This article was written by David M. Aguirre, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Technologist, Gateway Technical College.
Each industrial revolution is fueled by one of the most powerful advancements of a given generation. The first industrial revolution was driven by the power of steam. The second industrial revolution was sparked by the harnessing of electricity. The third industrial revolution was forged by robotics and the power of computing.
Now the fourth industrial revolution, also known as Industry 4.0, is driven by data using the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
Gateway Technical College wants its students to understand the importance of data as they enter the future workforce and to be able to showcase Industry 4.0 manufacturing in their communities so people understand how it is evolving.
To accomplish these objectives, Gateway has put in place hardware and software capable of unifying, connecting, and providing full visibility into the advanced manufacturing labs found at the Integrated Manufacturing and Engineering Technology (iMET) Center. The IIoT platform used at the iMET Center to achieve these objectives is MT-LINKi by FANUC.
Our instructors use MT-LINKi to teach data-infused advanced manufacturing. Students learn about program cycle times and process control, learn to track history and observe trends, and learn techniques for improving efficiency and preventing and predicting downtime.
With MT-LINKi, students learn the amazing potential of data provided by the IIoT. MT-LINKi is a true, scalable IIoT platform that provides shop floor visibility by connecting physical systems to the cyber world. Students learn about data collection, monitoring, and virtualization, and about ways to improve efficiency.
The real advantage of this platform is that it does not limit users to only FANUC devices. FANUC realizes that full implementation of Industry 4.0 requires that all doors to data be open and all barriers eliminated.
FANUC created this platform to work with not only its own protocols but with two of the most open and universal communication protocols used for the advancement of Industry 4.0: OPC UA and MTConnect. This open architecture allows us to connect existing lab equipment from providers such as Haas, Bridgeport, Mazak, Mitsubishi, and Lincoln Electric.
Under the hood, MT-LINKi uses MongoDB, a database platform that is used in our data analytics associate degree program. The data collected on our shop floor and in our scaled smart factory laboratory is directly used by students in the degree program to learn about data structure, JSON-like schemas, data shaping, and data analysis.
Our students then learn how to transform complex raw data into visually appealing, easy-to-digest dashboards that provide insights into the manufacturing process. Students take a deep-dive into big data while learning to filter the good from the bad, and use that data to resolve real-world problems.
To provide immediate visibility on the iMET shop floor or in the smart factory lab, strategically placed QR codes with embedded NFC chips direct students, faculty, and staff to MT-LINKi. Although our server is hosted internally, anyone with the correct credentials can view our cyber-physical shop floor from anywhere in the world.
The picture here shows the actual lab layout on the left and the digital lab layout on the right. Students access the digital lab layout using QR codes located near the lab area. In the digital lab, the added operational colors (green in the picture) indicate the status of each monitored machine.
Industry 4.0 is here at Gateway and we will continue to move forward with MT-LINKi as our IIoT platform along with technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, 5G, digital twins, autonomous systems, and edge computing.
When these technologies are connected together, the possibilities are endless, and so are the career opportunities for students who possess skills and knowledge in advanced manufacturing and data analytics.
For more information on how Gateway is using MT-LINKi in its programs, contact the author at Aguirred@gtc.edu.
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