Mazak, Venture Partners Making IIoT Connection

By: Robert Brooks, American Machinist

Declaring it “an industry-shaping collaboration”, Mazak Corporation is linking with Cisco Systems and Memex Inc. to introduce a “launch platform” for manufacturers to operate on the Industrial Internet of Things. The IIoT is the virtual network created by sensors, connective devices, analytics programs, and process controls, and tying together machines worldwide to optimize manufacturing performance across operating systems.

Mazak, of course, is among the world’s top developers and builders of CNC machining systems. It has been pioneering the possibilities of trans-network performance improvement for much of the past decade. It’s had a leading role in the advance of MTConnect — the open standard for greater interoperability and performance monitoring between shop-level manufacturing and automation and control programs.

Memex, one of the partners in the new venture, is the developer of a manufacturing execution system (MES) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications platform that Mazak has already embraced for the MTConnect functionality at its own production and assembly location in Florence, Ken.

Cisco, of course, is among the top developers of network systems for data management and communication.

Their introduction, called SmartBox, represents a “leap in digital integration across manufacturing,” according to the announcement. Mazak will demonstrate SmartBox technology October 27-29 and November 3-5 at its North American Manufacturing Headquarters, an annual event called DISCOVER 2015. SmartBox will be demonstrated in an automated cell as part of Mazak’s own operations.

As described, SmartBox works as a functional extension of MTConnect; the link that SmartBox creates to real-time manufacturing data is portrayed as a means for improving productivity and responsiveness to customer/market changes. Connectivity to machines and devices means manufacturers can enhance process monitoring and process analysis, according to Mazak, including cyber security for their assets and operations.

“With the development of SmartBox, Mazak continues to drive toward its iSmart Factory concept and connecting today’s shops to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to achieve levels of efficiency and productivity never before realized,” offered president Brian Papke. “And while our concept centers around open connectivity and the Internet, we at Mazak believe it is our moral obligation to also provide customers the highest level of security possible with SmartBox. As with all the technology we develop, Mazak has first implemented SmartBox into our own operations before expecting customers to wholeheartedly embrace the system.”

iSmart Factory is Mazak’s global production strategy involving digitally integrated manufacturing cells and systems, with “free-flow data sharing” for process control and operation monitoring. The new capability will incorporate Cisco’s Connected Machines technology to provide insights into machine operations.

“Advanced manufacturing cells and systems, along with full digital integration, can achieve free-flow data sharing, i.e., process control and operation/equipment monitoring,” according to Mazak.

The iSmart concept also incorporates Mazak’s Smooth Technology – a process-performance technology platform that encompasses Mazak’s new CNC, Mazatrol Smooth, with machine hardware and servo systems, collaborating within the MTConnect protocol.

Mazak noted that SmartBox was developed to work with any machine “regardless of make, model or age,” and it will be available in various configurations based on the specific manufacturing applications. The device mounts to the side of a machine; it does not need to be integrated to a machine’s electrical cabinet. Several standard input/output ports let SmartBox users connect to any standard sensors, to commence machine data gathering and condition monitoring.

One SmartBox may service several machine tools along with other associated manufacturing equipment, depending on the application, according to Mazak.

SmartBox is founded on Cisco’s Connected Machines technology (which is itself based on the IoT System) and equipped with an MTConnect software agent. MT Connect software runs on the Cisco Industrial Ethernet (IE) 4000 switch, providing real-time visibility and data on the factory floor.

Tony Shakib, vice president, Vertical Solutions, at Cisco, said its “scalable and secure IoT platform makes it possible for partners like Mazak and Memex to quickly launch new IoT offerings that provide high-value customer experiences and business outcomes.”

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