The future of production at SPS Drives 2017

9th January 2018
Posted By : Anna Flockett
The future of production at SPS Drives 2017

Production is a large part of the engineering industry, and everyone is concerned and focussed on the future; Industry 4.0 and digitalisation. Therefore, a Smart Production Tour at SPS Drives seemed very fitting and exciting. Engineering Specifier went along to the three hour event to find out from a range of companies all there was to know about ‘smart production’ from WSCAD, Beckhoff, Balluff, Bosch Rexroth and B&R.

WSCAD Integrated Engineering

The company has a vision according to CEO Dr. Axel Zein: “A world where engineers have all the tools they need to automate routine tasks, so they can concentrate more on what they can do best: create and innovate.” So therefore its mission is to enrich the lives of users by helping them to do their jobs ‘faster, better and easier’.

That is what makes WSCAD worthwhile, Zein believes.

Targets are important, as WSCAD’s goal is not just to create CAD software, it is to create great experiences for engineers so they can finish projects ‘faster better and easier’.

This is where the recently introduced WSCAD Suite comes in. Designed for mechanical engineers this system can change your electrical CAD systems for the better.

The company gave us ten good reasons why customers should use WSCAD:

  1. Interdisciplinary consistency in engineering data – The Suite system is the first integrated and comprehensive CAD/CAE solution. No matter where you work the replacement of a component in one plan is immediately reflected in all other plans.
  2. With over 1.2 million parts at your fingertips, you will never go without.
  3. High functionality – The system can handle a range of functions; from a simple ten pages to mega projects with structure and compliant design features. Documentation is provided in intelligent PDFs.
  4. WSCAD claims the WSCAD Suite has an outstanding price to performance ratio.
  5. Designed for speed WSCAD is fast, intuitive and easy to use – And now with the new WSCAD Augmented Reality app, maintenance and service engineers can benefit from the software, which recognises the components in the cabinet and displays the schematics with all the relevant data, as they immediately know what they are dealing with.
  6. Importing data from other electrical CAD systems – This enables effortless design and manufacture of cabinets that are based on schematics and data from others.
  7. Easy integration through numerous interfaces – The product strategy is complemented by mechanisms for speeding up processes and to enable more openness. Therefore, it provides many efficient interfaces to PLM and ERP systems.
  8.  You can use engineering automation to finish projects on time – This is achieved through five steps: structure, standardise, reuse, generate and configure.
  9. Digitisation and professional services from the WSCAD global business services.
  10. WSCAD claim to give excellent maintenance and support, with quick, competent and personal advice being offered in three maintenance levels for individual needs.

And if that was not enough the company then introduced us to which is a free parts and symbols library for electrical CAD and engineering. The site has over one million parts and related data, in which users can access parts of data from different manufacturers in respective formats and use them within their plans.

For integrated engineering the benefits include:

  • Synchronous product development with other departments
  • Assembly oriented workflow

This makes it so easy to create project sheets, using project wizard which is used to import machine configuration. The WSCAD AR app mentioned before is part of the new WSCAD Suite 2018, and can be downloaded free of charge on the app store.


Being a company that is very technology oriented, Beckhoff had a lot of new technology to show at the SPS Drives especially in terms of the two biggest areas; Industry 4.0, and smart production.

Beckhoff employs a large number of engineers, making up a third of the workforce and this contributes to its high technological products. The company works mainly with implementing open automation systems based on PC Control technology, and includes a range of products such as Industrial PCs, I/O and Fieldbus Components, Drive Technology and automation software. 

PC-based control
PC-based controls allow software to be run on a product which is able to run machines. This means there is just one brain – one controller that controls one PC. Beckhoff believe this is the best way to control machines, and that PC-based control is the core technology for Industry 4.0.

Cloud-based automation
Beckhoff cloud scenarios offer storage, analytics, services and functions with the TwinCAT analytics. The TwinCAT analytics combines the working station with the end user, the machine builder and automation.

People want to do something with the data that they collect, and this is where the TwinCAT analytics is suitable, as the brain controls anything that takes place.

Smart Factory
The smart factories can be identified from the use of cameras, which the robots use to identify products. Robots can also use cameras for quality control.

  • Vision system
  • Connection to cloud
  • Condition monitoring data

Control is very easy and fast through computing power. By using a PC which is much more powerful – robots will be able to do things, which we aren’t even aware of yet!

Beckhoff use PCs as a gateway to send data to the cloud, which will soon become an essential requirement.


As I approached the Balluff stall I was faced with the question: What do the following have in common?

  • Traceability
  • Production
  • Quality Assurance
  • Packaging
  • Order Processing

They all need data.

Data is at the centre of everything. You need data and communication between a sensor and the internet for it to be fast and efficient, as well as managing the growing amount of data. This is where the IO-Link comes in to transport information across all levels.  

