Hannover Messe is a vast, bewildering playground of manufacturing technology. Will Stirling joins Siemens at the 2012 Messe, observes Germany’s devotion to engineering first-hand and experiences the powerful China connection.
If you haven’t been to the Hannover Messe, you should go.Technophobes, perhaps don’t bother. But if you need, or have an interest in, manufacturing technologies, it is a giant Aladdin’s cave of solutions to improve your factory’s productivity and reduce carbon emissions.
Here you can eyeball and buy sensors, drives, motors, cables, industrial switches, linear motion gear, metrology, lightning monitoring systems, ‘flying boxes’, and even visitor-counting equipment for your own trade show back home. The sheer array of industrial solutions is staggering.
The Messe (meaning a fair) combines eight trade fairs in one location:
- Industrial Automation
- Energy MobiliTec
- Digital Factory
- Industrial Supply
- Research & Technology
Hannover’s conceptual themes this year were energy saving solutions and China, the partner country for Hannover. The single common proposition for the solutions here is saving money and time. And money, in many cases, equates to energy. “When you’re developing technology that addresses a range of industrial control applications, you have to bring in innovation that competes at every level and every year brings benefits to the users of the technology. The pressure is to reduce the cost,”says Brian Holliday, divisional director, Siemens Industry Automation and Drive Technologies.
In the Industrial Automation Hall, 1,040 companies from around the world sit alongside global giants like ABB, Bosch and Siemens. The Mittelstand is everywhere. Mid-sized, familyowned German companies, who are relatively unknown as brands outside Germany – firms like sensor manufacturer ifm electronic and cable maker Lütze – occupy vast, expensive stands you might associate with a +£2bn company, an endorsement of the size of the German market for these products. Hannover is an international show, but this is also the biggest trade fair where German companies deal with each other.
“This is a really common issue in a manufacturing environment; does this data actually reflect what’s going on in my plant or my product.” – Brain Holiday, Siemens, on plant asset management
China goes green
The Chinese came to Hannover in force this year. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao opened the Messe jointly with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Nearly 500 companies from China exhibited, a big increase in comparison to 2010 (294). Not including China, the number of exhibitors from Asia matched 2010. “We have to compare even years because the exhibitor programme features different sectors in odd years,” says Brock McCormack, spokesman for the organisers Deutsche Messe AG.
The main theme of China’s showcase was intelligent solutions for sustainability, branded “green + intelligence”, a reflection of the Messe’s own main theme, “greentelligence.” China used this trade fair, the world’s biggest, to project its devotion to sustainability and intelligent green technologies to the world. This, the show organisers say, should underscore its attractiveness as an international trading partner and foreign direct investment location.
China and Germany have developed an important symbiosis. This was prescient given the eurozone’s woes. Bosch Rexroth AG chose Hannover Messe for its annual press conference and chairman Dr. Karl Tragl and Fo-Wai Lau, managing director of Bosch Rexroth in China, jointly presented the company results – sales up 27% on 2011 with almost 3,500 additional jobs created. Some companies are simply not seeing signs of a double-dip recession.
Certainly the number of Sino-German summits and events underlined the bonds being forged between the two manufacturing superpowers. The German-Chinese Future Forum, the China-Germany SME Forum and the German-Chinese Conference on Electrical Mobility were just three of the 12 different themed Germany- or EU-to-China events over the show’s five days.
Festo is big in automation technology and claims to be the world market leader in basic and advanced technical training. Its pneumatic and electric drive technology covers a big range of products like ball valves, solenoids, valve terminals, controllers and pressure transmitters.
A big crowd thronged Festo’s lavish stand to marvel at ‘SmartInversion’, aka ‘the flying box’. Part of its Future Concepts series, Festo develops new or relatively unknown motion and drive concepts. SmartInversion is a flying object filled with helium, which is similar to a chain, and moves forward by inverting itself – the rhomboid-shaped device folds out and in on itself. The intelligent combination of very lightweight design, electric drives and open-loop and closedloop control makes endless, rhythmically pulsating inversion in the air possible. Visitors gawped in wonder at the floating shape achieving a state of sort of neutral buoyancy in the air.
