Principles of Industry 4.0 and the 9 Pillars

Dave Burrel - Senior Consultant, Product Design

By: David Burrell
Senior Consultant, Project Design

7th February 2019

Home » manufacturing

Industry 4.0 (i4.0) refers to the exciting area of automation within manufacturing including IOT, robotics, cloud computing and data management. We can look to the not-very-distant future and see robotics, sensors and integrated systems playing a huge part of a normal manufacturing process. With technologists and engineers regularly discussing topics like the “Smart Factory” and the “4th Industrial Revolution”, David Burrell, Senior Consultant of our Manufacturing Services, discusses what Plextek has been up to in this arena:

“It is interesting to see all the excitement around i4.0 and how we should all be getting involved. But in the end you have to ask yourself, what does it really mean and surely we have been doing this kind of thing for years? In reality, i4.0 is largely the repackaging and combination of capabilities and technologies that already exist; but providing the overall wrapper that enables total interoperability, collecting Big Data, manipulating it and then applying it as positive feedback to improve functionality and efficiency.

“If we look at the 9 pillars of Industry 4.0 below, I have assigned examples to each pillar to show how existing systems, technologies and ideas can be applied to the Industry 4.0 framework:

  1. IOT: IOT gives us the ability to realise Smart Cities: for example, we developed and implemented an intelligent street lighting system and network which can now be enhanced to incorporate collation of environmental data and additional video links.
  2. Big Data: Within the field of vehicle tracking, companies can now manage and interpret Insurance data to enable the interpretation of driver behaviour and accidents.
  3. Cloud Computing: Harvesting large quantities of data involves careful management, and providing a ‘Data warehouse’ facility to organisations is invaluable.
  4. Advanced Simulation: Complex algorithms and testing them allows for projects like inner-city intelligent parking or a ‘Dead reckoning’ capability for GPS denied environments to come to fruition.
  5. Autonomous systems: More systems in business are becoming autonomous and need less human intervention to provide effective results.  We’ve applied this to a transport scenario, with an interesting project recently completed around object and vehicle detection.
  6. Universal Integration: Integrating Factory Test equipment and a bespoke Manufacturing Execution System can enable remote access and feedback into product test yield, improving projections.
  7. Augmented Reality: By creating computer-generated perceptual information it is becoming easier to train your staff, even in unique and difficult conditions. It is very hard for example to provide training scenarios for humanitarian crisis aid or battlefield healthcare without risky in-field training unless you consider AR.
  8. Additive Manufacture: Application of AM techniques to achieve fast market entry and creative solutions is becoming more important in a competitive environment. I have previously written a blog on the 4 steps of Additive Manufacture.
  9. Cyber Security: Security of your infrastructure, both online and offline is a business critical factor. Bespoke systems design will ensure your organisations’ Data Integrity

Having all of these capabilities is all well and good but that is just the beginning, they need to be applied to something in an interconnected way within the manufacturing environment to be counted as Industry 4.0, but that is only an application specific criteria. Industry 4.0 is an exciting area as innovation is combined with sustainable processes.”

For an initial chat about Industry 4.0 and how we can help future-proof your business, then get in touch.

Industry 4.0 (i4.0) refers to the exciting area of automation within manufacturing including IOT, robotics, cloud computing and data management. We can look to the not-very-distant future and see robotics, sensors and integrated systems playing a huge part of a normal manufacturing process. With technologists and engineers regularly discussing topics like the “Smart Factory” and the “4th Industrial Revolution”, David Burrell, Senior Consultant of our Manufacturing Services, discusses what Plextek has been up to in this arena:

“It is interesting to see all the excitement around i4.0 and how we should all be getting involved. But in the end you have to ask yourself, what does it really mean and surely we have been doing this kind of thing for years? In reality, i4.0 is largely the repackaging and combination of capabilities and technologies that already exist; but providing the overall wrapper that enables total interoperability, collecting Big Data, manipulating it and then applying it as positive feedback to improve functionality and efficiency.

