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Modular Automation

INTRODUCTION
The key to a much shorter time-to-market and thus to higher productivity of a machine or plant is modularization. The concept of success is called modular automation The Modular Production Systems concept represents a radically new product-oriented manufacturing paradigm which is based on building production system from standardized machine elements. The overall objective is to provide a production methodology which will enable entire production system to be rapidly designed and configured for a wide range of consumer products with minimal delay, costs and need for specialized machinery. The potential benefits include, shortening machine design time, improved machine reliability reduced construction costs and simplifying service/repair. More significantly, the modular approach, combined with powerful computer tools, offers the potential to provide an important means of meeting the large and growing need for low cost 'flexible' automation. Newly developed machines and plants must bring the machine manufacturer a quick return on the development costs, and the owner a quick return on the investment costs. This is especially true of packing machines, because the product life cycle for consumer products continues to get shorter and shorter. The possibility of building machines in such a way that they can be reconfigured quickly and extensively, and thus adapted to new tasks, is critical for the competitiveness of these manufacturers today. Numerous machine manufacturers have therefore started to give their machines mechanics a modular structure, and to use developed and tested modules over and over again with minimal adaptation. A module or modular system developed in this way has enormous advantages, and saves a great deal of money. The preconditions for efficient module building were created years ago in mechanical design by CAD systems. In the electrical departments, by contrast, traditional principles are frequently still being applied: the control software is produced by adapting and altering existing software. Every software project then becomes unique, and with every machine, the variety of software that a service technician must deal with on visits to customers increases. This dilemma has become worse as the proportion of software has grown continuously since the division of drives a few years ago, and costs for the integration of automation systems have reached considerable proportions with many manufacturers. The machines development costs and time can be reduced significantly only if the modules of the drive, control,
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and visualization software are standardized as well as the mechanical modules. The greatest benefit for the machine manufacturer emerges when current automation trends such as the use of Ethernet at the field level, or Component Based Automation with distributed intelligence, are integrated into the modular machine concept. Its the function that counts The definition of a modular system demands extensive conceptual work. The machine modules are self-contained function blocks with defined interfaces. They can be exchanged without influencing the other modules of the machine. Modules for example can contain mechanical, pneumatic, and electrical elements, and of course also control functions. The control functions typically include motion control, logic control, technology functions (for example, temperature control), and HMI. When it comes to control design, every machine module has elements assigned to these four areas from a control-technical point of view. At the moment, there are two basic topology structures for modular automation. The first is more suitable for compact machines with central control. With this structure, the automation functionality of the machine is already determined in the engineering. The control programs for motion control, logic control, technology, the user interface, and the appropriate hardware configuration are selected from modules of a library. This process can be implemented within the engineering system, or with the help of a master configuration database even manually in simple systems. The basic program in the control is the same in every machine variant. Depending on the machine options used, extra program modules are loaded, and the appropriate faceplates are added to the user interface. The second topology variant refers to a distributed automation structure with mechatronic function blocks. Here the Modularization continues to be further developed using the new possibilities offered by modern industrial communication and Component Based Automation. The modules have their own intelligence and are connected with each other by clearly defined interfaces. The functionality of the modules is encapsulated inside of the module software.

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The advantages are obvious: individual modules can be developed, produced, and commissioned independently; extensions to a module can be made largely without influencing the machine as a whole; modules can be exchanged without affecting adjacent sections of the machine; and multifunctional communication interfaces reduce wiring expenses.

EXAMPLE:
Mechatronic function blocks with distributed synchronization ( SEIMENS) In packing machines, the drives are often coordinated by a synchronization system that is, by electronic gears or electronic cams. In this situation, the controllers of a distributed automation system must be synchronized with each other, and the synchronization relations maintained between individual machines and systems. Distributed Simotion controllers synchronize their task systems with each other via the isochronous Profibus. The distributed synchronization function makes it easy to install mechatronic function blocks with their own control and to synchronize master-slave relationships over several Simotion devices. A virtual master in the basic machine, for example, sets the production speed for the entire automation system. A modular bagging machine with two mechatronic function blocks, the basic machine and the product feed is used as an example. Both function blocks have one self-contained function each, and are connected to each other by distributed synchronization. They can be programmed, tested, and commissioned separately a time advantage that pays dividends. In addition, the customer can order the machine with or without production feed, without the need for modifications to the software.

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Why Modular automation?


