Harting has used its own MICA mini-computer in a digital retrofit project, effectively bridging the gap between an injection moulding machine and the company's ERP/MES system.
Two of the fastest ways to improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness of production systems and machines are centralised machine monitoring and process optimisation. However, with machinery lifetimes of between 15 and 30 years, a large part of the existing machine stock usually possesses neither the computing power nor the memory capacity to capture, store or communicate relevant data. In many cases, these machines also use data formats and protocols from the 1980s and 1990s – meaning they have long since stopped being supported by PLCs and industrial PCs.
A retrofit example can be found in an injection moulding machine used in Harting’s connector manufacturing line, which communicates via the EUROMAP 15 protocol. The protocol is no longer state-of-the-art. Virtualisation in the MES system is neither economically viable nor desirable in terms of operational safety. Here, Harting's MICA mini ruggedised computer bridges the gap between the injection moulding machine and the ERP/MES by implementing the RAMI 4.0 management shell.
Next is the deployment of the EUROMAP 15 interface, which, while it is present in the machine, has nevertheless not been used due to the lack of a suitable communication partner. EUROMAP 15 is a relatively simple protocol that specifies the exchange of information between a machine and a host computer. Various telegrams are defined to achieve this, such as the interrogation of the production status or the transmission of settings data, which are exchanged as coded byte sequences. The specification of the protocol comprises a total of eight documents, including the elementary communication protocol, the monitoring and control of production, the transfer of data records or the transfer of variables. In this application, the MICA is being used to implement the entire protocol and perform the encoding and decoding of the telegrams. The machine's telegrams, received as byte sequences, are transformed into natural-language JSON objects and are therefore available for modern communication systems such as MQTT or OPC UA. In the other direction, the MICA handles the conversion back to byte sequences and communicates with the machine in accordance with the protocol.
Thanks to the modular open-source design of the MICA, existing MICA containers and open source code could be accessed and development time was substantially reduced. The modularity and the use of an intermediate JSON format also makes it possible to integrate other legacy systems with minimal effort.
On the server side, the approach also offers extreme flexibility and connectivity: other protocols and data sinks can be supported by incorporating an appropriate container such as the Cloud connectors for IBM Bluemix, SAP Hana, Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services.
Follow the link for more information about Harting's MICA mini ruggedised computer.