Robots Powering Smart Factories
Given the manpower crunch, rising property costs and technological advancements, the time is ripe for manufacturers in Singapore to adopt Industry 4.0 and better compete in the digital economy. According to the Boston Consulting Group, Industry 4.0 is projected to boost labour productivity by 30 percent and increase total manufacturing output by S$36 billion by 2024. This is significant as the manufacturing industry is expected to continue contributing to about 20 percent of Singapore’s economy in future.
To help achieve this goal, we are developing customisable smart technologies in the innovation lab at our Singapore Automation Center to help manufacturers experience the benefits of having a connected, automated (Part 1) and intelligent (Part 2) factory. In particular, we are working with manufacturers in the automotive, electronics and healthcare sectors to explore the use of advanced artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) and robotics for their operations.
Here are a few technologies we foresee smart factories leveraging in the future to enhance their operations.
Meet your new co-workers: Smart modular robots
The OMRON LD Mobile Robot is an Autonomous Intelligent Vehicle (AIV) that uses artificial intelligence to find the optimal route while avoiding humans and obstacles to transport materials to the target location.
One customer that has deployed the OMRON LD Mobile Robot is GlobalFoundries . The semiconductor maker is using 42 units of this mobile robot to move materials in its manufacturing line, which has helped increase employee productivity by 25 percent.
Quality control in a flash
This FH Vision System with camera-mounted lighting controller takes high-resolution images of the end product and uses image processing and multiple angled lightings to check for external defects. It can pick out small scratches, breakages and even minute size differences in workpieces that the human eye finds challenging to notice. This not only reduces the chance of defective end products going out to consumers, but also eliminates the need for manual inspection, allowing employees to focus on higher value tasks.
Bringing flaws in products to light
In this case, the FH System found a scratch on the SD card pictured in the earlier slide, and has highlighted the area containing the defect in red. Given the size of the scratch and that it is not visible under conventional lighting, it would be very difficult and time-consuming to spot the defect with the naked eye.
The system also showcases the features of IO-Link sensors, which are smart sensors. These sensors can tell the controller which sensor is being disconnected, how long has it been in operation, the vendor and model of the sensor, and many more. These additional information that the sensor can provide can help users monitor the condition of the sensor and inform them to conduct maintenance before the sensors fail. This predictive maintenance capability minimises the production time lost due to unscheduled downtime, and helps save costs in instances where only the faulty component of a machine needs to be replaced to fix the issue.
Reading between the lines
The FH Series Vision System leverages image sensing technology to automate the visual quality check process. The system uses two cameras to capture and inspect the quality and verify the details on the packaging of finished products, like the QR code and printed text. It can read the characters in the images and ensure that it is being printed correctly. This system can do all these and many more at high speed and with consistency, allowing human operators to focus on other tasks. Since the software can recognise and read characters in images, as well as read barcodes (including QR codes as depicted in the photo) and check for the quality of the code, it enables fast and precise inspection and measurement without complex programming.
Data at your fingertips
The data captured by the FH Vision System can be received by the NJ Series Database Connection Controller. The controller has the ability to send and receive data to and from any of the support Database Management System like Microsoft SQL, Oracle, etc. This enables manufacturers to easily pull out information about a specific product (such as its expiry date and lot number) whenever necessary, and gain greater traceability to reduce counterfeiting. This will reduce losses by recalling only defected batches as opposed to the entire batch of products. The captured data can also be analysed for insights or shared with supply chain partners and customers.
Spills no more
To drive higher production throughput, manufacturers need to increase the speed at which their machines transport materials from one point to another in the production line. However, if the material contains liquid, increasing machine speed may cause sloshing, which means that a wait time is needed for the liquid to stabilise before processing. OMRON Vibration Suppression technology helps reduce that wait time by controlling the acceleration and deceleration of the liquid movement, making it stable which in turn improves operational efficiency.
This technology is useful especially for food and beverage manufacturers. For instance, a French packaging machine manufacturer leveraged the vibration suppression solution to speed up yogurt packaging by 30 percent without experiencing spillage.
Besides liquid, The OMRON Vibration Suppression technology is also useful to prevent glass substrates from sliding during high speed material handling.