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Whatever happened to the Fourth Industrial Revolution?



It’s nearly ten years since Industry 4.0, also known as I4.0 or the Fourth Industrial Revolution, was first hailed as the next significant transformation in manufacturing. The digital revolution would be all-consuming, we were told, covering robotics, advanced manufacturing processes such as 3D printing and the digitisation of the factory and the supply chain.

Where are we now, as we approach the year 2020, and what does the future hold for the revolution?

Since I4.0 arrived on the scene, companies have experimented and piloted digital technologies such as AI, machine-learning and Internet of Things devices. There are many examples of these new technologies being put to good use: digital twins and digital representations of the physical manufacturing processes are being used to refine and improve existing processes, as well as to design radically different manufacturing approaches. Work by my company PA Consulting at a leading pharmaceutical manufacturer has achieved efficiency improvements of between 10 and 20 per cent by using machine learning and AI through digital representations of the physical processes.

However, very few companies, especially in the UK, have translated these into practical solutions in their factories. A recent survey by PA of smart supply chains and manufacturing found that although 99 per cent of manufacturing companies have started the digitisation journey, some 70 per cent say their plans are only at a basic or developing stage. Why have so many tested the technologies but not adopted them more widely to revolutionise their industry?

The answer seems to be that although many companies have piloted and tested different I4.0 technologies, they have not built a clear vision of how they want to use them to transform manufacturing across their business. We see pockets of success and capability, but not a transformed business. What sets the more successful companies apart is that they are systematically looking at how they roll out the technologies across their operations. As an example, a life sciences company we worked with has recently agreed a clear I4.0 vision for its supply chain and manufacturing and this is being used to focus and accelerate delivery of initiatives across the business.

Legacy IT is also becoming a consistent challenge for manufacturers whose ageing enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems cannot cope with the cloud-based digital technologies that are powering I4.0. A good example is an aerospace company which has identified that legacy ERP and manufacturing execution (MES) systems and restrictions on cloud computing are hindering rollout of I4.0 technologies. ERP vendors are waking up to this, but it has taken nearly five years for them to update their solutions and implementation is still too slow to support the agility and flexibility required. That means there is more to be done to ensure manufacturers can exploit data and systems and integrate new solutions with legacy systems so they can use their data to derive insights.

The other major challenge that organisations have faced is the availability of the people and talent needed to develop the new technologies and support the capability development of the existing workforce. The best performers have data scientists working alongside engineers and production operators to digitise the manufacturing process, but a fundamental shift in velocity will be required to train enough experts to seize the opportunities that are now opening up.

What do the next ten years hold for I4.0? We believe that many of the bedrock capabilities and technologies have been tested in organisations and that the next decade will be all about translating the promise into a fundamental transformation of manufacturing and its supply chains.

Addressing the barriers to adoption is within the grasp of manufacturing organisations, but a clear vision is needed of where they want to be in five years’ time. That means deciding whether the focus will be on driving existing performance, building connectivity across the supply chain or transforming to more agile and responsive manufacturing that is in total sync with customer needs. It will require IT departments to actively embrace cloud and digital technologies to support supply chain and manufacturing business to transform, as well as needing HR to establish effective partnerships with operations to address the talent gap.

While I4.0 progress has been slow over the last ten years, there is an argument that being late to the game may not be a bad thing. It means companies can piggyback off the testing and investment made by others, but they will need to act fast, bring the technology into the mainstream and make manufacturing an exciting and attractive career option.

Tim Lawrence is head of manufacturing at PA Consulting.

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It’s nearly ten years since Industry 4.0, also known as I4.0 or the Fourth Industrial Revolution, was first hailed as the next significant transformation in manufacturing. The digital revolution would be all-consuming, we were told, covering robotics, advanced manufacturing processes such as 3D printing and the digitisation of the factory and the supply chain.

Where are we now, as we approach the year 2020, and what does the future hold for the revolution?

Since I4.0 arrived on the scene, companies have experimented and piloted digital technologies such as AI, machine-learning and Internet of Things devices. There are many examples of these new technologies being put to good use: digital twins and digital representations of the physical manufacturing processes are being used to refine and improve existing processes, as well as to design radically different manufacturing approaches. Work by my company PA Consulting at a leading pharmaceutical manufacturer has achieved efficiency improvements of between 10 and 20 per cent by using machine learning and AI through digital representations of the physical processes.

However, very few companies, especially in the UK, have translated these into practical solutions in their factories. A recent survey by PA of smart supply chains and manufacturing found that although 99 per cent of manufacturing companies have started the digitisation journey, some 70 per cent say their plans are only at a basic or developing stage. Why have so many tested the technologies but not adopted them more widely to revolutionise their industry?

The answer seems to be that although many companies have piloted and tested different I4.0 technologies, they have not built a clear vision of how they want to use them to transform manufacturing across their business. We see pockets of success and capability, but not a transformed business. What sets the more successful companies apart is that they are systematically looking at how they roll out the technologies across their operations. As an example, a life sciences company we worked with has recently agreed a clear I4.0 vision for its supply chain and manufacturing and this is being used to focus and accelerate delivery of initiatives across the business.

Legacy IT is also becoming a consistent challenge for manufacturers whose ageing enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems cannot cope with the cloud-based digital technologies that are powering I4.0. A good example is an aerospace company which has identified that legacy ERP and manufacturing execution (MES) systems and restrictions on cloud computing are hindering rollout of I4.0 technologies. ERP vendors are waking up to this, but it has taken nearly five years for them to update their solutions and implementation is still too slow to support the agility and flexibility required. That means there is more to be done to ensure manufacturers can exploit data and systems and integrate new solutions with legacy systems so they can use their data to derive insights.

The other major challenge that organisations have faced is the availability of the people and talent needed to develop the new technologies and support the capability development of the existing workforce. The best performers have data scientists working alongside engineers and production operators to digitise the manufacturing process, but a fundamental shift in velocity will be required to train enough experts to seize the opportunities that are now opening up.

What do the next ten years hold for I4.0? We believe that many of the bedrock capabilities and technologies have been tested in organisations and that the next decade will be all about translating the promise into a fundamental transformation of manufacturing and its supply chains.

Addressing the barriers to adoption is within the grasp of manufacturing organisations, but a clear vision is needed of where they want to be in five years’ time. That means deciding whether the focus will be on driving existing performance, building connectivity across the supply chain or transforming to more agile and responsive manufacturing that is in total sync with customer needs. It will require IT departments to actively embrace cloud and digital technologies to support supply chain and manufacturing business to transform, as well as needing HR to establish effective partnerships with operations to address the talent gap.

While I4.0 progress has been slow over the last ten years, there is an argument that being late to the game may not be a bad thing. It means companies can piggyback off the testing and investment made by others, but they will need to act fast, bring the technology into the mainstream and make manufacturing an exciting and attractive career option.

Tim Lawrence is head of manufacturing at PA Consulting.


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Publicado el 31/10/2019 en manufacturing, control and automation, manufacturing industries, industry 4.0, manufacturing, comment, volume 14 issue 11 12

Entrepreneurs welcome at Barclays’ latest Eagle Lab at Plexal, East London



One of 24 such spaces that the bank has opened across the UK, Barclays’ Eagle Labs aim to work as incubators for new ideas, bringing together a community of likeminded entrepreneurs and providing them with access to a collaborative environment, peer networks and growth opportunities.

The focus is to help accelerate UK scale-ups and enable access to new and emerging ‘Industry 4.0’ technologies such as AI, blockchain, 3D printing, advanced manufacturing, robotics and the Internet of Things.

This latest iteration - the Eagle Lab at Plexal– is based at the Plexal innovation centre, located at the Here East campus in East London. Launched in 2017, Plexal is designed as a mini-city, with its own indoor park, high street, indoor street food and a prototyping workshop. The various startup and scaleup members of Plexal’s workspace benefit from a comprehensive programme of events and in-house professional services.

Plexal was also appointed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport to deliver the London Office for Rapid Cybersecurity Advancement (LORCA), a three-year innovation programme aimed at scaling the cyber-security solutions needed most by industry.

Eagle Lab at Plexal includes a workshop space, co-working desks, a maker space and a dedicated Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality zone. Entrepreneurs using the space are supported by an Ecosystem Manager and a dedicated Lab Engineer who provide the technical expertise, mentoring and connections required for Industry 4.0 businesses to flourish.

