A collaborative effort between Bosch and three
international companies, all members of the Industrial Internet Consortium, is
driving forward tool connectivity with the aim of improving quality and
efficiency in industrial manufacturing. The supplier of technology and services
is cooperating on “Track and Trace” with Indian IT company Tech Mahindra, U.S.
IT company Cisco, and National Instruments, a supplier of automation and
measurement technology systems.
The first outcome of their
collaboration on the “Track and Trace” project is the ability to determine the
position of a cordless nutrunner on the shop floor with extreme precision,
among other applications. This positioning information is used to automatically
select the correct torque for the respective task, making it possible to
tighten safety-relevant screws with exactly the required force, for example. It
is also possible to automatically document these settings to ensure and test
product quality. Open standards are set to enable the seamless integration of
industrial power tools used to drill, tighten, measure, and solder into an
overall system of networked tools in the future. The potential applications of
connected hand-held nutrunners, riveting tools, and measuring equipment include
the construction and maintenance of engines and aircraft.
“There is no other solution
like this out there; it harbors major potential for industry as a whole,” says
Dirk Slama, the project manager at Bosch. This effort is the first European
testbed for the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC).
The testbed partners are each
lending their different areas of expertise to the project: Bosch is supplying
the Nexo cordless nutrunner, while Bosch Software Innovations is contributing
the software necessary to gather and evaluate data in the form of their Bosch
IoT Suite. The Nexo collects and stores tightening data and transmits it
wirelessly. National Instruments is connecting the power tools with each other,
and Tech Mahindra is responsible for the application programming. Cisco is
providing the nutrunners’ precision location identification feature
(triangulation) by evaluating wireless signals. Tests are underway at Bosch
Software Innovations in Berlin and at Tech Mahindra in Bangalore, India, to
determine how the components interact with each other. Plans call for the first
pilot applications with new industrial users in 2015.
Innovative solution for increased efficiency and competitiveness
The new solution is made
possible by connecting the tools with each other and with the production data
for the products to be manufactured. Thanks to the tool’s positioning
information and the precisely determined location of a component, such as an
aircraft on the shop floor, the user knows that the tool is currently located
at the vertical stabilizer, for example. Backend software automatically sends
instructions that specify the force needed to tighten screws there. “Connected
tools contribute not only to product quality and safety, but also to making
production more efficient, which improves competitiveness,” Slama says. There
are additional benefits to “Track and Trace.” For instance, the constant
collection of tools’ data provides companies with a detailed overview of the
conditions of their tools at all times. This can enable the automation of a
number of routine tasks, such as the replacement of wear parts on power tools
after a specified number of rotations or hours of operation.
Avoid errors, increase safety
The design and assembly of
complex industrial and consumer goods requires exacting work. Machinery,
vehicles, and aircraft necessitate the highest standards of quality. Often,
screws must be tightened with precisely the right amount of force. In aircraft
construction, for example, there are precise regulations that specify the kind
of screw and the amount of force that must be used to join specific parts.
Joints on the wings require a different amount of force than those on a window.
When it comes to passenger aircraft, there are thousands of such screws that
must be tightened and precisely documented. Connected tools speed up this
time-consuming task. “We are able to record the force used to tighten hundreds
of thousands of screws, for example, and store that information in a database.
The information makes it possible to quickly identify any discrepancies, and it
provides users with clues as to the possible causes of faults,” Slama explains.
As a result, connected tools also aid in troubleshooting and error avoidance.
If a worker tries to use a tool mistakenly for the wrong task or at the wrong
place, the tool powers itself down, preventing errors from occurring in the
first place. This contributes to improving safety, quality, and productivity.
Open standards ensure universal use
Thanks to open standards, this
system of connected tools can be used universally. Industrial power tools used
to drill, tighten, measure, solder, and rivet fit seamlessly into an overall
system of connected tools, regardless of the brand or type of tool. A computer
system is used to manage and regulate the tools. The testbed highlights several
key aspects of digitally connected manufacturing. One of these aspects is
cross-industry cooperation on equal footing among companies who are working to
create open standards for the purpose of data exchange. Hardware, software,
localisation technology, backend integration, and safety features are all
integrated in the solution architecture. This results in a number of new
options, such as data analysis.