What does 2020 hold for businesses across the machine vision, automation and robotic landscapes?
MVPro has sought to find out by getting the thoughts of various businesses in each sector via the quickfire five Q&A, which offers an insight into how each business views 2020 and what was the highlight of 2019.
Today… Stephen Hayes, managing director at Beckhoff Automation UK.
What will be the biggest trend in automation in 2020?
Automation and connected technologies have boomed in popularity among industrial businesses in recent years, and it’s no surprise why. They offer boosted efficiency, greater productivity and increasingly informed business decisions. But adoption is only the first step; the next is ensuring these systems communicate efficiently.
In 2020, one of the biggest trends — due if nothing else to the sheer number of automation and industrial connectivity projects undertaken as of late — will be the drive for efficient communication. The faster data is transmitted, the more quickly it can be analysed and acted on.
This is where fast communication protocols like EtherCAT come in, offering exponentially faster and more efficient communication than other fieldbus technologies. PC-based control systems, such as Beckhoff’s TwinCAT product range, are the next logical step, as they allow engineers to make the most of these efficient communications for everything from robotics systems to machine vision applications.
What do you predict will be the biggest challenge in 2020?
Increased adoption of automated systems leads to a lot of industrial businesses experiencing bloated infrastructure. These networks are not necessarily set up for effectiveness, and limit the value provided to manufacturers. It’s not uncommon for us to encounter industrial companies using networks consisting of hundreds upon hundreds of field terminals.
The trouble is, this is a difficult-to-overcome consequence of the transition to industrial automation that most businesses have undergone. The key to addressing this is with control systems that can take the place of many; for example, a single PC-based control system like TwinCAT can process 1,000 input/output (I/O) points in 30 microseconds and take the place of numerous fieldbus terminals.
What are the company’s ambitions and plans for 2020?
Part of our ambition for 2020 is for Beckhoff to help UK businesses address the ballooning issues of bloated networks and inefficient data transmission. Showcasing what difference a simple change, such as the incorporation of PC controls, can make is imperative.
Another is to continue helping businesses in the UK to improve the quality and effectiveness of their machine vision systems. This year, Beckhoff UK launched its TwinCAT Vision software, which brought integrated vision processing functionality to the TwinCAT platform, eliminating latency and speeding up the execution of machine vision algorithms. We will continue to develop and share the benefits of this technology out in 2020.”
What industry event are you looking forward to attending in 2020 and why?
At the risk of looking too inwards, Beckhoff Automation UK is hosting its own Automation Update event in Milton Keynes this February. This event will showcase the wide range of Beckhoff technologies, highlight where they fit into an ever-changing industrial landscape and include case examples from customers.
The 2020 event is particularly exciting as it will feature extensive information on a range of technologies from TwinCAT Vision to transport systems and ATEX-rated explosion proof industrial panels.
More than an opportunity to pat ourselves on the back, it’s a valuable chance to explore how numerous industries are benefitting from new automation technology. Even seeing the technologies on display helps to inspire discussion about what’s next for the industry, and industrial technology as a whole — and that’s something worth looking forward to.”
Looking back over the past year, what have been the business’s highlights?
The biggest highlight has been in the development and launch of TwinCAT Vision. It marks a significant step forward in machine vision processing systems, and it comes at a pivotal time for industry.
TwinCAT Vision brings processes like camera configuration and programming onto a universal control platform that makes managing it much easier for end-users, while also benefitting machine builders who can create more advanced machine designs. As vision systems become applicable in more and more industry areas, having a strong control system to support them is a great advantage.”