Many of Plexal’s existing members, such as Valkyrie Industries (developing a universal technology of haptic touch for virtual simulations) and Massless (creators of the Massless Pen for more intuitive input in 2D and 3D interfaces), will take desk space in the Eagle Lab. All Plexal members will enjoy free access to the Lab, as well as guidance from the team. Barclays’ local business banking teams and specialist ‘high-growth’ managers are also available to provide banking support to companies and entrepreneurs.

Jon Hope, director Barclays Eagle Labs, said: “Plexal is an ideal location for our dedicated Industry 4.0 Eagle Lab and this new facility will further our investment in London’s entrepreneurs. The fourth industrial revolution is changing how and where we all work and the skills we need. Eagle Labs is committed to supporting develop skills in entrepreneurship, innovation and in new and emerging technologies such as AI, data exchange, connected devices, advanced manufacturing and much more.

“As a partner, Plexal is as passionate as we are about helping London’s entrepreneurs to maintain their position at the forefront of technology.”

Andrew Roughan, managing director at Plexal, said: “It’s essential that everyone in society has the skills needed for Industry 4.0, so we’re excited and proud to be hosting Barclays’ flagship Eagle Labs right at the heart of our innovation centre. It’s hugely beneficial for our members to have access to the equipment in the lab, along with the expertise of the Barclays’ team. This is the start of an exciting journey, as we witness how our community of creatives, designers, engineers, coders and makers comes together to find new and innovative solutions.”

The opening of Eagle Lab at Plexal follows the creation in 2018 of a new business unit at Barclays called Barclays Ventures. Barclays Ventures has an independent mandate to deliver new customer experiences at pace and scale – ultimately driving growth for communities, businesses and Barclays – and is responsible for growing the Eagle Lab network.

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One of 24 such spaces that the bank has opened across the UK, Barclays’ Eagle Labs aim to work as incubators for new ideas, bringing together a community of likeminded entrepreneurs and providing them with access to a collaborative environment, peer networks and growth opportunities.

The focus is to help accelerate UK scale-ups and enable access to new and emerging ‘Industry 4.0’ technologies such as AI, blockchain, 3D printing, advanced manufacturing, robotics and the Internet of Things.

This latest iteration - the Eagle Lab at Plexal– is based at the Plexal innovation centre, located at the Here East campus in East London. Launched in 2017, Plexal is designed as a mini-city, with its own indoor park, high street, indoor street food and a prototyping workshop. The various startup and scaleup members of Plexal’s workspace benefit from a comprehensive programme of events and in-house professional services.

Plexal was also appointed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport to deliver the London Office for Rapid Cybersecurity Advancement (LORCA), a three-year innovation programme aimed at scaling the cyber-security solutions needed most by industry.

Eagle Lab at Plexal includes a workshop space, co-working desks, a maker space and a dedicated Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality zone. Entrepreneurs using the space are supported by an Ecosystem Manager and a dedicated Lab Engineer who provide the technical expertise, mentoring and connections required for Industry 4.0 businesses to flourish.

Many of Plexal’s existing members, such as Valkyrie Industries (developing a universal technology of haptic touch for virtual simulations) and Massless (creators of the Massless Pen for more intuitive input in 2D and 3D interfaces), will take desk space in the Eagle Lab. All Plexal members will enjoy free access to the Lab, as well as guidance from the team. Barclays’ local business banking teams and specialist ‘high-growth’ managers are also available to provide banking support to companies and entrepreneurs.

Jon Hope, director Barclays Eagle Labs, said: “Plexal is an ideal location for our dedicated Industry 4.0 Eagle Lab and this new facility will further our investment in London’s entrepreneurs. The fourth industrial revolution is changing how and where we all work and the skills we need. Eagle Labs is committed to supporting develop skills in entrepreneurship, innovation and in new and emerging technologies such as AI, data exchange, connected devices, advanced manufacturing and much more.

“As a partner, Plexal is as passionate as we are about helping London’s entrepreneurs to maintain their position at the forefront of technology.”

Andrew Roughan, managing director at Plexal, said: “It’s essential that everyone in society has the skills needed for Industry 4.0, so we’re excited and proud to be hosting Barclays’ flagship Eagle Labs right at the heart of our innovation centre. It’s hugely beneficial for our members to have access to the equipment in the lab, along with the expertise of the Barclays’ team. This is the start of an exciting journey, as we witness how our community of creatives, designers, engineers, coders and makers comes together to find new and innovative solutions.”

The opening of Eagle Lab at Plexal follows the creation in 2018 of a new business unit at Barclays called Barclays Ventures. Barclays Ventures has an independent mandate to deliver new customer experiences at pace and scale – ultimately driving growth for communities, businesses and Barclays – and is responsible for growing the Eagle Lab network.


Leer más

Publicado el 25/09/2019 en entrepreneurship, entrepreneurs, innovation, research and innovation, industry 4.0, artificial intelligence, business, blockchain, 3d printing

Raspberry Pi 4 unveiled; interview with founder Eben Upton



Eben Upton, Raspberry Pi founder and co-creator of the miniature Linux-based device, said the new computer is the first Raspberry Pi to deliver on the kind of desktop experience that consumers expect without any of the performance-related “compromises” experienced with the earlier generations.

For the first time, the machine will be available with up to 4GB of Ram and a range of pricier bundle packages will also include a mouse, keyboard, SD card, power supply, cables and case.

raspberry pi 4

Image credit: raspberry pi

New features also include gigabit ethernet, a step up from the 100mbit ports of previous generations that proved to be a sore point for enthusiasts, and USB 3.0 ports, rather than 2.0.

Originally launched in 2012, the Pi is a single-board computer running off an Arm chip that is designed to be low-cost, user customisable and was created with education and developing countries in mind.

With its enhanced specs allowing for greater media capabilities, the Raspberry Pi 4 is also being aimed at more traditional consumer markets as a cheap media centre or Linux desktop environment.

E&T spoke to Upton (pictured) to discuss all things Pi and why he is more excited about the Raspberry Pi 4 than previous generations.

EBEN upton raspberry pi

Image credit: raspberry pi

On the Raspberry Pi 4

“I can’t decide if this is the most exciting thing we’ve done since Raspberry Pi 2 or the most exciting thing we’ve done ever. It is the realisation of the dream; it’s a PC and this is the first time that there really are no compromises.

“If you think about who’s buying Raspberry Pis, you’ve got people buying it for industrial use, you’ve got hobbyists and makers and then you have a pool of people who are buying it as a genuine consumer-end product.

“We’ve sold about 26 or 27 million lifetime so far, six million last year. Probably half of those went to industry. It’s now an ultra-HD (4K) platform, whereas previous generations were restricted to 1080P video playback.

“We’ve put quite a lot of effort this time into the UX, into polishing everything a little bit and making the user interface look modern and flat.

“We’ve moved down a process node [on the Arm processor] so we were on 40nm and we’re now on 28nm. The energy savings that you get from that then pay for the extra performance that you get out of it.

“It is now USB-C for power, not because we want to have more power on the board, but because we want to have more power left over to pass down to outbound USB [like keyboards and mice]. There isn’t really the ability to consume more thermally, it’s hard to consume more on the board.

On manufacturing and how automation makes Wales cheaper than China

“We’ve seen manufacturing costs decrease. If you think about what goes into a Raspberry Pi, you have components, you have manufacturing costs and taking those components and making a working product. And then you have margin.

“What’s happened is that margins have stayed largely the same and we’ve squeezed manufacturing costs through automation and expanded the fraction of the end price devoted to components. Particularly putting Wi-FiI on was a significant extra slug of cash per unit [Wi-Fi was first added in 2016 with the Raspberry Pi 3].

“You’ve got three things that are driving an increase in performance: you’ve got Moore’s law; you’ve got the general cheapening of electronics; you have automation, which reduces the manufacturing cost element, and then you have economies of scale, effectively purchasing power.

raspberry pi

Image credit: raspberry pi

“It was a very different world when we were building 10,000 versus now when we build six million units a year. We tend to pass those through to consumers: when we get cost savings in any of those areas, we tend to put more value into the product, rather than making a bigger profit. It’s one of the things that’s meant that we’ve stayed competitive over time.

