Tuesday, November 22, 2022
The automotive industry has always been open to innovations that improve efficiency and promote rigorous safety standards within its factories. It is therefore no surprise that as Industry 4.0 grows, automotive giants are increasingly embracing IoT solutions to improve their production lines.
In recent years, a multinational producer of luxury vehicles has been on a mission to digitalize its manufacturing practices by adopting the latest AIOT technologies, building an organization-wide cloud-based management system. A core facet of this initiative has been to modernize their assembly line’s quality assurance processes, a challenging task considering the millions of vehicles produced across the organization’s factories worldwide each year.
The customer knew that implementing changes on such an enormous existing infrastructure would require a durable IoT Gateway solution that could offer powerful edge computing in harsh, industrial conditions. However, given the interconnectedness of each element of their manufacturing operations, the device would also need to be easily integrated into both their existing assembly line hardware and their cloud-based ecosystem.
Challenges – Tough Conditions Inhibit Integration
Tough environmental conditions
When employing any electrical system in an industrial setting, there are certain criteria that have to be met. Regular consumer hardware is unable to withstand the strain of continuous operation in heavy industrial environments. Therefore, finding a device that could handle extreme temperature changes and power supply fluctuations while maintaining stable performance was a key requirement for this customer.
Costly, time-consuming deployment
Integrating Industry 4.0 solutions with existing production infrastructure is difficult for any manufacturer. However, this presented a particularly large challenge for the company. Firstly, the scale of their operations was vast, and so interruption to any stage of assembly would be incredibly expensive, and have a knock-on effect on other production units. Further, the company wanted a device that could be deployed by employees without any specialist technical knowledge, to maintain operational agility.
Finding conducive hardware
While ruggedness and ease of device deployment were incredibly important to the customer, the primary factor in selecting a product for application implementation is its suitability to achieving the application’s objective. As quality assurance is a vital step in ensuring the safety and functionality of the cars produced by their factories, the customer put a premium on finding a device with suitable, reliable features conducive for use as an IoT gateway. To successfully operate as a factory automation application, the device had to be versatile, able to host multiple cameras, sensors, and the processing capability to synchronize data between these ancillary components and the cloud-based management system.
With AAEON Technology Inc.’s BOXER-6710 DIN rail mount Embedded Box PC employed as an IoT Gateway, the application utilized sensors along with USB and PoE cameras to obtain data about car components throughout the production cycle. This information was then sent from the cameras and sensors to the BOXER-6710, where quality assurance functions such as defect detection would take place on the edge. Following this, the BOXER-6710 would securely transmit the data to the cloud.
The BOXER-6710 was configured to capture images of vehicle components for defect detection analysis via USB and PoE cameras. These images were then received by the device via the ethernet or USB connector powering the cameras. At this point, the customer’s software installed on the BOXER-6710 analyzed the images to pre-check the component’s quality.
The BOXER-6710’s 4 core/4 thread Intel® Processor N4200 was instrumental in facilitating this step, as the CPU’s integrated Intel® HD Graphics 505 package provided Intel® Clear Video Technology and OpenGL Support, ensuring the delivery of clean, sharp images for examination.
Once defect detection analysis had been completed on the BOXER-6710, the image analysis data was sent to the company’s cloud for more detailed checks, utilizing the BOXER-6710’s mPCIe slot to accommodate a Wi-Fi expansion module to maintain a stable connection between the device and the cloud.
AAEON’s gateway to integration
Smooth, fanless operation across wide temperature variations
The BOXER-6710’s ruggedness provided the perfect protection to ensure smooth, long-term operation for the application. With a wide operating temperature of -4°F ~ 140°F (-20°C ~ 60°C), the device was able to sustain rapid changes in ambient temperature that occur in industrial settings. The BOXER-6710’s fanless chassis also reduced the potential for device failure, with a fanless chassis providing protection against dust and other contaminants that can cause blockages and heat dissipation disruption.
In addition to this, the BOXER-6710’s voltage input range of 9~36V via its 3-pin terminal block was perfectly able to handle power supply fluctuations, providing sufficient power to transmit data to the cloud while also protecting the vulnerable hardware connected to the gateway, such as the USB and PoE cameras, from damage. This gave the customer a simple yet effective means of maintaining optimum application performance regardless of the factory’s environmental conditions.
Fast, flexible deployment by design
With a small form factor of just 1.73-by-6.54-by-4.17in (44-by-166-by-106mm), and weighing just 3.08 lbs. (1.4kg), the BOXER-6710 was easily deployed using a DIN rail mount. This was particularly important to the manufacturer as it meant the device could be fitted at the optimum height and angle for its cameras to capture the images needed, while allowing sensors to be positioned without interfering with the organization’s existing hardware.
Affixing the BOXER-6710 to existing factory equipment via a DIN rail mount was crucial in preventing interruptions to the assembly process during installation, and also reduced the space required for deployment. The simplicity of the application and I/O of the BOXER-6710 also made for easy installation by factory employees, with just the power cord, ethernet port, and expansion slots requiring insertion for the device to operate.
Synergy getween the edge and the cloud
The BOXER-6710 contained all the attributes needed to operate as an IoT Gateway, achieving the application’s aim of making the quality assurance procedures more sophisticated and efficient. With two RJ-45 LAN ports and four USB Type A slots to accommodate USB 3.2, the BOXER-6710 offered a multitude of different inputs through which sensors and cameras could be connected.
Additionally, the device’s Apollo Lake processor platform provided the customer’s software with the core processing power with which to facilitate defect detection via AI inferencing on the edge. Lastly, the default full-size and optional half-size mini card slots provided by the BOXER-6710 supported vertical communication and data exchange between the it and the cloud using OPC Unified Architecture via Wi-Fi and LTE modules.
As a result of choosing the BOXER-6710 as the IoT gateway for their quality assurance checks, the leading car manufacturer has been able to expand the integration of Industry 4.0 solutions to their cloud-based management system, which to date has resulted in an 80% increase in production efficiency.
Further, the company was impressed with the suitability and effectiveness of the BOXER-6710 in this role, and will be scaling up their integration of the application to include additional factories in more worldwide locations, illustrating AAEON’s reliability in providing market-leading OEM and ODM solutions for industrial automation. With more and more organizations embracing smart manufacturing solutions, AAEON continues to innovate and remain at the forefront of Industry 4.0.
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