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The SPARK: How we digitize production machines

One of the biggest challenges when digitizing most machine parks is the large number of different machines. These machines are often several years old and come from different manufacturers. Furthermore, the machines are often not designed to be digitized.

We succeed in digitizing them using our specifically developed hardware and software combination. Our SPARK is an edge device that we connect directly to various machines. Our solution can then be used to collect, record and visualize the data from the machines.

Why machines are so rarely digitized

Quite a few machines could technically be read out, although the machine manufacturer never intended for this. However, many production companies find it hard to estimate the maintenance effort (and thus the costs) of such an IT system.

As a result, the IT department of these manufacturing companies is often overwhelmed with the complexity and variety of the IT integration of their machines, and such a project is rather not being started.

Nevertheless, digitization is indispensable in production today: controlling for example often needs machine data on actual material consumption in order to make correct calculations, development departments require machine data to design new products, and production management, with appropriate data evaluation, can often improve productivity.

Extensive portfolio of connectors

For this reason, we have developed the SPARK and our extensive portfolio of connectors, which is continuously expanding. When it comes to connecting machines, we take a unique approach in that we connect directly to the plants' controllers and automation systems and decode the machines' protocols to make the data available.

This approach allows us to read out data from machines that were never intended to be read. Furthermore, our passive connectors allow process data to be read out even in cases where active intervention in plant communication is not possible or not desired.

Different data sources are combined in a new way

Thus, all shop floor data sources can be connected, recorded, and combined via the SPARK edge device. These include PLC data, as well as various sensors present in the machines, inline quality monitoring systems, as well as file and database servers. The SPARK connects all systems and records the data in the cloud.

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Machine data linked to manufacturing and controlling data

Context is King: The machine data we read out with the SPARK is linked to other manufacturing and accounting data by our software. This makes it possible to track how a specific product was manufactured on which day. In addition, the process data can also be compared with production runs from other days.

This has several advantages:

  • Correct and uniform data facilitates material purchasing
  • Process data from individual orders can be compared
  • Optimizations can be derived in a targeted manner
  • Traceability of different production runs

From hardware to integration - everything from a single source

Unlike other providers, we develop all our software ourselves, from reading out the data to the analysis dashboards. This allows us to offer an integrated end-to-end solution for heterogenous machine parks.

Our strength in particular is that we can implement customer-specific solutions. It does not matter if the machines are rare or custom-made for very special requirements). We are not bound by limitations imposed by the machine manufacturer. The only limit here is the technology itself.

The end-to-end solution instead of a modular system

With us, producers don't have to worry about having many different stakeholders for the individual components of their digitization solution. We don't offer individual components, but a fully integrated end-to-end solution.

For this reason, with us, there is also only one stakeholder responsible for the entire system. This greatly reduces overhead and complexity and makes it possible to better plan the costs. At the same time, we provide open interfaces so that we are compatible with any other software our customers might already be using.

Hardware solutions for special machines

If our existing product does not yet offer the correct connector, a cost-effective hardware solution might be possible in order to read out the desired data.

Which systems/technologies are supported by Spark?

Here is a brief overview of the systems and technologies currently supported by the Spark. We are constantly expanding these.

  • ABB/Gossen-Metrawatt control systems
  • Allen-Bradley control systems
  • B&R PVI-based Windows systems
  • Beckhoff controllers
  • Digicolor / Ferlin Gravimix
  • EtherNet/IP
  • EtherCAT
  • Hosokawa Alpine ExVis
  • Kdesign VARIOcool
  • Keyence Vision vision systems
  • Macchi blown film extrusion lines
  • Mitsubishi FX controllers
  • Modbus
  • Motan dosing, mixing, and conveying systems
  • OPC DA / OPC UA
  • Plast Control
  • Siemens S7-1200/1500 controllers (S7 Plus)
  • Siemens S7-200/300/400 controllers (S7 Classic)
  • Windows DDE Communication
  • SBI Thickness Control
  • Omron Controllers

If you have other types of machines or controllers, please contact us. We are constantly expanding our capabilities to integrate your infrastructure and develop new connectors as needed.

ℹ️

What happens to the read-out data? Connecting controllers and reading out the data via the protocols is only the first step. Further on, the correct variables and parameters must be identified, correctly named, and scaled in order to be able to make useful interpretations for your production. We have developed intelligent solutions for this as well, so that correct data transformation can be achieved quickly. Following the initial setup, our users can change the data selection and transformation with just a few clicks in our App.

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