“It’s a lower cost to make [Raspberry Pi’s] in the UK than in China. We did it in 2012, we built it in China. I think at low volume it is cheaper because you use more people and people are cheaper in China.

“As you get to more scaling, particularly with a fairly low-touch product like this, where you can put a lot of automation into the manufacturing, you’ll find that the excellence in automation design that we have in this country burns through any labour advantage over China.

“Even in 2012, we were at landed cost parity. We started building in the UK within six months of launch. At that point, the factory gate cost was a little higher in the UK, but once you’ve landed, China and the UK were the same.

“With increasing automation we’ve opened a massive gap between what this cost to make in China and what this cost to make in Wales. We’re not moving stuff to the UK because we’re nice guys; we build in the UK because we’re cheap. That's a core part of the value and the way we can deliver the product at price.

“We used to have manual inspection and tests for the first generation. This doesn't exist any more. Right now, somebody takes the PI, breaks it out of a panel, puts it in a little carrier, it gets whisked off into completely automated machinery.

“About one in a thousand gets scrapped. That's still a lot of units if you're making six million; you end up with a couple of pallets a year of scrap.

On developing countries and why it’s so hard to sell computers in Brazil

“We’ve spent quite a long time trying to get Raspberry Pis into the Brazil market and that’s because it’s so tax heavy. It's very difficult: Brazil really wants you to manufacture your products in Brazil.

“We tried manufacturing products in Brazil and couldn’t figure out how to sell them, so we just exported them to the US. We built around 1,000 in Brazil and they just sat there in the factory while we tried to figure out what the tax situation for them was. Even though we built them in Brazil, it was almost impossible to figure out.

“Then you have places like sub-Saharan Africa. One thing about this product is that it has analogue television output, so you can run this desktop on a composite telly from 1960. The thing is, Africa itself is rammed full of old televisions.

“The interesting thing about TVs in the developing world is that people buy them before they buy refrigerators. Televisions are useful if you have intermittent electricity, you can use it sometimes. If you have seriously intermittent electricity, refrigeration is of no use.

“I've been roundly mocked for keeping composite in the feature set, but it's specifically for this Africa problem.

“You've also got two HDMI connectors and you've got four USB ports, so you can plug two monitors, two mice, two keyboards in and you have a multi-user session. That obviously halves your hardware cost.”

On getting Windows to run on a Raspberry Pi

“So, there are two Windows Arm versions. There’s this thing called Windows 10 IOT which does run on Raspberry Pis but it’s not the familiar desktop environment. It’s great, but we don’t describe that as ‘We run Windows’ because we’re just setting people up for disappointment.

“There is then the Windows Arm version that runs on always-on ultrabook PCs. Some people have managed to get some versions of that running on earlier versions of Raspberry Pis.

“We would love to work with Microsoft to have Windows on Raspberry Pi, there is a value proposition for it which is primarily around Office, but we're not there yet.

“The Raspberry Pi 4 has enough performance to run Windows extremely well. There would be some substantial pieces of software engineering to make it work, but there are no conceptual barriers. It has enough performance. I mean, it’s more powerful than any Windows PC from a decade ago.”

On the Raspberry Pi 5 and hopes for the future

“What’s interesting is that with Raspberry Pi 3 we had some of everything, so we had wired networking, wireless networking, USB, processing, graphics and general purpose interfacing.

“It takes about three years [to develop each generation of the Pi]. The quickest we’ve ever done was about 18 months, on the Pi 3. The longest we've ever done was these 3 years for the Pi 4.

“[The Raspberry Pi 4] is just the same, but more. Where we had USB 2.0, we now have USB 3.0. Where we had 100 megabit ethernet, we have gigabit ethernet. Where we had a gigabyte of Ram, we now have up to four. Where we had an A53 processor we now have an A72.

“But there’s nothing on there which is qualitatively different; it’s all just quantitative. That’s probably not an unreasonable description of where we might find ourselves.

“There’s 16nm and 7nm as the obvious next stopping points [for future processors]. We don’t have any plans at the moment, but there are places left to go. This platform should be good for another few years.

“28 is a great process, the nice thing about arriving so late is that it’s a very stable process. We might stay on it for five to seven years while we wait for 16 to get a bit cheaper or for 7 to stop being so unstable.”

Leer más



Eben Upton, Raspberry Pi founder and co-creator of the miniature Linux-based device, said the new computer is the first Raspberry Pi to deliver on the kind of desktop experience that consumers expect without any of the performance-related “compromises” experienced with the earlier generations.

For the first time, the machine will be available with up to 4GB of Ram and a range of pricier bundle packages will also include a mouse, keyboard, SD card, power supply, cables and case.

raspberry pi 4

Image credit: raspberry pi

New features also include gigabit ethernet, a step up from the 100mbit ports of previous generations that proved to be a sore point for enthusiasts, and USB 3.0 ports, rather than 2.0.

Originally launched in 2012, the Pi is a single-board computer running off an Arm chip that is designed to be low-cost, user customisable and was created with education and developing countries in mind.

With its enhanced specs allowing for greater media capabilities, the Raspberry Pi 4 is also being aimed at more traditional consumer markets as a cheap media centre or Linux desktop environment.

E&T spoke to Upton (pictured) to discuss all things Pi and why he is more excited about the Raspberry Pi 4 than previous generations.

EBEN upton raspberry pi

Image credit: raspberry pi

On the Raspberry Pi 4

“I can’t decide if this is the most exciting thing we’ve done since Raspberry Pi 2 or the most exciting thing we’ve done ever. It is the realisation of the dream; it’s a PC and this is the first time that there really are no compromises.

“If you think about who’s buying Raspberry Pis, you’ve got people buying it for industrial use, you’ve got hobbyists and makers and then you have a pool of people who are buying it as a genuine consumer-end product.

“We’ve sold about 26 or 27 million lifetime so far, six million last year. Probably half of those went to industry. It’s now an ultra-HD (4K) platform, whereas previous generations were restricted to 1080P video playback.

“We’ve put quite a lot of effort this time into the UX, into polishing everything a little bit and making the user interface look modern and flat.

“We’ve moved down a process node [on the Arm processor] so we were on 40nm and we’re now on 28nm. The energy savings that you get from that then pay for the extra performance that you get out of it.

“It is now USB-C for power, not because we want to have more power on the board, but because we want to have more power left over to pass down to outbound USB [like keyboards and mice]. There isn’t really the ability to consume more thermally, it’s hard to consume more on the board.

On manufacturing and how automation makes Wales cheaper than China

“We’ve seen manufacturing costs decrease. If you think about what goes into a Raspberry Pi, you have components, you have manufacturing costs and taking those components and making a working product. And then you have margin.

“What’s happened is that margins have stayed largely the same and we’ve squeezed manufacturing costs through automation and expanded the fraction of the end price devoted to components. Particularly putting Wi-FiI on was a significant extra slug of cash per unit [Wi-Fi was first added in 2016 with the Raspberry Pi 3].

“You’ve got three things that are driving an increase in performance: you’ve got Moore’s law; you’ve got the general cheapening of electronics; you have automation, which reduces the manufacturing cost element, and then you have economies of scale, effectively purchasing power.

raspberry pi

Image credit: raspberry pi

“It was a very different world when we were building 10,000 versus now when we build six million units a year. We tend to pass those through to consumers: when we get cost savings in any of those areas, we tend to put more value into the product, rather than making a bigger profit. It’s one of the things that’s meant that we’ve stayed competitive over time.

“It’s a lower cost to make [Raspberry Pi’s] in the UK than in China. We did it in 2012, we built it in China. I think at low volume it is cheaper because you use more people and people are cheaper in China.

“As you get to more scaling, particularly with a fairly low-touch product like this, where you can put a lot of automation into the manufacturing, you’ll find that the excellence in automation design that we have in this country burns through any labour advantage over China.

“Even in 2012, we were at landed cost parity. We started building in the UK within six months of launch. At that point, the factory gate cost was a little higher in the UK, but once you’ve landed, China and the UK were the same.

“With increasing automation we’ve opened a massive gap between what this cost to make in China and what this cost to make in Wales. We’re not moving stuff to the UK because we’re nice guys; we build in the UK because we’re cheap. That's a core part of the value and the way we can deliver the product at price.

“We used to have manual inspection and tests for the first generation. This doesn't exist any more. Right now, somebody takes the PI, breaks it out of a panel, puts it in a little carrier, it gets whisked off into completely automated machinery.

