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When machines ensure quality

Measurement evaluation

Programmable logic controllers and interfaces

Uncomplicated data handling, simple operation and efficient data management are now the standard for all machine and system software. Just 20 years ago, it was by no means a given that machines would communicate easily with other machines, production systems or company-specific databases. Today, we are already going much further and producing intelligent systems that have long since found their way into quality assurance and hardness testing.

Automated test jobs

Program interfaces for hardness testing machines (such as ecos Workflow xCHANGE from EMCO-TEST Prüfmaschinen GmbH) allow data to be exchanged between a hardness tester and any other program, machine or device. This means that all parameters relevant to the hardness test are disclosed. The interface is included as standard in most hardness testers and can be integrated into automated systems together with the device. It can be used to implement practically all customer-specific requirements for connecting a hardness tester to databases, data input devices and production systems. Even fully automated or unmanned operation poses no problems for cleverly designed interfaces. Based on the common XML format, they enable simple and clearly structured handling.

Industry 4.0 light

Users can use the interface to run test jobs automatically. This means that the company's own software communicates directly with the software of the hardness testing machine. The interface reacts, executes the job and sends the result back to the company's software. The hardness tester can interact directly with the company-specific database solution via the interface and exchange test data. The connection of data input devices such as barcode scanners and RFID readers and different formats for data input also works without any problems. Imported data can be processed in the hardness tester, test results can be stored directly in the database and information can be sent to a smartphone, for example - Industry 4.0 light, so to speak!

This results in handling advantages that significantly simplify the hardness testing process.

The interface can be used to transmit control commands to the hardness tester in real time. This allows it to be flexibly integrated into complex automation systems. Loading can be carried out, for example, via a roller conveyor with a corresponding device for component positioning or by a robot in a production cell. This results in handling advantages that significantly simplify the hardness testing process. Modern testing machines that are based on intelligent software and integrated into production offer many opportunities for simplified work, particularly with regard to data evaluation, handling large volumes of data and meaningful analysis.

Industry 4.0 light because development has by no means stopped at this point. What works with data interfaces via the TCP/IP reference model and has basically been possible since the first days of the internet, more than 50 years ago, has also been working at the level of programmable logic controllers (PLC units) since the 2000s.

Communication at control level

Open Platform Communications Unified Architecture (OPC UA), a standard for data exchange as a platform-independent, service-oriented architecture, offers the advantage that even the most diverse PLC units can communicate with each other at signal level. Modern machines have a modular design, offer high quality, require less maintenance downtime and ensure greater investment security in the long term. The most common of these PLC components are produced automatically in large series (e.g. for the inner workings of EMCO-TEST hardness testing machines). Several 100,000 of them are produced each year. Assembly and soldering are carried out using fully automated and standardized processes.

The advantages of the PLC components

The PLC components are manufactured for a wide range of applications and are therefore subjected to comprehensive and extensive testing. Thanks to their modularity, they can be flexibly retrofitted, reconnected and are therefore universally applicable. However, there are other advantages associated with their use:

As they have no internal relays, they are largely wear-free, smaller, more reliable, often more cost-effective in the long term and can be networked with other IT systems. Their use also enables faster fault analysis: the control logic can often be changed via the Internet in the form of remote maintenance. They have a lower power consumption than connection-programmed controllers (VPS) and can usually be converted or rewired with less effort.

The digital present

All the advantages in production and implementation not only have a positive effect on the machine manufacturer, but also on its customer base. Networking between manufacturers and users has reached a new level in the course of digitalization, which benefits everyone involved. Maintenance work, updates and, above all, the exchange of data largely take place in the background of daily work, no longer disrupt processes and no longer lead to production stoppages. The intelligent, modern machine, which has a modular control system combined with intuitive software, raises quality assurance in every production operation to a higher level. Digitalization has made all of this a reality and with it, hardness testing has advanced from a once mechanical process to a highly technological measuring technique. From a simple impression to optically supported data evaluation, precisely traceable down to the nano range.

The hardness test of the future

EIt remains exciting to see what the advancing technologization of quality assurance and, in particular, hardness testing will bring. Increasing networking suggests that there will be more intensive agreements on sensible forms of cooperation in the future. Working and financing models will find their way into long-term company partnerships in order to turn cooperations into sustainable synergies in which the value no longer lies in individual production facilities, but in the joint use of data. Efforts and trends are moving in precisely this direction.

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