“If we look at the 9 pillars of Industry 4.0 below, I have assigned examples to each pillar to show how existing systems, technologies and ideas can be applied to the Industry 4.0 framework:

  1. IOT: IOT gives us the ability to realise Smart Cities: for example, we developed and implemented an intelligent street lighting system and network which can now be enhanced to incorporate collation of environmental data and additional video links.
  2. Big Data: Within the field of vehicle tracking, companies can now manage and interpret Insurance data to enable the interpretation of driver behaviour and accidents.
  3. Cloud Computing: Harvesting large quantities of data involves careful management, and providing a ‘Data warehouse’ facility to organisations is invaluable.
  4. Advanced Simulation: Complex algorithms and testing them allows for projects like inner-city intelligent parking or a ‘Dead reckoning’ capability for GPS denied environments to come to fruition.
  5. Autonomous systems: More systems in business are becoming autonomous and need less human intervention to provide effective results.  We’ve applied this to a transport scenario, with an interesting project recently completed around object and vehicle detection.
  6. Universal Integration: Integrating Factory Test equipment and a bespoke Manufacturing Execution System can enable remote access and feedback into product test yield, improving projections.
  7. Augmented Reality: By creating computer-generated perceptual information it is becoming easier to train your staff, even in unique and difficult conditions. It is very hard for example to provide training scenarios for humanitarian crisis aid or battlefield healthcare without risky in-field training unless you consider AR.
  8. Additive Manufacture: Application of AM techniques to achieve fast market entry and creative solutions is becoming more important in a competitive environment. I have previously written a blog on the 4 steps of Additive Manufacture.
  9. Cyber Security: Security of your infrastructure, both online and offline is a business critical factor. Bespoke systems design will ensure your organisations’ Data Integrity

Having all of these capabilities is all well and good but that is just the beginning, they need to be applied to something in an interconnected way within the manufacturing environment to be counted as being Industry 4.0, but that is only an application specific criteria.

Industry 4.0 is an exciting area as innovation is combined with sustainable processes.  For an initial chat about Industry 4.0 and how we can help future-proof your business, then get in touch.

PCB surface finishes

PCB Design for High Frequencies: Start with the Finish

Dave Burrel - Senior Consultant, Product Design

By: Dave Burrell
Senior Consultant, Product Design

20th December 2017

Home » manufacturing

A Printed Circuit Board (PCB) surface finish is a coating between a component and a bare board PCB. It is applied for two basic reasons: to ensure solderability, and to protect exposed copper circuitry.

Since the early days of Tin/Lead Hot Air Solder Levelling (HASL) finish, there have been many PCB finishes over the years, each with their own advantages and limitations. Cost, technology requirements and legislative demands are only some of the reasons for this growth in choice.

The current, common finishes like Electroless Nickel Immersion Gold (ENIG), Immersion Silver and organics like Organic Solderability Preservative (OSP) provide much better planarity and smoothness for finer pitch devices. An example of such devices would be a Ball Grid Array (BGA), a Quad-Flat No-Leads package (QFN) or a Land Grid Array (LGA).

Changes in RoHS regulations (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) have also made these common finishes more mainstream, making them more accessible over their cheaper counterparts, like OSP and Silver, which tend to be susceptible to shelf life issues.

This difference can be seen more clearly when RF frequencies are introduced. At low RF frequencies, current will typically pass through the copper track of a PCB surface very efficiently. However, as the frequency increases, current tends to pass more on the outer surface/skin of the track, so the plating and its conductive loss becomes of greater significance.

Copper, gold and silver all provide very low resistance and insertion loss; however bare copper is, of course, not suitable as a finish as it will degrade, similarly (but to a lesser extent) to silver.

This leaves us with gold as the most suitable top plating but this has its own unique setback. Gold cannot be put directly onto copper; it needs a barrier layer, provided either by the nickel in ENIG, the silver in ISIG (Immersion Silver/Immersion Gold) or by Palladium in ENIPIG (Electroless Nickel Immersion Palladium Immersion Gold).

