The AI edge

Published: 18-Jul-2018

On stand B32 at this year’s PPMA show, Omron, a leading industrial automation company, will showcase its new solution that adds artificial intelligence (AI) functionality to machinery for real-time control, providing an instant reduction in waste and machine downtime

The AI controller based on a machine learning engine (MLE), which is incorporated into Omron’s Sysmac control platform (on both PLC and IPC) and monitors multiple signals simultaneously to detect potential anomalies (faults) and determine the appropriate response. The whole calculation can be accomplished in under a single machine cycle, minimising any disruption to the operation of the line.

Any industry can take advantage of the technology, but the tight quality demands and tolerances found in the pharmaceutical industry mean AI is ideal for almost every stage of the process, including mixing, packaging and packing.

AI offers functionality which would not be achievable on traditional control and programming solutions. To demonstrate the AI controller and the value it can add to the production process, a technical cell at the PPMA exhibition will show a machine filling containers with liquid, until a fault is deliberately applied. The AI controller will detect the fault and calculate in real-time how to avoid a faulty operation and recommence the filling process.

In a similar application without AI, the machine would have to be stopped, with the need for manual analysis of the fault and physical adjustments to be made. This will inevitably cause downtime to production and reduce the efficiency of the machine.

As robotics and industry 4.0 becomes adopted more widely in manufacturing, it is apparent that current cloud or networked AI solutions are ideal for collating and processing huge amounts of data for long-term performance, trends and applications such as predictive maintenance. The issue with these solutions is that they cannot react in real-time, to control machine functions, even with today’s high-speed communications technology. Bringing AI capability to a local processor at the “edge” of the production line means that data only needs to be sent to the cloud when absolutely necessary and enables decisions to be made almost instantly.

With EDGE-AI, Omron has brought AI processing technology beyond the edge and directly to the machine, enabling even quicker response times

With EDGE-AI, Omron has brought AI processing technology beyond the edge and directly to the machine, enabling even quicker response times. Adopting EDGE-AI technology in your machine on the factory floor, allows tighter control of the machinery in the line, which can bring an immediate increase in productivity and Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) without the complexity of modelling every aspect of the complete system.

Omron Marketing Manager Dan Rossek comments: “There is a huge buzz in the pharmaceutical industry about how EDGE-AI processing can change the way we work. Today, while the majority of companies are still talking about the potential of AI applications, Omron has gone a step further and brought machine learning into the production line. Moreover, the solution that will be shown at PPMA is less complex to implement than proposed AI solutions and will allow manufacturers to access some of the benefits of Industry 4.0 immediately on a platform that is easily scalable.”

By employing this solution at machine level, the AI controller can be taught to recognise anomalies and abnormal patterns much easier than traditional techniques, which would require potential faults to be determined at the production line level and require many more input signals and additional computing power to analyse the results. The AI algorithms are pre-integrated into the control system to create the framework for real-time optimisation without the need for further programming.

The result is a solution that is powerful but remains easy to implement, with immediate benefits for pharmaceutical manufacturers.

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