Machine motors – vital cogs now enabled with IoT

The Device Chronicle interviews Markus Weishaar, Head of IoT, Ametek Dunkermotoren on machine motors and how IoT is integrated into them for new services. 

Markus Weishaar started out as a product manager on the topic of Industrial IoT at Dunkermotoren. His role evolved to become the IoT strategy leader and he made the strategy for combining IoT products and services. Markus has two departments now reporting to him for this project. He says “The digital component must be added to the service. Dunkermotoren is a motor manufacturer and therefore is a small but vital part of the manufacturing value chain and a small but vital part of the machines with the manufacturing and machine automation processes.” 

Machine motor expert
Markus Weishaar, Head of IoT, Dunkermotoren

Participation in an open implementation alliance

Dunkermoteren’s participation in the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance helps to bring context and the opportunity to be part of complete end to end solutions that address customer needs. Markus explains that if every supplier would bring their own gateways and full stack solutions then that would be very unattractive for the customers especially factory operators. “As there would be 20 more or dashboards, 20 or more different types of gateways for each vendor and it would be too complex, time consuming and expensive for the factory operator to manage.” 

It would not be a sensible scenario and the OI4 brings an opportunity to solve this. It is an ecosystem approach and it is something that Markus and his colleagues believe in strongly – having implementations where vendors co operate with open interfaces to create the right solutions for the factory operators. “We believe in creating one hardware stack with a combination of digital services where every vendor can place their product and digital service in a sense for the customer.”

Anatomy of a motor

Markus explains that a machine motor has an integrated drive with a BUS interface supporting protocols such as Profinet, Ethernet and CAN for communication. There is also a controller within the motor that can act as a programmable logic controller (PLC) in a system so that full standalone PLCs are not needed in all cases. “Motors are highly intelligent devices. Of course, at the end of the day, they are small motors and although a key component, they are just one of many integral ones in a complex industrial production ecosystem.” 

The motors integrate with the OEM machines across sectors such as Autonomous Guided Vehicles (AGV) in controlled industrial transport scenarios, machines in woodworking, semiconductor manufacturing, seeding machines in agriculture; medical devices such as centrifuges. 

Benefits from working in Open Industry 4.0 Alliance

The OI4 has been beneficial for Dunkermotoren: one side from a technical perspective, Markus and his colleagues have been active in edge and cloud working groups and using the OI4 reference implementations which were all open source. It is also important for business and understanding use cases and how to realize them where all the major players across the ecosystem from software like SAP to OEM machine builders like Multivac, and Dunkermotoren and Endress + Hauser as component suppliers come together to find the best solution to meet the use cases. 

Markus started a component supplier working group within the OI4 and this part was missing as previously the discussion would end after the OEM machine builder’s contribution. Now the component suppliers have a strategic input into how the overall solutions should look. It goes deeper from the OEM to the component supplier and it is an important lobby. You must participate in the OI4 to gain benefits and the technical documentation and technical expertise and exchange creates a lot of value for the members. 

Through the OI4, Markus and his colleagues at Dunkermotoren did a project with Gebhardt where a motor was integrated into Gebhardt’s IoT platform using the AAS reference architecture and this enabled use cases in condition monitoring and predictive maintenance in AGV shuttles. Markus is also involved in the machine building and intralogistics group where they look at mirroring solutions across vendors. This is where the Gebhardt collaboration started. 

Device management and software updates for motors

Device management and software updates are important for motors. At Dunkermotoren, firmware is handled over background infrastructure and safety and security is important so firmware must be downloaded in maintenance windows. Currently the technicians come onsite, look at the state of the motor, if it is not in production, then using a smartphone app, the technician authorizes the update to take place on the idol motor having approved that it is in a valid state to take an update. The update is deployed over Dunkermotoren’s cloud infrastructure. The motors do not communicate directly with the Internet and therefore patching is not required. The updates fulfill the requirement to add new functionality to the motors. 

Docker containers running on the edge are responsible for the applications that handle connectivity and the monitoring of the monitoring of the motors. These applications have to be installed on the edge and started up on the customer site and they need to be updated and patched. 

We wish Markus and his colleagues at Dunkermotoren well as they build more customer focussed solutions with their partners. 

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