"We chose Argenta following an open tender because nobody else was able to demonstrate that they could meet our requirement to capture and store sensor data directly from the shop floor," said Jon Stammers, Technical Fellow at the AMRC. "It is challenging to integrate the various systems in a manufacturing environment, but Argenta had valuable experience working in similar environments."
The new solution provides a single centralised document repository, based on the Windchill product lifecycle management software. All the research and machining information is now available in one place for any queries arising. Being able to access the repository digitally from the shop floor ensures that operators are always using the latest version of the programs that will run on the machine, and the latest version of the associated experiment documentation.
LabVIEW is used to capture data from the machines directly and store it in a SQL database. By capturing sensor data from the machines, the AMRC can analyse excessive vibration and any occurrence of chatter, so it can refine future programs run on the machines. It can also capture data about machine usage to understand and demonstrate utilisation rates. Argenta created a visual reporting solution that makes it easy for the AMRC to analyse real-time and historical sensor data.
"The best thing about the project is that we now have centralised storage for all of our data," said Stammers. "Previously, we had data stored in different locations, and that didn't give us an overall picture of how the machine tools and the shop floor are being used. It's difficult to see if a machine is going out of performance, for example, if the sensor data is split across separate locations."
The solution has been built to be scalable. The AMRC's future plans include integrating sensor data from more machines, using the skills of its in-house team.
"With this new solution, we can show our clients the future of the shop floor, using Industry 4.0 technologies," said Stammers. "They're always impressed when we're able to show them in real-time how their research projects are progressing on the shop floor, by simply calling up a report."