Thyracont Vacuum Instruments is the first manufacturer of vacuum measurement technology offering transducers which comply with OPC UA, an open data transfer standard for industrial communication. OPC UA allows
a safe data transmission from machine to machine or machine to PC, independent of manufacturer, programming language or operating system.
Vacuum transducers of the SmartlineTM product family are able to communicate with OPC UA servers by means of their Profinet® interface. They support bidirectional and lossless flow of high quality data and information between all components on field level through production control level and corporate management level up to the cloud. Practically this results in a variety of profitable options for the user.
One of the most important points will be the issue of predictive maintenance, i.e. the proactive servicing of machines and devices. SmartlineTM transducers provide far more data than only pressure readings. They will also transmit parameters such as operating hours, the time of the last sensor readjustment, status of the gauge and a parameter reflecting the vacuum sensor’s degree of wear. Naturally all relevant parameters can also be accessed by means of our VacuGraphTM software.
The PLC can use this information to define and identify deviations in order to initiate timely maintenance measures. This will help to minimize downtime and save service as well as process cost due to system failures. Further one could imagine to automatically generate proposals for the purchase of spare parts in the operator’s ERP system or have information about required maintenance action sent to a service technician.
A further area of application is using bidirectional data transfer to optimize processes. As all system components work with the same standards an overall network integration becomes possible, so that future process automation can be realized in an even easier way.
For example, such a vacuum transducer attached to a coating plant could identify the end of a process cycle by pressure change and assign a switch to unlock the chamber door and trigger a green light. Additionally system control can send a push notification to the worker’s tablet PC, so he can unload the chamber without delay. This way several chambers could be monitored simultaneously without having the permanent need to be present on site.
If transducer or system control have detected any anomaly such as air leakage or heavy outgassing, they can instantly stop the process or display warning messages. Again, application technicians and production planning can be informed quickly via push notification including failure type and detailed protocol. In a worst case scenario the failed batch can be automatically declared NIO, further production planned for this appliance can be put on hold and all subsequent processes re-scheduled.
The given examples clearly show the potential of a common interface standard for all system components. By implementation of Profinet and the associated opening against OPC UA (e.g. by a PLC) Thyracont SmartlineTM transducers establish a basis for industry 4.0. The functionality of these devices will remain geared to the latest standards of industry 4.0 in the future.