The speed of design, construction and commissioning of the control system is the immediate benefit. Depending if you are an OEM or End-User the specific benefits may vary from project to project however always include the items below. OEM benefits are:

Improved consistency of proposals Reduced engineering time Increased speed of machine integration Increased speed of system commissioning

End user benefits:


Increased plant floor space available for manufacturing Reduced Mean time To Repair (MTTR) Faster time to Market

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General Concept of Modular systems


A growing number of system integrators, OEMs and users are evaluating the use of modular manufacturing techniques to lower costs while providing increasingly customized solutions in less time. With traditional approaches (see Figure 1), the mechanical engineering and control systems are performed independently. While parts of designs and drawings may be used from past projects, most of the engineering is custom in nature. After the mechanical and control systems are designed, they are then integrated, started up, debugged, and commissioned. Modular manufacturing systems start with the combination of mechanical assemblies with the required sensors/actuators, automation devices and control software blocks into subsystems. These pre-engineered and pre- documented subsystems are combined to create a customized machine or manufacturing process. Subsystems based on this approach can be combined and recombined, without costly re-engineering. A material handling warehouse distribution center can be used as one example. When an end user purchases a new distribution center the engineering or material-handling firm begins with mechanical engineering laying out a system. This would typically include storage areas, conveying equipment, sortation equipment and so on. When this design is complete the project is sent to electrical engineering. They in turn determine the requirements for motors, sensors, actuators and pilot devices. Control cabinets are designed, built and tested. Depending on the systems and the specification they may be stage completely, in part or integrated with the mechanical equipment at the job site.
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Contrast this to the use of modular automation concepts where the scenario would be as follows: Mechanical and electrical engineering would develop standard electrical designs for each controlled or driver subassembly. Examples would include that each motorized section of conveyor would have a standard electrical drawing and control software that would be self contained for the section, the same could be done for each divert unit on a sortation "subassembly". Now when mechanical engineering lays out the system no control panel construction is required. Electrical engineering stills must do the power distribution and will have the additional task of device level network layout however all the time previously spent building control panels and developing custom application programming is eliminated. Components of Modular Automation Systems There are 3 key components that are required to implement a modular manufacturing system. Pre- Engineered Subsystems: The subsystems include the mechanical assemblies with the required automation devices, sensors and actuators already engineered, documented and installed into them (see Figure below-2a). Each subsystem is terminated with the standardized connection means that allow the quick installation and re-configuration of subsystems with minimal installation time/errors.

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Modular Subsystem Software Instead of using the traditional approach of custom programming, or the major re-addressing or re-entry of control programs, modular subsystems are controlled by interchangeable pre-engineered control software modules (see Figure Below-2b). Standardized object oriented software control languages, provide reusable subsystem libraries. These libraries of subsystem functions are built on a common database and can be quickly combined without reprogramming or re-addressing.

Open Networks The modular-manufacturing trend requires the distribution of intelligence and system functions with a common database. The Modular manufacturing system must also integrate to the rest of the companies' networks and systems. Ethernet and /or device level networks integrate the various subassemblies into the finished solution (see Figure below-3). The networks are also used as the sub-networks to connecting various vendors' devices within the subassemblies.

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Hardware requirements
Control The concepts can be implemented on the following platforms PLC, IPC or Embedded platforms. The selection of the platform depends on the needs of the application. Each of the available platforms offers advantages and compromises, which are summarized on the pages below.

IPC Embedded

HMI

IPC Embedded Text / Graphic displays

Software

Control HMI Diagnostic & set up

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Networks

Device level CanOpen DeviceNet Ethernet INTERBUS Profibus Ethernet

I/O

Machine mount IP20

Drives

System Application Examples


The Lanco's HFL 2002-S Transfer System gives you the flexibility to start with a simple system and to expand or increase automation as your production requirements change. The modularity of the system allows you to modify layouts or reuse modules for new programs. Here are just a few of the types of configurations possible using Lanco's HFL 2002-S Transfer System components

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Traditional Approaches to Automation


1. The Legacy PLC System Beginning some 30 years ago, automation equipment suppliers created custom computers, running proprietary software to replace hard-wired control panels. Over the years, these systems have evolved into complex systems capable of controlling a wide variety of processes. The core technology, however, remains proprietary in both hardware and software. Legacy automation infrastructure for logic control is based on the programmable logic controller (PLC). Early in its existence, this microprocessor-based hardware platform was sold as a "solid-state controller" to alleviate customer fears of using computer technology on the factory floor. It brought a host of opportunities and benefits. One side effect for many in manufacturing, is the fact that PLCs kept the IT departments out of the production environment. While the PLC was an excellent tool in the 1970s and 1980s, it was not designed with the commercial requirements of the 1990s and beyond in mind, nor could it take full advantage of the massive electronics and software changes that have transpired since its conception.