At this point, most engineers would opt for nickel in ENIG (the most common solution), but it is very resistive to RF and, as frequency increases, preference moves towards ISIG or ENIPIG. Both of which provide a highly conductive outer skin and, therefore, a better signal path.

As RF frequencies increase to 60 GHz – 80 GHz, the PCB finish has a greater significance to the efficiency and performance of the PCB, becoming a crucial part of the overall design functionality.

In addition, with technologies pushing the boundaries of RF frequencies further in sensors and radar, I predict that these more exotic PCB finishes are going to become more prolific in the future.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

A Printed Circuit Board (PCB) surface finish is a coating between a component and a bare board PCB. It is applied for two basic reasons: to ensure solderability, and to protect exposed copper circuitry.

Since the early days of Tin/Lead Hot Air Solder Levelling (HASL) finish, there have been many PCB finishes over the years, each with their own advantages and limitations. Cost, technology requirements and legislative demands are only some of the reasons for this growth in choice.

The current, common finishes like Electroless Nickel Immersion Gold (ENIG), Immersion Silver and organics like Organic Solderability Preservative (OSP) provide much better planarity and smoothness for finer pitch devices. An example of such devices would be a Ball Grid Array (BGA), a Quad-Flat No-Leads package (QFN) or a Land Grid Array (LGA).

Changes in RoHS regulations (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) have also made these common finishes more mainstream, making them more accessible over their cheaper counterparts, like OSP and Silver, which tend to be susceptible to shelf life issues.

This difference can be seen more clearly when RF frequencies are introduced. At low RF frequencies, current will typically pass through the copper track of a PCB surface very efficiently. However, as the frequency increases, current tends to pass more on the outer surface/skin of the track, so the plating and its conductive loss becomes of greater significance.

Copper, gold and silver all provide very low resistance and insertion loss; however bare copper is, of course, not suitable as a finish as it will degrade, similarly (but to a lesser extent) to silver.

This leaves us with gold as the most suitable top plating but this has its own unique setback. Gold cannot be put directly onto copper; it needs a barrier layer, provided either by the nickel in ENIG, the silver in ISIG (Immersion Silver/Immersion Gold) or by Palladium in ENIPIG (Electroless Nickel Immersion Palladium Immersion Gold).

At this point, most engineers would opt for nickel in ENIG (the most common solution), but it is very resistive to RF and, as frequency increases, preference moves towards ISIG or ENIPIG. Both of which provide a highly conductive outer skin and, therefore, a better signal path.

As RF frequencies increase to 60 GHz – 80 GHz, the PCB finish has a greater significance to the efficiency and performance of the PCB, becoming a crucial part of the overall design functionality.

In addition, with technologies pushing the boundaries of RF frequencies further in sensors and radar, I predict that these more exotic PCB finishes are going to become more prolific in the future.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

4 Steps to Using Additive Manufacturing During Development

4 Steps to Using Additive Manufacturing During Development

Dave Burrel - Senior Consultant, Product Design

By: Dave Burrell
Senior Consultant, Product Design

25th October 2017

Home » manufacturing

Recently, there has been a seemingly endless hype about using 3D printing or ‘Additive Manufacture’ (AM) for product development and ‘real’ parts. However, often people can be either over-optimistic about what is possible and end up very disappointed; or, perhaps worse, their perception of capability is far less than what can actually be achieved and they could have pushed their dreams that much further.

There are also many types of AM out there as well as organisations who can provide different solutions for you, whether it be the finish that you require, the material, the accuracy or the even size that you want. Keeping up with what is currently available and what the possibilities and new developments are is a constant catch up exercise because things move so quickly.

The desire from customers to have something that looks really cutting edge with a ‘next week’ delivery and a keen price is vital to achieving a happy client. These steps will set out how to achieve this by using varying levels of AM.

Step 1: Visualise with 3D Computer Aided Design (CAD)

Obviously, using 3D CAD provides a model which helps to picture the resultant part, but there is nothing quite like an actual part to physically hold and feel to truly understand if it will do the job in terms of having a good human interface.