“About one in a thousand gets scrapped. That's still a lot of units if you're making six million; you end up with a couple of pallets a year of scrap.

On developing countries and why it’s so hard to sell computers in Brazil

“We’ve spent quite a long time trying to get Raspberry Pis into the Brazil market and that’s because it’s so tax heavy. It's very difficult: Brazil really wants you to manufacture your products in Brazil.

“We tried manufacturing products in Brazil and couldn’t figure out how to sell them, so we just exported them to the US. We built around 1,000 in Brazil and they just sat there in the factory while we tried to figure out what the tax situation for them was. Even though we built them in Brazil, it was almost impossible to figure out.

“Then you have places like sub-Saharan Africa. One thing about this product is that it has analogue television output, so you can run this desktop on a composite telly from 1960. The thing is, Africa itself is rammed full of old televisions.

“The interesting thing about TVs in the developing world is that people buy them before they buy refrigerators. Televisions are useful if you have intermittent electricity, you can use it sometimes. If you have seriously intermittent electricity, refrigeration is of no use.

“I've been roundly mocked for keeping composite in the feature set, but it's specifically for this Africa problem.

“You've also got two HDMI connectors and you've got four USB ports, so you can plug two monitors, two mice, two keyboards in and you have a multi-user session. That obviously halves your hardware cost.”

On getting Windows to run on a Raspberry Pi

“So, there are two Windows Arm versions. There’s this thing called Windows 10 IOT which does run on Raspberry Pis but it’s not the familiar desktop environment. It’s great, but we don’t describe that as ‘We run Windows’ because we’re just setting people up for disappointment.

“There is then the Windows Arm version that runs on always-on ultrabook PCs. Some people have managed to get some versions of that running on earlier versions of Raspberry Pis.

“We would love to work with Microsoft to have Windows on Raspberry Pi, there is a value proposition for it which is primarily around Office, but we're not there yet.

“The Raspberry Pi 4 has enough performance to run Windows extremely well. There would be some substantial pieces of software engineering to make it work, but there are no conceptual barriers. It has enough performance. I mean, it’s more powerful than any Windows PC from a decade ago.”

On the Raspberry Pi 5 and hopes for the future

“What’s interesting is that with Raspberry Pi 3 we had some of everything, so we had wired networking, wireless networking, USB, processing, graphics and general purpose interfacing.

“It takes about three years [to develop each generation of the Pi]. The quickest we’ve ever done was about 18 months, on the Pi 3. The longest we've ever done was these 3 years for the Pi 4.

“[The Raspberry Pi 4] is just the same, but more. Where we had USB 2.0, we now have USB 3.0. Where we had 100 megabit ethernet, we have gigabit ethernet. Where we had a gigabyte of Ram, we now have up to four. Where we had an A53 processor we now have an A72.

“But there’s nothing on there which is qualitatively different; it’s all just quantitative. That’s probably not an unreasonable description of where we might find ourselves.

“There’s 16nm and 7nm as the obvious next stopping points [for future processors]. We don’t have any plans at the moment, but there are places left to go. This platform should be good for another few years.

“28 is a great process, the nice thing about arriving so late is that it’s a very stable process. We might stay on it for five to seven years while we wait for 16 to get a bit cheaper or for 7 to stop being so unstable.”


Leer más

Publicado el 24/06/2019 en information and communications, computer hardware, computers, raspberry pi, gadgets, developing countries, manufacturing, consumer technology, industry 4.0, computing

Smart glove with ultra-thin flexible film developed for Industry 4.0



According to members of the team who created the film, it can establish a direct connection between the virtual and real working worlds, where man and machine could work hand-in-hand.

The research team led by Professor Stefan Seelecke achieved this through the use of smart silicone films, with another goal of the research work being to assist the wearer of the glove by transmitting tactile signals, such as pulses or vibrations, that are produced by the polymer film.

The researchers took an ultra-lightweight, highly flexible film made from an elastic polymer and have turned it into an adaptable “sensory organ” for a variety of technical applications.

By lining a glove with the polymer film, manufacturers can create a man-machine interface without the need for heavy sensors or cameras. This can be done by the ultra-thin plastic film that is not felt by the wearer and does not restrict them when carrying out their work.

“The film we use is known as a dielectric elastomer and the glove essentially functions as a flexible sensor,” explained Professor Seelecke, who heads research teams at the Intelligent Material Systems Lab at the university and at ZeMA (Centre for Mechatronics and Automation Technology) in Saarbrücken.

An electrically conducting material is printed onto both sides of the silicone film. When a voltage is applied to the film, the resulting electrostatic attractive forces cause the film to compress. This extends the film laterally and thus increasing its surface area, which in turn alters the electrical capacitance of the film.

This property effectively transforms the film into a sensor. “We can assign a precise electrical capacitance value to any particular position of the film,” said Steffen Hau, a PhD engineer working in Seelecke’s team.

The engineers therefore know at any moment just how a finger is stretching, pulling or compressing the film. Using algorithms, the team was able to compute these motion sequences in a control unit and then process the results with a computer.

Doctoral student Sebastian Gratz-Kelly from Professor Stefan Seelecke's research group demonstrates the prototype glove

PhD student Sebastian Gratz-Kelly from Professor Stefan Seelecke's research group demonstrates the prototype glove; Oliver Dietze

Image credit: Oliver Dietze

Furthering the development process, the researchers aim to enable the glove to communicate directly with the wearer by means of tactile signals, such as pulses or vibrations, that would be sensed by the wearer’s fingers.

“The computer could then send, for instance, a pulsed signal to the operator’s fingertips to tell them, ‘You’ve taken the wrong component’, or a vibrating signal to confirm, ‘That is the right component”,” Hau explained .

The thin silicone can also be made to pulse or vibrate on demand or to take up any required shape. The researchers can control their silicone film and can continuously vary the frequency of its motion as required, from high-frequency vibrations down to a slow pulsing or flexing motion.

In the future, this responsive film could be used to prevent assembly operators or technicians picking up the wrong component for sorting bins.

The team plans to showcase the protype glove at the technical trade fair Hannover Messe from the 1-5 April 2019 at the Saarland Research and Innovation Stand.

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According to members of the team who created the film, it can establish a direct connection between the virtual and real working worlds, where man and machine could work hand-in-hand.

The research team led by Professor Stefan Seelecke achieved this through the use of smart silicone films, with another goal of the research work being to assist the wearer of the glove by transmitting tactile signals, such as pulses or vibrations, that are produced by the polymer film.

The researchers took an ultra-lightweight, highly flexible film made from an elastic polymer and have turned it into an adaptable “sensory organ” for a variety of technical applications.

By lining a glove with the polymer film, manufacturers can create a man-machine interface without the need for heavy sensors or cameras. This can be done by the ultra-thin plastic film that is not felt by the wearer and does not restrict them when carrying out their work.

“The film we use is known as a dielectric elastomer and the glove essentially functions as a flexible sensor,” explained Professor Seelecke, who heads research teams at the Intelligent Material Systems Lab at the university and at ZeMA (Centre for Mechatronics and Automation Technology) in Saarbrücken.

An electrically conducting material is printed onto both sides of the silicone film. When a voltage is applied to the film, the resulting electrostatic attractive forces cause the film to compress. This extends the film laterally and thus increasing its surface area, which in turn alters the electrical capacitance of the film.

This property effectively transforms the film into a sensor. “We can assign a precise electrical capacitance value to any particular position of the film,” said Steffen Hau, a PhD engineer working in Seelecke’s team.

The engineers therefore know at any moment just how a finger is stretching, pulling or compressing the film. Using algorithms, the team was able to compute these motion sequences in a control unit and then process the results with a computer.

Doctoral student Sebastian Gratz-Kelly from Professor Stefan Seelecke's research group demonstrates the prototype glove

PhD student Sebastian Gratz-Kelly from Professor Stefan Seelecke's research group demonstrates the prototype glove; Oliver Dietze

Image credit: Oliver Dietze

Furthering the development process, the researchers aim to enable the glove to communicate directly with the wearer by means of tactile signals, such as pulses or vibrations, that would be sensed by the wearer’s fingers.

“The computer could then send, for instance, a pulsed signal to the operator’s fingertips to tell them, ‘You’ve taken the wrong component’, or a vibrating signal to confirm, ‘That is the right component”,” Hau explained .