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Likewise, being proprietary, these control systems demand high investment by their users. Manufacturers usually standardize on a single brand, or even a single model in order to keep their training and spare parts burdens tolerable. This standardization also gives them some leverage in price negotiations with the vendor. 2. Custom Designed Software Many times, a clever engineer will study the PLC approach to automation control and conclude that the job can be done better in house. The engineer then uses C, C++, or Visual Basic to create a control system. These custom-written control systems usually run on an embedded computer or a traditional PC platform. They are based on the services provided by a real time operating system (RTOS). Typically, they require a very high level of engineering support to maintain and/or upgrade. Custom control systems usually end up being economical only for those OEMs who can amortize the high development and maintenance costs across many units. These approaches each offer real business challenges for their respective users.

Design costs are difficult to control in either scenario. Despite the availability of Sequential Function Charts and State Logic processors, PLC systems are usually programmed in languages like Relay Ladder Logic that were not created to handle the burdens of modern automation systems. The RLL language, while very good at representing Boolean logic, is not well suited to support modern needs for diagnostics, communications, data analysis, and record keeping. PLC makers have responded to these shortcomings with a bewildering array of special purpose language elements, which only serve to make the programs harder to program and debug. Homegrown control systems are often the creation of a single person the "wizard" - who is the only one who understands how they work. The wizard cannot be free of his creation and the company is still held hostage by the wizard. If the wizard ever leaves the company, the control system becomes a piece of black magic that can never be upgraded or maintained without great expense.

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These same effects limit how quickly new technology can be brought to market. Users of PLC systems struggle with the proprietary nature of these systems. Communications with the higher levels of the organization (MES, ERP, etc.) are difficult and expensive. PC based control systems can have direct and immediate accesses into corporate databases, while PLCs must be connected through expensive hardware and elaborate software. Custom systems suffer from an inability to add even simple features without major engineering efforts. Together, this adds up to difficulty in providing customers with differentiating features at low costs - which reduces competitiveness all the way around. Using proprietary and/or custom control systems can limit the agility and flexibility that manufacturers depend on to survive in today's world.

The PC-Based Control Approach


Today's competitive environment calls out for a higher level of capability, and today's technological advances in computers, software technology, and proliferation of development sources provide answers to that calling. Higher level solutions can enhance flexibility, improve human interaction, and provide improved cost/benefit advantages over predecessor solutions. Examples of this are given in the next section of this paper. These evolved control systems provide manufacturers and integrators with new tools to leverage productivity - many that simply weren't available as little as five years ago. Some of these include:

easy-to-use motion control vision inspection systems bar code and radio-frequency tags to identify and track components graphical displays designed to interact with operators multiple high speed serial port interfaces to connect smart devices Ethernet connectivity to devices that can move a large amount of data in a short time

Today's competitive automation solution must perform with at least the reliability and determinism of PLC systems, and should offer improvement to functions that the legacy systems cannot perform without great difficulty. High level programming languages like flow chart, automated diagnostics,
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increased integration flexibility, and enterprise data connectivity are easily accomplished with PC-Based control.

Case study
Modular Automation for the Aerospace Industry Advanced techniques for manufacturing and assembly enable aircraft suppliers to meet stringent cost targets and time constraints for massive aerospace/defense programs. To meet the challenges of manufacturing airframe components for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, Northrop Grumman Corp.s (Los Angeles) Integrated Systems Sector in El Segundo, CA, is developing a modular, moving assembly line at the Antelope Valley Manufacturing Center in Palmdale, CA, facility where the company assembles the F-35 aircrafts center fuselage. A major subcontractor to Lockheed Martin Corp. (Bethesda, MD) on the F35 JSF program, Northrop Grumman builds composite components for the JSF center fuselage at its El Segundo Manufacturing Center and assembles the system at Palmdale before shipping the completed airframe subassembly to Fort Worth, TX, where Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. performs the F35 aircrafts final assembly. The JSF program is projected to be among the largest military procurements ever, with approximately 3000 of the F-35 multi-role fighters planned for the US Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, British Royal Air Force and Navy, and potentially several allied countries. The first production F-35, an Air Force version, is nearing completion at Fort Worth and will fly later this year. At the El Segundo facilitys composites center, Northrop Grumman builds the composite structures used on the JSF fuselage, as well as major composite airframe components for the US Navys carrier-based F/A-18 aircraft. Besides the F/A-18 and F-35 programs, Northrop Grumman also builds composite and metal components and subassemblies for various aerospace/defense projects including the B-2 bomber, the T-38 training jet, the Global Hawk and the CEV (Crew Entry Vehicle) Space Shuttle successor.

