or single-axis motion.
This integration method enables integration of machine equipment and robot control into the PLC, so the robot can be fully integrated into the machine operations without specialized teaching aids and robot development software. All that’s needed is the controller’s human-machine interface (HMI) and TIA Portal.
Stone Shi is executive editor-in-chief, Control Engineering China. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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