The thin silicone can also be made to pulse or vibrate on demand or to take up any required shape. The researchers can control their silicone film and can continuously vary the frequency of its motion as required, from high-frequency vibrations down to a slow pulsing or flexing motion.

In the future, this responsive film could be used to prevent assembly operators or technicians picking up the wrong component for sorting bins.

The team plans to showcase the protype glove at the technical trade fair Hannover Messe from the 1-5 April 2019 at the Saarland Research and Innovation Stand.


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Publicado el 20/03/2019 en germany, research and innovation, industrial, manufacturing, smart materials, industry 4.0

Edge Data Center for innovative IoT solutions



Fast, Simple, Effective: Edge Data Center for innovative IoT solutions

Companies that employ machine-to-machine communication to streamline manufacturing require real-time capabilities.

IT resources deployed in close geographical proximity ensure that latency is low, and data readily available. 

The Rittal Edge Data Centre provides an effective answer to this need. It is a turn-key, pre-configured solution based on standardised infrastructure. It can be implemented rapidly and cost-efficiently – paving the way for Industry 4.0 applications.

The sensors and actuators deployed in smart production systems continuously relay information on the status of processes and infrastructure. This forms the basis for innovative services – such as alerts, predictive maintenance, and machine self-optimisation – delivered by the company’s IT department in real time.  To make this possible, and to rapidly respond to events and anomalies, low latency between production and IT infrastructure is critical.

Fast, simple, effective

A remote cloud data centre is unable to support these scenarios. The solution is edge computing, i.e. computing resources at the perimeter of a given network. With this in mind, Rittal has introduced a new edge data centre: an end-to-end product with standardised, preconfigured IT infrastructure.

The Rittal Edge Data Centre comprises two Rittal TS IT racks, plus corresponding modules for climate control, power distribution, UPS, fire suppression, monitoring and secure access. These units are available in various output classes, and can be easily combined for rapid deployment. Moreover, to safeguard critical components from heat, dust and dirt in industrial environments, the Rittal Edge Data Center can be implemented in a self-contained high-availability room.

As Clive Partridge, Rittal’s Technical Manager for IT Infrastructure, observes: “The Edge Data Center allows organisations to quickly and simply establish IT environments equipped for the challenges of what’s been termed “the fourth industrial revolution”.  Combined with the as-a-service offering that we jointly provide with iNNOVO Cloud, the Rittal Edge Data Center is a complete, one-stop solution for enterprises of all sizes.”

To streamline edge data centre planning, Rittal offers a special web-based configurator (www.rittal.de/configuration-system) which means compact and small enclosures can now be quickly and easily configured online. Customers can choose the right accessories, without reference to a catalogue, then position and prepare the enclosure for mechanical processing.

Self-managed or managed services

Customers who would prefer not to operate the edge data centre themselves can opt for Rittal’s data-centre-as-a-service (DCaaS) offering. They are then free to focus on their core tasks while harnessing the benefits of the Internet of Things (IoT) for their business. Hand-in-hand with its IT-as-a-service (ITaaS) platform provider iNNOVO Cloud, Rittal also offers private-cloud data centres in shipping containers, plus ITaaS. The containers are fully equipped with all key active components, such as servers, network connectivity and storage for immediate use.

The Rittal Edge Data Center can be extended two racks at a time. Moreover, the modular approach provides customers with diverse options, allowing it to accommodate a variety of scenarios – for example, installation in an IT security room, or in a container, to be located wherever it is required.

Further information at www.rittal.co.uk and www.friedhelm-loh-group.com or on twitter @rittal_ltd.     

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Fast, Simple, Effective: Edge Data Center for innovative IoT solutions

Companies that employ machine-to-machine communication to streamline manufacturing require real-time capabilities.

IT resources deployed in close geographical proximity ensure that latency is low, and data readily available. 

The Rittal Edge Data Centre provides an effective answer to this need. It is a turn-key, pre-configured solution based on standardised infrastructure. It can be implemented rapidly and cost-efficiently – paving the way for Industry 4.0 applications.

The sensors and actuators deployed in smart production systems continuously relay information on the status of processes and infrastructure. This forms the basis for innovative services – such as alerts, predictive maintenance, and machine self-optimisation – delivered by the company’s IT department in real time.  To make this possible, and to rapidly respond to events and anomalies, low latency between production and IT infrastructure is critical.

Fast, simple, effective

A remote cloud data centre is unable to support these scenarios. The solution is edge computing, i.e. computing resources at the perimeter of a given network. With this in mind, Rittal has introduced a new edge data centre: an end-to-end product with standardised, preconfigured IT infrastructure.

The Rittal Edge Data Centre comprises two Rittal TS IT racks, plus corresponding modules for climate control, power distribution, UPS, fire suppression, monitoring and secure access. These units are available in various output classes, and can be easily combined for rapid deployment. Moreover, to safeguard critical components from heat, dust and dirt in industrial environments, the Rittal Edge Data Center can be implemented in a self-contained high-availability room.

As Clive Partridge, Rittal’s Technical Manager for IT Infrastructure, observes: “The Edge Data Center allows organisations to quickly and simply establish IT environments equipped for the challenges of what’s been termed “the fourth industrial revolution”.  Combined with the as-a-service offering that we jointly provide with iNNOVO Cloud, the Rittal Edge Data Center is a complete, one-stop solution for enterprises of all sizes.”

To streamline edge data centre planning, Rittal offers a special web-based configurator (www.rittal.de/configuration-system) which means compact and small enclosures can now be quickly and easily configured online. Customers can choose the right accessories, without reference to a catalogue, then position and prepare the enclosure for mechanical processing.

Self-managed or managed services

Customers who would prefer not to operate the edge data centre themselves can opt for Rittal’s data-centre-as-a-service (DCaaS) offering. They are then free to focus on their core tasks while harnessing the benefits of the Internet of Things (IoT) for their business. Hand-in-hand with its IT-as-a-service (ITaaS) platform provider iNNOVO Cloud, Rittal also offers private-cloud data centres in shipping containers, plus ITaaS. The containers are fully equipped with all key active components, such as servers, network connectivity and storage for immediate use.

The Rittal Edge Data Center can be extended two racks at a time. Moreover, the modular approach provides customers with diverse options, allowing it to accommodate a variety of scenarios – for example, installation in an IT security room, or in a container, to be located wherever it is required.

Further information at www.rittal.co.uk and www.friedhelm-loh-group.com or on twitter @rittal_ltd.     


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Publicado el 21/03/2018 en data centre, iot, industry 4.0, it, manufacturing, power

ABB’s ‘Collaboration Centre’ makes Industry 4.0 a reality for utilities



Based in Genoa, the Centre aims to provide more efficient and cost-effective operation and maintenance of plants in these sectors. The functionality of the Centre is based on ABB’s Ability platform which essentially uses data monitoring and analytics, along with process expertise, to optimise the way these plants are operated. Ability has been deployed in over 200 sites in other sectors and combines information and control to and from devices throughout a plant and beyond to central control and the cloud.

Susan Peterson, Digital Lead of ABB Power Generation & Water, claimed that closed-loop applications had already yielded ’substantive returns’ and demonstrated this through a case study using a combined cycle unit. “Having a model-predicted control being applied to optimise the life of the HRSG [heat recovery steam generator], because it is the limiting factor, for a start up for a combined cycle, what we calculated was about $5000 in fuel per start”, she explained. “Such a unit typically goes offline every weekend, so that is 50 starts a year and that gets very exciting when you look across a fleet. If you look at 20 units making $250,000 savings a year, that becomes really substantive.”

Moving through the transients in a more effective way during these starts also extends the maintenance intervals. It is estimated that using ABB Ability extends machine life by about 20 per cent.

Peterson added: “In other aspects like Virtual Power Pool, we are actually enabling new power aggregators of small renewable types of contracts to participate in wholesale markets with bigger blocks of wholesale capacity. So some are new revenue opportunities while other are variable cost savings opportunities.”

Using the data available through the Collaboration Centre can also adjust the business use case beyond basic mechanical efficiency, especially as the energy markets are both complex and variable. Peterson continued: “If there is a significant opportunity to sell power at a higher price then you might take that opportunity and forgo generating later on. It’s not just about straight base-load operation. We have the tools to calculate the costs for operating in different modes and by being able to optimise between the constraints we are opening up the doors for our customers. If you have been set up just for base load, it is really hard to do that – What are my costs? What’s going to happen with my maintenance? Can I do this repeatedly? – so I think we are opening up those new modes of operation for our customers.”