Step 2: Create simple parts with a desktop Fused Deposition Material (FDM) printer

So to begin, create simple parts printed on a desktop FDM. This can be created in a matter of hours and can cost next to nothing. This does not need to be highly accurate or even a smooth surface (like you might get from a Stereolithographic or Digital Light Processing part), or even hand-finished through rubbing down and painting (which can be very expensive), it just needs to be representative in its form.

Step 3: Iterate the part design process until perfection

Move forward with small design tweaks and maybe make another rough model before starting to spend money externally. Of course, at this stage, you can iterate the design as many times as you like as you only need to print the bits that you are focussing on. Once you have gone through the early learning curve on the part, the next stage is to get the real model made for the customer.

Step 4: Reach a decision with the customer

At this point, the decision has to be on just what the customer’s expectations are, what they want to do with it and how they would like to take it forward. These decisions will basically determine just how much money you are going to have to spend, and are worth in-depth discussions with the customer.

The 4 Steps in Action

This handheld part (pictured) is made from a very tough and durable Nylon material and then smoothed using ceramic media in a vibrobowl. It is not a perfect finish but is perfectly good enough, tough enough and professional looking enough for the client to do customer trials with. There is no need to go to the lengths of having something made in expensive resin material which would not be so strong anyway.

And in the end, like most things in life, the result of what you get really depends on how you approach it. There are many ways to skin a cat but it will come down to a question of ‘horses for courses’.

Think hard about what it is you are trying to make and what you want to achieve, setting out to accomplish this with the best tools for the job. Also, don’t be afraid to explore the cheaper options along the development process before putting funds into an agreed set of specifications.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Recently, there has been a seemingly endless hype about using 3D printing or ‘Additive Manufacture’ (AM) for product development and ‘real’ parts. However, often people can be either over-optimistic about what is possible and end up very disappointed; or, perhaps worse, their perception of capability is far less than what can actually be achieved and they could have pushed their dreams that much further.

There are also many types of AM out there as well as organisations who can provide different solutions for you, whether it be the finish that you require, the material, the accuracy or the even size that you want. Keeping up with what is currently available and what the possibilities and new developments are is a constant catch up exercise because things move so quickly.

The desire from customers to have something that looks really cutting edge with a ‘next week’ delivery and a keen price is vital to achieving a happy client. These steps will set out how to achieve this by using varying levels of AM.

Step 1: Visualise with 3D Computer Aided Design (CAD)

Obviously, using 3D CAD provides a model which helps to picture the resultant part, but there is nothing quite like an actual part to physically hold and feel to truly understand if it will do the job in terms of having a good human interface.

Step 2: Create simple parts with a desktop Fused Deposition Material (FDM) printer

So to begin, create simple parts printed on a desktop FDM. This can be created in a matter of hours and can cost next to nothing. This does not need to be highly accurate or even a smooth surface (like you might get from a Stereolithographic or Digital Light Processing part), or even hand-finished through rubbing down and painting (which can be very expensive), it just needs to be representative in its form.

Step 3: Iterate the part design process until perfection

Move forward with small design tweaks and maybe make another rough model before starting to spend money externally. Of course, at this stage, you can iterate the design as many times as you like as you only need to print the bits that you are focussing on. Once you have gone through the early learning curve on the part, the next stage is to get the real model made for the customer.

Step 4: Reach a decision with the customer

At this point, the decision has to be just what the customer’s expectations are, what they want to do with it and how they would like to take it forward. These decisions will basically determine just how much money you are going to have to spend, and are worth in-depth discussions with the customer.

The 4 Steps in Action

This handheld part (pictured) is made from a very tough and durable Nylon material and then smoothed using ceramic media in a vibrobowl. It is not a perfect finish but is perfectly good enough, tough enough and professional looking enough for the client to do customer trials with. There is no need to go to the lengths of having something made in expensive resin material which would not be so strong anyway.

And in the end, like most things in life, the result of what you get really depends on how you approach it. There are many ways to skin a cat but it will come down to a question of ‘horses for courses’.