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Refining critical manufacturing processes can be more easily accomplished with collaboration among key players in the aerospace/defense industry. To solve vexing problems in aircraft manufacturing, Northrop Grumman engineers have been working in conjunction with partners in the Aerospace Automation Consortium (AAC), a group coordinated through Purdue Universitys (West Lafayette, IN) School of Technology, on projects to develop new processes including automated burr-less drilling, structural flexible robotic drilling, rapid lowcost tooling for composite fabrication, automated shim application and part loading, automated fastening on assembly systems, and real-time locating systems. Significant contributions have been made to changes in traditional airframe assembly methods by strategic partners such as Comau Pico (Southfield, MI) and Nova-Tech Engineering Inc. (Edmonds, WA).

Automation in the aerospace industry has been around a while, but more in the fabrication side of the industry notes Lance Bryant, director, production engineering, Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems. In the last 10 years or so, its been more common in assembly. But to maintain the tolerances we need, we ended up building large monuments, in order to maintain accuracy in the thousandths of an inch needed for military applications. Such investments are costly, and are cumbersome to switch tooling as factory requirements change. For an aircraft like the F/A-18 E/F, there are

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some 40,000 OML holes to be drilled in Northrop Grummans section of the airframe, which cant be easily done in an automated process. Drilling airframe components constructed of composites with metal substructure such as titanium poses problems when trying to achieve positional accuracy, which is exacerbated by thick material stack-ups. Drilling the composite F-35 engine inlet duct, a bifurcated, serpentine structure, using advanced automation will improve quality and cost, so Northrop Grumman is working on strategic alliances with other aerospace consortium partners such as Comau Pico to develop new automation systems. Automating airframe assembly meant adopting a more modular system similar to the moving lines used by the automotive industry. At Northrop Grummans Antelope Valley Manufacturing Center in Palmdale, the F-35 integrated assembly line uses mechanized and automated systems for the aircrafts center fuselage assembly, with a line that will become capable of producing one complete assembly per day of any of the three F-35 variants. To do so, the production line significantly reduces the use of traditional overhead cranes and larger assembly jigs in favor of an innovative Sequential Universal Rail Fixture, or SURF system, that moves parts and subassemblies between workstations within specific tool systems. The Palmdale factory also employs automated drilling stations that increase positional accuracy and throughput while solving worker-related ergonomic issues. What was found, as we evolve, is that we start locking ourselves into a certain configuration of the assembly line, Bryant adds, because of huge machines with their foundations. Then if you come back and say, Theres a better way of doing it now, the nonrecurring cost of relocating a massive machine with the foundation is too disruptive to the assembly line. Its too costly, and not only that, its very difficult to do. How do you keep producing product, and make changes in the middle of everything, when relocating automation machinery and assembly tooling is such a massive undertaking? To create more modular automation, Northrop Grumman has created alliances with automation integrators, such as Comau Pico and Nova-Tech, looking at automotive industry automation and other methods to see what may work best for aerospace environments.
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The fact is that with the car industry, their rate is so high that it pays to automate. Our production rate is not as high, he adds, so the nonrecurring costs, at times, dont have the ROI, because were not building a thousand a day like the automotive industry. But they have done an amazing amount of development, and we can, and are, using a lot of those innovations to help us automate our assembly lines, and our fabrication houses, where its appropriate. With its integrator partners, Northrop Grumman has worked toward developing future automated drilling, assembly, and paint systems. Theyre working with us as an integrator to help us try to bring all the talent together to create more modular hole-drilling type of equipment, Bryant says, and theyre also working with us to develop an integrated assembly line for the F-35. The idea there is to have a line that is integrated so that it goes from position to position, without cranes, on a rail system, with health monitoring systems that would communicate where the assembly process is from a cost, schedule, and quality view, by embedding the diagnostic equipment into the line. Therefore, youre verifying that quality is being built in as you go, not inspected in after youve built the product, which is defect prevention versus defect detection. Automated burr-less drilling, automated shim application, and structural flexible robotic drilling are among the projects Northrop Grumman is working on for future implementation. Drilling methods and technologies may help eliminate burrs created when drilling composite-metal workpieces for many airframe components. Eliminating deburring on metal substructures and liquid shim repair would save time and cost of repairing holes.If manufacturing can drill a burr-less hole in composite-metal stack assemblies without damaging the liquid shim material, it would save a lot of time and money, Bryant says. Were in the early stages of development and at a low manufacturing-readiness level for burr-less drilling. The industrys been attacking this for ages. Another way we are trying to tackle this is with determinant assembly, which means that holes are drilled in the skin and substructure separately, and then have to match perfectly when assembled. In the end, determinant assembly might be the better way. Automated robotic application of high-tech coatings will enable aircraft like the F-35 and B-2 to maintain a low radar signature, and the application of these coatings requires an automated solution in order to correctly apply the