ABB anticipates that more Collaboration Centres will open up in the power and water sectors, including directly on customers’ own sites, if required.

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Based in Genoa, the Centre aims to provide more efficient and cost-effective operation and maintenance of plants in these sectors. The functionality of the Centre is based on ABB’s Ability platform which essentially uses data monitoring and analytics, along with process expertise, to optimise the way these plants are operated. Ability has been deployed in over 200 sites in other sectors and combines information and control to and from devices throughout a plant and beyond to central control and the cloud.

Susan Peterson, Digital Lead of ABB Power Generation & Water, claimed that closed-loop applications had already yielded ’substantive returns’ and demonstrated this through a case study using a combined cycle unit. “Having a model-predicted control being applied to optimise the life of the HRSG [heat recovery steam generator], because it is the limiting factor, for a start up for a combined cycle, what we calculated was about $5000 in fuel per start”, she explained. “Such a unit typically goes offline every weekend, so that is 50 starts a year and that gets very exciting when you look across a fleet. If you look at 20 units making $250,000 savings a year, that becomes really substantive.”

Moving through the transients in a more effective way during these starts also extends the maintenance intervals. It is estimated that using ABB Ability extends machine life by about 20 per cent.

Peterson added: “In other aspects like Virtual Power Pool, we are actually enabling new power aggregators of small renewable types of contracts to participate in wholesale markets with bigger blocks of wholesale capacity. So some are new revenue opportunities while other are variable cost savings opportunities.”

Using the data available through the Collaboration Centre can also adjust the business use case beyond basic mechanical efficiency, especially as the energy markets are both complex and variable. Peterson continued: “If there is a significant opportunity to sell power at a higher price then you might take that opportunity and forgo generating later on. It’s not just about straight base-load operation. We have the tools to calculate the costs for operating in different modes and by being able to optimise between the constraints we are opening up the doors for our customers. If you have been set up just for base load, it is really hard to do that – What are my costs? What’s going to happen with my maintenance? Can I do this repeatedly? – so I think we are opening up those new modes of operation for our customers.”

ABB anticipates that more Collaboration Centres will open up in the power and water sectors, including directly on customers’ own sites, if required.


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Publicado el 02/03/2018 en industry 4.0, power systems, combined heat and power, water supply, control

UK manufacturers’ leading role in automation ‘revolution’ will be boosted by Brexit, says Liam Fox



Staunchly Euro-sceptic MP Liam Fox - one of the leading figures in the Brexit ‘leave’ campaign - has said that British manufacturers will benefit greatly when the UK leaves the European Union, due to their technological prowess.

Speaking at the EEF’s annual conference, Fox said: “From automotive to aerospace to energy and engineering, the UK is as diverse as it is deep.

“The advent of digitalisation, automation and an increasing pressure to create more energy efficient products is driving a revolution in global manufacturing.

“British companies are at the forefront. The UK composite materials sector, for example, predicts that the UK domestic market will grow six times by 2030 to some £12bn, driven by the need to create structures for energy efficiency.”

He added that the UK’s manufacturing sector is currently experiencing annual growth of 2.8 per cent, 1 per cent above the economy as a whole despite concerns over Britain’s future trading arrangements with the EU and the rest of the world.

In particular he praised the UK’s automotive sector, which remains one of the “prides” of British manufacturing.

“Last year, around 15 per cent of the total UK R&D spend was generated by automotive companies,” Fox said.

“Firms like Nissan, who have announced another £250m investment in its Sunderland plant, are here because of that access to new technology and industry developments.

“It’s no wonder that in 2017 a new car rolled off a British production line every 19 seconds. So much for not making things in Britain.”

In particular, Fox singled out the UK Government’s support for R&D spending and its desire to boost manufacturers who developing “cutting-edge” technologies.

“Many of you will be familiar with the £246m Faraday challenge designed to boost the development of battery technology,” he said.

“We have also committed £100m of spending for connected and autonomous research development for the automotive sector.

“Together with the aircraft industry, we have devoted a combined £3.9bn to R&D. This level of government support is unprecedented and demonstrates a real and sustained commitment to attract the right investment in the right areas in line with our industrial strategy.”

Fox believes Brexit will allow the UK to develop a trade policy framework “that works first and foremost for the UK economy, firms and citizens” for the “first time in more than four decades”.

“Already we are laying the groundwork for new trading relationships across Africa and Asia,” he said

“As their people become more affluent and their domestic industries more mature, demand for British manufacturing expertise will grow exponentially.

“There is a big world out there and British manufacturing can lead the charge to ensure that the people of this country can take their rightful place in that global prosperity of the future.”

In September, a report claimed that many British jobs could be rapidly automated or moved offshore as a result of labour shortages resulting from post-Brexit immigration curbs. 

Leer más



Staunchly Euro-sceptic MP Liam Fox - one of the leading figures in the Brexit ‘leave’ campaign - has said that British manufacturers will benefit greatly when the UK leaves the European Union, due to their technological prowess.

Speaking at the EEF’s annual conference, Fox said: “From automotive to aerospace to energy and engineering, the UK is as diverse as it is deep.

“The advent of digitalisation, automation and an increasing pressure to create more energy efficient products is driving a revolution in global manufacturing.

“British companies are at the forefront. The UK composite materials sector, for example, predicts that the UK domestic market will grow six times by 2030 to some £12bn, driven by the need to create structures for energy efficiency.”

He added that the UK’s manufacturing sector is currently experiencing annual growth of 2.8 per cent, 1 per cent above the economy as a whole despite concerns over Britain’s future trading arrangements with the EU and the rest of the world.

In particular he praised the UK’s automotive sector, which remains one of the “prides” of British manufacturing.

“Last year, around 15 per cent of the total UK R&D spend was generated by automotive companies,” Fox said.

“Firms like Nissan, who have announced another £250m investment in its Sunderland plant, are here because of that access to new technology and industry developments.

“It’s no wonder that in 2017 a new car rolled off a British production line every 19 seconds. So much for not making things in Britain.”

In particular, Fox singled out the UK Government’s support for R&D spending and its desire to boost manufacturers who developing “cutting-edge” technologies.

“Many of you will be familiar with the £246m Faraday challenge designed to boost the development of battery technology,” he said.

“We have also committed £100m of spending for connected and autonomous research development for the automotive sector.

“Together with the aircraft industry, we have devoted a combined £3.9bn to R&D. This level of government support is unprecedented and demonstrates a real and sustained commitment to attract the right investment in the right areas in line with our industrial strategy.”

Fox believes Brexit will allow the UK to develop a trade policy framework “that works first and foremost for the UK economy, firms and citizens” for the “first time in more than four decades”.

“Already we are laying the groundwork for new trading relationships across Africa and Asia,” he said

“As their people become more affluent and their domestic industries more mature, demand for British manufacturing expertise will grow exponentially.

“There is a big world out there and British manufacturing can lead the charge to ensure that the people of this country can take their rightful place in that global prosperity of the future.”

In September, a report claimed that many British jobs could be rapidly automated or moved offshore as a result of labour shortages resulting from post-Brexit immigration curbs. 


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Publicado el 20/02/2018 en manufacturing, industrial, politics, automation, industry 4.0

Injection Moulding in Industry 4.0



The fourth industrial revolution is commonly known as Industry 4.0. This follows on from steam power in the first, the production line and electricity in the second, and the programmable electronics and IT solutions in the third revolution. The key elements of the fourth iteration are connectivity and communication between cyber-physical systems, cloud computing and intelligent machines.

Industry 4.0 allows people and machines to be more connected than ever before, thanks to machines producing an unprecedented amount of data about almost every aspect of their working life. Advanced data analysis means that manufacturers can improve efficiency, quality and time to market.

Large data sets have created the potential for an autonomous smart factory, where machinery and equipment is intelligent enough to optimise its own processes and communicate with both other machines and humans. This means that all other tiers of the supply chain and production cycle are aware of how production is progressing and can adjust accordingly.