Think hard about what it is you are trying to make and what you want to achieve, setting out to accomplish this with the best tools for the job. Also, don’t be afraid to explore the cheaper options along the development process before putting funds into an agreed set of specifications.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Electronic Enclosures

Electronic Enclosures

Stephen Field - Lead Consultant, Product Design

By: Stephen Field
Senior Consultant, Product Design

15th March 2017

Home » manufacturing

Elecs1

So you want to put some electronics in a ‘box’, how hard can that be? The world is full of electronics in boxes…. it’s easy, isn’t it? 

Of course, there is a world of difference between a sophisticated electronic device in a demanding aerospace environment and a cheap-as-chips, perhaps even disposable, consumer product. However, many of the same considerations apply at both ends of this range.

In common with other areas of design, the ‘thing’ that the mechanical designer creates very much depends upon the demands of the customer as itemised in the requirements specification. In an ideal world, the customer knows enough to be able to create a comprehensive specification document. This is often not the case and so the designer will use their knowledge and experience to steer the design in the right direction.

This short piece introduces some of the elements the mechanical designer has to contemplate as they embark on the creation of a new electronics enclosure. I hope, through this discussion, the reader will begin to appreciate the many aspects that influence the design of the humble ‘box’. It is the designer’s experience and innate feel for their subject that allows them to create products from a blank page.

Depending on the requirements placed upon the designer, some of the things to consider are listed below. Many of these constraints are customer wishes. Some, especially regarding safety, are legislated for by national, EU or international agreements.

Elecs2Size and weight – seldom are these unimportant to any customer. Even if it is not a specific requirement, these parameters become significant when it comes to considering the cost of packing and shipping the product.

Ergonomics and aesthetics – the user experience is an important factor especially, but not exclusively, for consumer products. In my long career, I have never met a customer, or a fellow team member for that matter, who does not have a view on how a product should look.

They often do not know what they want until they see some conceptual ideas. One of the key skills of the designer is to create tangible schemes from the often vague notions of others. Later, the designer must be able to hold all the relevant requirements in mind as these same others try to steer into impractical cul-de-sacs with words like ‘just’, ‘only’ and the ubiquitous ‘something’.

Heat dissipation – any power used will generate heat. Excessive heat may cause degradation of performance and/or reduced component life. Many factors can affect what strategies can be put in place for heat removal.

Specialist knowledge and software are sometimes needed to optimise the thermal design of a system. However, this route often takes time, resources and experience. An understanding of the general principles, coupled with some early empirical evaluation is sometimes more beneficial.

Ingress protection – protect products from the intrusion of everything from screwdrivers and fingers to dust and high-pressure water spray.

Elecs4EMC protection – ensure to protect from harmful radio signals and to ensure there is no leakage from the product that might be detrimental to other devices.

Protection from vibration and impact – accidents can happen and protection is needed for a whole host of scenarios. This can range from: products being bulk transported, consumer use and misuse and products being dropped. You might need to consider the vibration encountered in a lorry engine bay or the launch environment of a space satellite.

Each case is different. Sometimes experience and sound practice are sufficient to ensure a reliable product. Occasionally, analysis and testing are necessary to be absolutely sure the product is fit for purpose and, crucially, safe.

Safety from electrical shock – always make sure that you are protecting the user, whether they are a skilled technician or an inquisitive child.

Electrostatic safety – many semiconductor components can easily suffer damage by being subjected to electrostatic discharge.

Electrostatic discharge safety – specialist products that are required to operate in explosive atmospheres have to be designed to eliminate the chance of them generating or propagating a spark.

Elecs5In parallel with considering the above requirements, the designer must adapt their design approach to suit the expected manufacturing volumes. This will inform the choices of materials and the manufacturing techniques employed.

The manufacturing techniques are also influenced by the budget available for setting up the manufacturing capability; the tooling as well as the expected country of manufacture, the assembly process used and the market for the product.

In recent times, the designer has had to begin to consider the ease of disposal and recycling at the end of the product life. This is a good example of where international treaty and agreement between governments can be used to enforce behaviour that would not come about through market forces.

