Networked, flexible and secure towards the factory of the future Automation faces new challenges

Efficient industrial production is inextricably linked to automation. The protection of operator and machine always plays a central role in this context.

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In industry 4.0, digital data and its efficient exchange define the production process. If everything communicates decentrally with everything, the need for secure communication increases.
In industry 4.0, digital data and its efficient exchange define the production process. If everything communicates decentrally with everything, the need for secure communication increases.
(Source: Pilz GmbH & Co. KG)

Digital data and its efficient exchange have an increasingly important role to play in the production process. If everything communicates decentrally with everything, the need for secure communication becomes more pressing as well. This includes the aspects of machine safety, industrial security, connectivity and control functionality.

Considering safety and security

‘Safety’ refers to the functional safety of machines, or in other words: protecting people and the environment from threats that can emanate from machines. 'Security' comprises the protection of a machine or plant against unauthorized external access, as well as the protection of sensitive data against falsification, loss and unauthorized access within the company. This includes both intentional attacks and unintentional security incidents. Safety and security are therefore two sides of the same coin.

With SecurityBridge, the automation company Pilz has extended its product range to include industrial security. Like a firewall, SecurityBridge protects the connections between the programming or configuration tools and the hardware controls from manipulation by detecting unauthorized tampering with the automation project.

For a holistic approach to Safety & Security, information and authorizations in the industry should therefore be carefully allocated. An operating mode selection and access authorization system such as PITmode fusion from Pilz, for instance, controls the access to dangerous areas around the machine. Simultaneously, it identifies the authorized employees who is allowed access to the machine or plant. To protect the machine from unauthorized access and manipulation, each machine operator receives their individual access authorization on a coded RFID transponder key.

Connectivity needs standards

As connectivity increases, so does complexity; for example, due to the large number of communication solutions from different providers. Users therefore often have to deal with proprietary systems. The need for standards is becoming ever stronger.

On the control and field level, OPC UA (Open Platform Communications Unified Architecture) is one such standard. OPC UA ensures safe, manufacturer-independent networking of industrial plants. Pilz is also participating in the working group on safety (Safety over OPC UA).

Publisher/subscriber communication (Pub/Sub) is an especially efficient way of distributing data in real time using TSN (Time Sensitive Networking). The subscribers decide which communication relationships they want to establish with other subscriber and which data they want to receive at which intervals. With the real-time Ethernet SafetyNET p, Pilz offers the only safe Ethernet-based fieldbus system that is already Pub/Sub-ready.

On the sensor level, IO-Link is an open, system-independent market standard for fieldbus communication. IO-Link is a powerful and standardized connection technology for point-to-point communication. In the future, IO-Link will also be applicable for safe sensor communication: Version 1.1 of the IO-Link Safety System Extension has been adopted about a year ago. As an active member of the working group, Pilz is currently developing the software stacks required for establishing communication between masters (such as evaluation devices and controllers) and devices (sensors/actuators). Pilz will therefore be one of the first suppliers of IO-Link Safety products.

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Robotics: Hand in hand with people

As complexity increases, it becomes clear that people are vital for intelligent production. People are able to independently evaluate situations and make decisions. Instead of cooperation between man and machine, the future is about collaboration. As assistants, small, flexible robot systems relieve the worker of physically strenuous or particularly monotonous tasks, while people perform more sophisticated tasks.

Safety in robotics is impossible without sensors. Sensors from Pilz protect people and machines in countless robot applications - whether with or without a safety fence. The sensor portfolio from Pilz includes devices for position monitoring, safety switches, safety door systems, optoelectronic sensors such as light grids or scanners, safe camera systems and tactile sensors.

The automation technology supplier is actively involved in committees to develop the international rules and standards required for a common understanding of safety - based on years of experience in the field of CE marking in industrial applications.

Pilz is part of shaping the future of robotics and is committed to the fusion of service and industrial robotics. With the Service Robotics modules from Pilz, the automation expert now also offers a modular system that allows users to flexibly assemble their individual robot application. The open approach with the corresponding interfaces allows users to combine individual Pilz Service Robotics modules with components from other manufacturers and thus create their own tailor-made application.

With a mix of automation and safety, Pilz creates efficient solutions for the factory of the future.

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