With IO-Link, you communicate from the control unit down to the lowest level of automation. A universally applicable interface suffices. IO-Link sensors installed directly at the working point guarantee efficiency.

Take for example the robot in a smart factory – IO-Link from Balluff comprises sensors and fieldbus technology with an extremely wide range of functional principles, fieldbus systems like Profibus, Profinet, Ethernet-IP and EtherCAT. Balluff claim that it ‘speaks IO-Link in all areas’.

Optical multi-function sensor
A fitting example of Balluff’s IO-Link technology was shown in the optical multi-function sensor, which echoes Balluff’s belief: “sensor data- anytime and anywhere.”

This sensor is able to generate, transport and process information, which is what the Industry 4.0 environment is all about. With intelligent situ sensors, the multi-function sensor provides the needed input, through detecting on-site operating conditions, collecting and processing information and providing far more data than just switching signal over the IO-Link.

The sensors have the IO-Link smart light, which allows you to transfer IO-Link data and energy through air gaps, which are measured at 10-13mm. Through a counter function, the sensor offers different counting and reset modes. The freely configurable frequency monitoring additionally allows tasks such as detecting and monitoring speeds to be performed, which provides product reliability.

Within the product there are four photoelectric sensor principles integrated into the sensor, which allows for easy and constant adaptation to the sensor function in applications. The principal can also be used as background suppression, energetic diffuse, retro-reflective or through-beam functions.

The function can be changed depending on the object through the IO-Link, which will provide the best and most reliable detection method. As the detection signals are pre-progressed in the sensor, it relieves you of much of the programming, which takes the load of the system controller. 

With all the dirty particles, the mirrors in the optical multi-function sensor can get dirty very easily, but thanks to clear diagnostics information it can measure the quality of the mirror as well as the quality of monitoring, to ensure it is working at a suitable level. The IO-Link is a good data source for intelligent production.

What does Balluff’s idea of a smart factory looks like?

It includes a packaging station that can check what OEE status your machine statistics lie at, additionally check machine logic, and production all from the same system.

The IO-Link Master will allow customers to see exactly what is happening on their machines, what devices are connected and disconnected, and will also show the status of your fieldbus. Customers will be able to see events coming from the sensor, and send notifications with alerts; such as when the machine needs to be cleaned, or when certain parts are coming to the end of their life.

Bosch Rexroth

At the Bosch Rexroth stand there was a wide variety of drive and control technology. From drive safety solutions for safe control and motion to hydraulics - Rexroth was originally a hydraulics supplier before partnering with Bosch.

Bosch Rexroth highlighted its Connected Automation portfolio, as 'without software, Industry 4.0 would be inconceivable,' Bosch Rexroth stated, and it 'supplies the necessary intelligence for modular, mobile and connected production components.'

The software allows customers to bring connectivity to existing manufacturing systems with its PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) and IoT smart Industry 4.0 solutions. One of these solutions is called LabVIEW. LabVIEW is an Open Core Interface Toolkit which allows users without programming knowledge to utilise the data and functions of their automation systems. Bosch Rexroth also highlighted its new IoT Gateway software V2 which 'arrives with many new connectivity possibilities'.


The tour of the B&R stand was a highlight of the show. Multiple displays of automated factory production lines moved fluidly and rapidly in pre-programmed synchronicity in what looked like a highly sophisticated Scalextric setup. B&R demonstrated their components for smart factory automation with the launch of SuperTrak.

“SuperTrak, B&R's versatile industrial transport system, uses magnet technology to guide individually controllable shuttles along a track using long stator linear motors,” stated B&R

Customers who need more flexibility are able to join parallel structures alongside the SuperTrak infrastructure. The SuperTrak motors worked as a shuttle, but all the motors moved independently, and could move freely compared to traditional models. This prevents disruption to the production line and enables extremely fast technology.

Through the independent movement of the motors controlled by a powerful Automation PC, there is no more collision in buffer zones on conveyor belts - avoiding damage and downtime. The individual shuttles can be controlled via CNC (Computer Numerical Control) channels.

SuperTrak: Flexibility with high productivity

  • Each motor moves independently
  • Controlled with B&R controllers
  • Able to work with external parts
  • Can be simulated with a digital twin
  • Very high loads
  • Precise product positioning
  • Low-maintenance, robust design
  • Reliable 24/7 operation in harsh environments

Customers are able to divert production processes electrically, without mechanical actuators - and without stopping the functionality of the machine. There are no sensors for the position of the motors, the PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) sends the positions to the motors.

“Like all B&R solutions, SuperTrak is programmed in the Automation Studio software development environment. Programmers can take advantage of ready-to-use libraries and function blocks to configure the shuttles,” explained B&R. A 3D model is pre-generated of the production plan, which is then imported into the digital twin.

This technology enables customers with high product changeover to reduce down-time and be able to 'change on the fly'.

"We believe this is the future for transport systems in smart factories," said Daniel Sanchez-Muñoz, International Application Engineer at B&R.


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