Holding a good understanding of these requirements and knowing which ones are essential and most desired; so that trade-offs and compromises can be agreed upon to best meet the overall goals is key to a successful product design process.

Save

Elecs1So you want to put some electronics in a ‘box’, how hard can that be? The world is full of electronics in boxes…. it’s easy, isn’t it?

Of course, there is a world of difference between a sophisticated electronic device in a demanding aerospace environment and a cheap-as-chips, perhaps even disposable, consumer product. However, many of the same considerations apply at both ends of this range.

In common with other areas of design, the ‘thing’ that the mechanical designer creates very much depends upon the demands of the customer as itemised in the requirements specification. In an ideal world, the customer knows enough to be able to create a comprehensive specification document. This is often not the case and so the designer will use their knowledge and experience to steer the design in the right direction.

This short piece introduces some of the elements the mechanical designer has to contemplate as they embark on the creation of a new electronics enclosure. I hope, through this discussion, the reader will begin to appreciate the many aspects that influence the design of the humble ‘box’. It is the designer’s experience and innate feel for their subject that allows them to create products from a blank page.

Depending on the requirements placed upon the designer, some of the things to consider are listed below. Many of these constraints are customer wishes. Some, especially regarding safety, are legislated for by National, EU or international agreements.

Elecs2Size and weight – seldom are these unimportant to any customer. Even if it is not a specific requirement, these parameters become significant when it comes to considering the cost of packing and shipping the product.

Ergonomics and aesthetics – the user experience is an important factor especially, but not exclusively, for consumer products. In my long career, I have never met a customer, or a fellow team member for that matter, who does not have a view on how a product should look.

They often do not know what they want until they see some conceptual ideas. One of the key skills of the designer is to create tangible schemes from the often vague notions of others. Later, the designer must be able to hold all the relevant requirements in mind as these same others try to steer into impractical cul-de-sacs with words like ‘just’, ‘only’ and the ubiquitous ‘something’.

Heat dissipation – any power used will generate heat. Excessive heat may cause degradation of performance and/or reduced component life. Many factors can affect what strategies can be put in place for heat removal.

Specialist knowledge and software are sometimes needed to optimise the thermal design of a system. However, this route often takes time, resources and experience. An understanding of the general principles, coupled with some early empirical evaluation is sometimes more beneficial.

Ingress protection – protect products from the intrusion of everything from screwdrivers and fingers to dust and high-pressure water spray.

Elecs4EMC protection – ensure to protect from harmful radio signals and to ensure there is no leakage from the product that might be deterimental to other devices.

Protection from vibration and impact – accidents can happen and protection is needed for a whole host of scenarios. This can range from: products being bulk transported, consumer use and misuse and products being dropped. You might need to consider the vibration encountered in a lorry engine bay or the launch environment of a space satellite.

Each case is different. Sometimes experience and sound practice are sufficient to ensure a reliable product. Occasionally, much analysis and testing are necessary to be absolutely sure the product is fit for purpose and, crucially, safe.

Safety from electrical shock – always make sure that you are protecting the user, whether they are a skilled technician or an inquisitive child.

Electrostatic safety – many semiconductor components can easily suffer damage by being subjected to electrostatic discharge.

Electrostatic discharge safety – specialist products that are required to operate in explosive atmospheres have to be designed to eliminate the chance of them generating or propagating a spark.

Elecs5In parallel with considering the above requirements, the designer must adapt their design approach to suit the expected manufacturing volumes. This will inform the choices of materials and the manufacturing techniques employed.

The manufacturing techniques are also influenced by the budget available for setting up the manufacturing capability; the tooling as well as the expected country of manufacture, the assembly process used and the market for the product.

In recent times, the designer has had to begin to consider the ease of disposal and recycling at the end of the product life. This is a good example of where international treaty and agreement between governments can be used to enforce behaviour that would not come about through market forces.

Holding a good understanding of these requirements and knowing which ones are essential and most desired; so that trade-offs and compromises can be agreed upon to best meet the overall goals is key to a successful product design process.

Save

Save

Save

Save