How will Industry 4.0 impact upon the manufacturing industry? Stephen Hunt, BPF Membership Services Director, said: “Industry 4.0 clearly has the potential to significantly change the plastics industry. The development of ‘smart factories’ will create amazing opportunities for manufacturers in the plastics industry and we will soon be able to optimise manufacturing processes in ways that it is currently hard to imagine.”

Key requirements for plastic manufacturers include

Intelligent Machinery

Machines within a plastic manufacturing smart factory are able to use data to make every process more efficient. For example, an injection moulding machine will begin to preheat only when it has received data that the previous process is nearing completion.

This communication between devices could help to reduce the amount of time that an injection moulding device is sitting on standby. Generating and maintaining the required level of heat to melt plastic requires a significant amount of energy. As a result intelligent machinery can help to reduce wasted energy which is beneficial for the manufacturers and the environment.

The abundance of real-time data allows accurate forecasting to be produced. This means that customers can be kept up to date with the progress throughout the production. 

Predictive Maintenance

Smart factories will be so data-rich that components within machines could generate diagnostic reports on their own functions and communicate failed, or weak points. This will allow the factory to plan pre-emptive maintenance when a machine indicates that a repair is imminent. This will aid productivity by ensuring that there are significantly fewer interruptions to manufacturing due to unexpected machine failure and the associated delays in sourcing and repair.

The advanced nature of the predictive maintenance allows manufacturers to establish alternative plans to ensure that production is not delayed or slowed and customer orders remain on track.

The ability to connect every machine on the factory floor together via a single cloud network makes the factory a single entity working together towards one purpose instead of separate elements. The machines can collect, analyse and share this data to make decisions that maximise repeatability in the injection moulding process, consistent quality and avoid unplanned downtime.

Visit Essentra’s Industry 4.0 Hub for more forward thinking views. It’s created by a manufacturer, for manufacturers.

Leer más



The fourth industrial revolution is commonly known as Industry 4.0. This follows on from steam power in the first, the production line and electricity in the second, and the programmable electronics and IT solutions in the third revolution. The key elements of the fourth iteration are connectivity and communication between cyber-physical systems, cloud computing and intelligent machines.

Industry 4.0 allows people and machines to be more connected than ever before, thanks to machines producing an unprecedented amount of data about almost every aspect of their working life. Advanced data analysis means that manufacturers can improve efficiency, quality and time to market.

Large data sets have created the potential for an autonomous smart factory, where machinery and equipment is intelligent enough to optimise its own processes and communicate with both other machines and humans. This means that all other tiers of the supply chain and production cycle are aware of how production is progressing and can adjust accordingly.

How will Industry 4.0 impact upon the manufacturing industry? Stephen Hunt, BPF Membership Services Director, said: “Industry 4.0 clearly has the potential to significantly change the plastics industry. The development of ‘smart factories’ will create amazing opportunities for manufacturers in the plastics industry and we will soon be able to optimise manufacturing processes in ways that it is currently hard to imagine.”

Key requirements for plastic manufacturers include

Intelligent Machinery

Machines within a plastic manufacturing smart factory are able to use data to make every process more efficient. For example, an injection moulding machine will begin to preheat only when it has received data that the previous process is nearing completion.

This communication between devices could help to reduce the amount of time that an injection moulding device is sitting on standby. Generating and maintaining the required level of heat to melt plastic requires a significant amount of energy. As a result intelligent machinery can help to reduce wasted energy which is beneficial for the manufacturers and the environment.

The abundance of real-time data allows accurate forecasting to be produced. This means that customers can be kept up to date with the progress throughout the production. 

Predictive Maintenance

Smart factories will be so data-rich that components within machines could generate diagnostic reports on their own functions and communicate failed, or weak points. This will allow the factory to plan pre-emptive maintenance when a machine indicates that a repair is imminent. This will aid productivity by ensuring that there are significantly fewer interruptions to manufacturing due to unexpected machine failure and the associated delays in sourcing and repair.

The advanced nature of the predictive maintenance allows manufacturers to establish alternative plans to ensure that production is not delayed or slowed and customer orders remain on track.

The ability to connect every machine on the factory floor together via a single cloud network makes the factory a single entity working together towards one purpose instead of separate elements. The machines can collect, analyse and share this data to make decisions that maximise repeatability in the injection moulding process, consistent quality and avoid unplanned downtime.

Visit Essentra’s Industry 4.0 Hub for more forward thinking views. It’s created by a manufacturer, for manufacturers.


Leer más

Publicado el 04/12/2017 en manufacturing, robotics, control and automation, engineering and technology in society, internet of things, industry 4.0, future of manufacturing

The Future of Automation and Industry 4.0



Digitisation, automation and data collection are the key principles of Industry 4.0 that manufacturers must align themselves with. By doing so, manufacturers can improve efficiencies while streamlining costs and maintaining a quality customer experience. As a leading supplier and manufacturer of essential component solutions, Essentra Components are one of many manufacturers just starting out on their Industry 4.0 journey.

Smart planning

For Essentra Components, the main business areas that are incorporating automation can be split into three separate areas; smart planning, smart machines and smart data. For smart planning, the company is using cutting edge demand planning software to determine lot-sizes and replenishment points in its ERP system. This process then releases demand into a sophisticated scheduling tool, which has the capacity to organise work most efficiently according to a wide range of criteria, such as avoiding material or colour changes. This automated process connects to the company’s main production monitoring system. Even simple robotics such as sprue pickers and in-line reprocessing have helped improve moulding capture and waste recovery. Automating these processes has already helped to reduce the company’s monthly raw material waste by approximately 75%. 

Smart machines

Over the last three years, the company has also upgraded approximately 25% of its machines across the UK shop floor to take advantage of new technologies. In doing so, employees now have the capability to link the machines to the cloud system, enabling individuals to directly download the approved processing parameters to the machines which ultimately speeds up the whole process. Essentra have also incorporated a remote access capability on the machines to enable external machine engineers to diagnose faults reducing potential downtime periods. Essentra Components are currently developing a process where technicians can have access to troubleshoot processing issues remotely and make modifications to the process via their smart phone. Another benefit of the rise of smart machines is that 70% of materials the company uses are also now directly fed to the machines which reduces manual handling, waste and machine downtime.

Smart data

Smart data is another key area of automation for manufacturers. Essentra Component’s production monitoring software now has a direct link to our range of 20 Sumitomo Demag machines. This process captures real time overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) information which not only helps the systems maintain the required performance levels, but also offers invaluable data around where there is room for improvement. For example, sheet setting parameters are stored electronically, meaning that they can be automatically downloaded into the machines to reduce set-up times. The rise of automation and the smart data obtained from the production monitoring system has helped directly with the tooling development programme, which has delivered massive efficiency gains. As a result, Essentra Components have more than halved the number of machines on the shop floor, whilst doubling output in the past 20 years.

Successfully navigating the transition into Industry 4.0 will take a long time. Creating smart factories and revolutionising an entire manufacturing process can initially seem like a complicated and endless task, but manufacturers will be able to reap the benefits for many years to come. Automation and Industry 4.0 is completely redefining outdated manufacturing processes and will help support continued growth of businesses. It’s a particularly exciting time for the manufacturing industry and manufacturers must respond to these technological developments and ensure they are meeting the ever-changing demands of the marketplace.

Industry 4.0 Hub

Leer más



Digitisation, automation and data collection are the key principles of Industry 4.0 that manufacturers must align themselves with. By doing so, manufacturers can improve efficiencies while streamlining costs and maintaining a quality customer experience. As a leading supplier and manufacturer of essential component solutions, Essentra Components are one of many manufacturers just starting out on their Industry 4.0 journey.

Smart planning

For Essentra Components, the main business areas that are incorporating automation can be split into three separate areas; smart planning, smart machines and smart data. For smart planning, the company is using cutting edge demand planning software to determine lot-sizes and replenishment points in its ERP system. This process then releases demand into a sophisticated scheduling tool, which has the capacity to organise work most efficiently according to a wide range of criteria, such as avoiding material or colour changes. This automated process connects to the company’s main production monitoring system. Even simple robotics such as sprue pickers and in-line reprocessing have helped improve moulding capture and waste recovery. Automating these processes has already helped to reduce the company’s monthly raw material waste by approximately 75%. 