“The mechanical principles of rotation and linear motion are the basis for many solutions in automation and Festo’s engineers work with universities, institutes and industrial partners to transfer mathematical and scientific principles to industrial applications,” said a spokesman.
Siemens makes its mark
It’s hard to miss Siemens at Hannover Messe. The engineering group’s exhibition space is some 4,400m2 – 1,800m2 bigger than the entire Coiltechnica trade fair in the next door hall.
Siemens’ main stand in Hall 9 is a giant, open-plan ellipse, telling an oval-shaped story of the fully integrated, automated business; from design, PLM (product lifecyle management) and planning, through process control, automation and energy management to material handling and distribution. All bases are covered. The stand explains Siemens’ Totally Integrated Automation, or TIA, philosophy.
Two of Siemens’ myriad solutions on show: Control with diagnostics
The functional appearance of many products belies multiple benefits to the user. The Simatic ET200 Pro is a very small, ruggedised and highperformance I/O system with IP67 degree of protection. An I/O control system controls the inputs and outputs to your process, interfacing with the incoming digital and analogue signals. IP means ingress protection, in this case its submersible to one metre. The ET200 Pro controls signals and gathers diagnostics.
What does this mean for the plant operator? “The innovation, for a machine builder for example, who might be equipping a machine to operate outdoors, or in a brewery or a dairy where the machine could be hosed down, is that the controller can cope without having to be built into a control panel,” says Siemens’ Brian Holliday.
“The benefit to the machine builder is in not requiring a separate control panel that’s been manually wired with more components. In the operation, you’ve also got an intelligent device that reports diagnostics as a whole. You get uptime benefits with fewer components so your mean time between failures improves, and you’re making use of the diagnostics and remote intelligence that you gain from bolting this onto the side of a machine rather than paying someone to build extra panels.
“That innovative step means a machine builder lowers his costs, improves reliability and has a competitive edge to pass on to his customer. Our product, in this case, is merely a component in that system.”
Plant Asset Management – “As is” documentation
COMOS is plant asset management software that connects planning and operating environments for more efficient work flows as well as energy management. It interfaces with PCS7, the Plant Wide Process Control System, during operation of the plant.
The term “as built documentation” used to be popular, says Heinz Eisenbeiss, head of marketing and promotion, Siemens Industrial Automation Systems. “It’s not ‘as built’ now, its ‘as is’ documentation. It’s real-time.”
“For Comos to work best, you can’t have sequential projects – all activities must work in parallel,” says Herr Eisenbeiss. “When you design the flow of material and energy inside your process [with Comos], you are not just making a drawing; you’re creating objects in the Comos database. These objects become more detailed throughout the project – you move from a process flow scheme to D&ID – the objects become rich with more detail, where each can be navigated. The automation and electrical criteria are also being designed within here – as soon as the object is created, you can start working on hook-up diagrams and wiring. There is a hierarchy, objects within objects, depending on the complexity of your assembly.
“The key point, though, is that control functionality is directly related to all the process information. By specifying it all within Comos you have all the information that you need to do programming. So why not have an interface to do that automatically? We now have that as a product. We generate all the software in a system called PCS7 automatically via the interface.”
“This has to work in both directions,” Eisenbeiss explains. “As soon as you go to commissioning and start-up you make changes, which are made in the engineering of PCS7. Changes made in PCS 7 during plant commissioning are fed back to Comos to update your documentation. This works over a bidirectional data interface between the two.”
It is a version control loop that improves data integrity. “This is a really common issue in a manufacturing environment; where’s the single version of the truth; does this data actually reflect what’s going on in my plant or my product?” adds Holliday.
The software was born in the pharmaceutical industry, to answer its high regulatory needs, but Eisenbeiss says there is clear economic value-add. “When you generate software automatically you can save about 30% in engineering cost directly, and that inherent data integrity clearly gives a lot of time-saving.”