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viscous materials at a proper thickness without requiring extensive manual re-work. With the automated robotics developments, Northrop Grumman is designing solutions before putting out competitive bids to suppliers. These solutions are still being developed, Bryant says. One challenge is to develop the proper head design, packaged small enough so that it can get into tight areas. Kinematics routines are needed to attain the necessary motion analysis and positional accuracy. We also need to overcome rigidity issues inherent in lightweight systems, to make sure they are capable of drilling through thick structures. We hope to have a solution that we can implement in the 2007 timeframe. At the composites center in El Segundo, Northrop Grumman fabricates most of the composite work pieces used in its aircraft programs. The company also performs all of the drilling and assembly tasks for the F/A-18 program at the facility, as well as F-35 composite component fabrication. Automatic drilling machines from MTorres Group (Navarre, Spain) are used for holemaking on composite-titanium stacks of components for the F/A-18 E/F aircraft. The systems require extremely high precision on a large quantity of holes, with 2600 holes required for the F/A-18 aircrafts twin vertical stabilizers alone. In my opinion, this embodies all the elements of the aircraft, notes Nick Bullen, principal engineer, Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems, regarding the F/A-18 twin vertical stabilizers. This part has elements including composites, steel, aluminum, and titanium, its used for fuel storage, and has hydraulics and electronics inside. Bullen adds. Its one of the most stressed components. The more critical the component, the tighter the tolerances. Positional accuracy here is critical. This Automated Vertical Drilling Machine uses proprietary algorithms and data on the speeds and feeds. With a precision milling machine (PMM) from Droop+Rein (Bielefeld, Germany), a unit of Drries Scharmann Technologie GmbH, the Northrop Grumman facility machines composite parts for the F-35 airframe assembly. It drills, trims, and mills, to very tight tolerances in the low thousandths, over a large envelope, says Bryant of the five-axis PMM.

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The gantry-mounted PMM is set up in a temperature-controlled room, and the airframe parts are first put through a wash to normalize temperature to within a couple degrees of ambient temperature, Bullen notes. The machine then uses a proprietary volumetric compensation algorithm developed by the manufacturer and licensed for use by aircraft manufacturers to mill, drill, and trim the composite components. Capable of cutting in X-Y-Z motion as well as pitch and yaw, the PMM has been producing parts at Northrop Grumman for about a year, Bullen adds. The system is outfitted with an advanced composite dust filtration system from Valiant Cleaning Tech GmbH (Aachen, Germany). In order to meet production requirements, the company may need as many as five to seven more of the PMM systems, which can cost $17-$20 million each. CAD/CAM and simulation help Northrop Grumman engineers at all levels of manufacturing process planning, including toolpath planning simulation, Bryant notes. We are using CATIA V5 and Delmia in all programs across the sector, which includes the advanced Hawkeye, Bryant adds. Our goal, especially in production engineering, is to simulate twice, build once, so were trying to utilize simulation to design the airplane, design manufacturability, design tools, and design the capacity requirements, and how many tools we need. We use simulation for ergonomics development, to make sure people can reach up and access the aircraft from a tool. For toolpath planning, Northrop Grumman uses the Vericut NC verification and optimization software from CGTech Corp. (Irvine, CA). Vericut has programmed into the simulation model the compensation system, and how the machine will react to certain commands, Bryant adds, so when you send the machine from one end to the other and drill a hole, youll know how the head is going to rotate and turn to get oriented for the next hole that its going to go drill. With this system, you dont have to go back in and reverse-engineer the path planning like we used to have to do for collisionavoidance. We do it all upfront, and then we download the program into the robot and were ready to go.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY
1. http://www.sme.org/cgi-bin/find-articles 2. http://www.sme.org/manufacturingengineering 3. www.siemens.com/automation/newscentre 4. phoenixcon.com 5. http://www.cage.curtin.edu.au/

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