Smart machines

Over the last three years, the company has also upgraded approximately 25% of its machines across the UK shop floor to take advantage of new technologies. In doing so, employees now have the capability to link the machines to the cloud system, enabling individuals to directly download the approved processing parameters to the machines which ultimately speeds up the whole process. Essentra have also incorporated a remote access capability on the machines to enable external machine engineers to diagnose faults reducing potential downtime periods. Essentra Components are currently developing a process where technicians can have access to troubleshoot processing issues remotely and make modifications to the process via their smart phone. Another benefit of the rise of smart machines is that 70% of materials the company uses are also now directly fed to the machines which reduces manual handling, waste and machine downtime.

Smart data

Smart data is another key area of automation for manufacturers. Essentra Component’s production monitoring software now has a direct link to our range of 20 Sumitomo Demag machines. This process captures real time overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) information which not only helps the systems maintain the required performance levels, but also offers invaluable data around where there is room for improvement. For example, sheet setting parameters are stored electronically, meaning that they can be automatically downloaded into the machines to reduce set-up times. The rise of automation and the smart data obtained from the production monitoring system has helped directly with the tooling development programme, which has delivered massive efficiency gains. As a result, Essentra Components have more than halved the number of machines on the shop floor, whilst doubling output in the past 20 years.

Successfully navigating the transition into Industry 4.0 will take a long time. Creating smart factories and revolutionising an entire manufacturing process can initially seem like a complicated and endless task, but manufacturers will be able to reap the benefits for many years to come. Automation and Industry 4.0 is completely redefining outdated manufacturing processes and will help support continued growth of businesses. It’s a particularly exciting time for the manufacturing industry and manufacturers must respond to these technological developments and ensure they are meeting the ever-changing demands of the marketplace.

Industry 4.0 Hub


Leer más

Publicado el 22/11/2017 en manufacturing, robotics, control and automation, engineering and technology in society, industry 4.0, internet of things, future of manufacturing

5G ‘network slicing’ to guarantee spectrum for key utilities and emergency services



‘Network slicing’ is one such application that will grant key utilities and industries a guaranteed chunk of the 5G network in order to ensure that critical elements that rely on a consistent internet connection are not impacted by high data usage from other nearby users.

Most smartphone users at one time or another have experienced extremely slow or patchy internet connections over 3G and 4G resulting from an unusually large influx of users in the local area, for example at large sporting or music events.

But with Internet of Things (IoT) devices being increasingly incorporated into industrial applications, many of which will soon be 5G-enabled, these temporary network issues could cause havoc for factories or utility companies.

Driverless cars, which are expected to take to the roads in the next few years, will also make use of 5G networks in order to connect to each other and the road infrastructure around them.

“We shouldn’t get fixated on just the consumer, broadband and smartphones benefits because there are some very significant elements that 5G will deliver for us,” said Ben Timmons, senior director at Qualcomm.

Qualcomm is currently preparing early versions of the 5G specification and producing the 5G modems that will enter smartphones and other devices from 2019 onwards.

“In terms of massive IoT, 5G gives us the ability to connect enormous numbers of low-power, efficient devices,” Timmons said.

“It also useful for ‘mission critical’ applications as well: all the things like autonomous vehicles and remote surgery, management of drones, industrial management.

“There’s a lot of wireless communication in complex industrial plants already, but it’s pretty much all proprietary. As a result it’s quite expensive to buy and maintain.

“5G is going to be able to do all of that at scale with a degree of efficiency that no proprietary technology can do. The element of control that industrial enterprises always want, such as sensitive control capabilities, this can all be done over 5G as well.

“For example, if you’re running a nuclear reprocessing plant you’re not going to want to share that technology with a guy downloading video on his smartphone.”

Network slicing effectively allows companies to buy (at a significant cost of course) an entirely private 5G network for themselves with a guaranteed latency and capacity that will not be affected by other users.

Timmons admitted that while this functionality isn’t in the first release of the 5G standard, later versions should include it.

“V2X (vehicle-to-everything) is the best example of that at the moment,” Timmons said. “[Autonomous] cars will be able to communicate with each other and the infrastructure, such as red lights or road works.

“We’re well on the road now to delivering this capability.  We announced in recent weeks our first V2X chipset, based on an existing Qualcomm modem.”

He also speculated that eventually it may be possible for companies to bargain cheaper 5G connectivity with the network operators and in return they would not receive the guaranteed connection quality that network slicing allows. This is similar to how some industries pay less for their electricity in return for having an interrupted supply at peak hours.

‘Puncturing’ is another facet of 5G that allows security or emergency services to access the bandwidth available in private network slices during disasters or other emergency situations.

This could be of great benefit to the UK’s emergency services which have been stuck using their ageing 2G network, Airwave, while an expensive replacement is installed.

Dubbed ESN, the new network will only be available to those working for the emergency services, and is costing taxpayers £1.2bn to set up and won’t be installed until 2019 at the earliest. 

Network slicing would negate the need to build such a complex and expensive infrastructure project as emergency services could just silo a section of commercially available 5G networks with guaranteed latency and bandwidth.

Earlier this year E&T looked at all of the potential uses and benefits that the nascent 5G standard will bring that 4G networks are not capable of.

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‘Network slicing’ is one such application that will grant key utilities and industries a guaranteed chunk of the 5G network in order to ensure that critical elements that rely on a consistent internet connection are not impacted by high data usage from other nearby users.

Most smartphone users at one time or another have experienced extremely slow or patchy internet connections over 3G and 4G resulting from an unusually large influx of users in the local area, for example at large sporting or music events.

But with Internet of Things (IoT) devices being increasingly incorporated into industrial applications, many of which will soon be 5G-enabled, these temporary network issues could cause havoc for factories or utility companies.

Driverless cars, which are expected to take to the roads in the next few years, will also make use of 5G networks in order to connect to each other and the road infrastructure around them.

“We shouldn’t get fixated on just the consumer, broadband and smartphones benefits because there are some very significant elements that 5G will deliver for us,” said Ben Timmons, senior director at Qualcomm.

Qualcomm is currently preparing early versions of the 5G specification and producing the 5G modems that will enter smartphones and other devices from 2019 onwards.

“In terms of massive IoT, 5G gives us the ability to connect enormous numbers of low-power, efficient devices,” Timmons said.

“It also useful for ‘mission critical’ applications as well: all the things like autonomous vehicles and remote surgery, management of drones, industrial management.

“There’s a lot of wireless communication in complex industrial plants already, but it’s pretty much all proprietary. As a result it’s quite expensive to buy and maintain.

“5G is going to be able to do all of that at scale with a degree of efficiency that no proprietary technology can do. The element of control that industrial enterprises always want, such as sensitive control capabilities, this can all be done over 5G as well.

“For example, if you’re running a nuclear reprocessing plant you’re not going to want to share that technology with a guy downloading video on his smartphone.”

Network slicing effectively allows companies to buy (at a significant cost of course) an entirely private 5G network for themselves with a guaranteed latency and capacity that will not be affected by other users.

Timmons admitted that while this functionality isn’t in the first release of the 5G standard, later versions should include it.

“V2X (vehicle-to-everything) is the best example of that at the moment,” Timmons said. “[Autonomous] cars will be able to communicate with each other and the infrastructure, such as red lights or road works.

“We’re well on the road now to delivering this capability.  We announced in recent weeks our first V2X chipset, based on an existing Qualcomm modem.”

He also speculated that eventually it may be possible for companies to bargain cheaper 5G connectivity with the network operators and in return they would not receive the guaranteed connection quality that network slicing allows. This is similar to how some industries pay less for their electricity in return for having an interrupted supply at peak hours.

‘Puncturing’ is another facet of 5G that allows security or emergency services to access the bandwidth available in private network slices during disasters or other emergency situations.

This could be of great benefit to the UK’s emergency services which have been stuck using their ageing 2G network, Airwave, while an expensive replacement is installed.

Dubbed ESN, the new network will only be available to those working for the emergency services, and is costing taxpayers £1.2bn to set up and won’t be installed until 2019 at the earliest. 

Network slicing would negate the need to build such a complex and expensive infrastructure project as emergency services could just silo a section of commercially available 5G networks with guaranteed latency and bandwidth.

Earlier this year E&T looked at all of the potential uses and benefits that the nascent 5G standard will bring that 4G networks are not capable of.


Leer más

Publicado el 21/11/2017 en communication networks and services, industrial, industry 4.0, 5g, mobile networks, jack loughran

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