As General Motors' Eaton described goals at an AUTOFACT press conference, "The day when computers from various suppliers can be plugged in and turned on to form a cohesive network is fast approaching."
Visitors to the exhibit saw a product being manufactured on two identical parallel process lines-an ancient game called the Towers of Hanoi, which consists of a base with three holes, pegs inserted into the holes, and seven concentric rings stacked on a peg. Available colors were red, white, and blue.
At the show, the "customer" could order a custom-made product by specifying the color of the base and pegs. To do this, he or she used one of 16 computer terminals tied to end systems furnished by 12 suppliers. An end system is a system that's connected directly to the network without the use of an intermediate connecting device.
An IBM-developed system for tracking and storing product and process information during manufacture kept track of the work in process and work status.
Order entry information about the game was delivered directly by computer to the jobs scheduler/dispatcher systems...furnished by Honeywell for one production line and by Hewlett Packard for the other. At this point, the systems ranked job orders, tabulated raw material inventories, sent orders to the production line, and monitored the programmable controllers that guide the production machinery.
One ASEA robot centered between the beginning of Production Lines A and B picked bases from a parts bin to feed both lines. The robot placed the base which had been custom-ordered for color by the customer on its side on a fixed conveyor system, and the manufacturing process began.
The first operation at the show was a simulated drill station. Actually, for demonstration purposes, holes in the bases had been pre-drilled to avoid shavings.
Next, holes were checked for accuracy by a vision system provided by Machine Vision International. Any inaccurate work was flagged automatically for rejection. A Siemens PC on one production line, and an Allen-Bradley PC on the other, controlled the robot's part handling, drilling, and vision systems.
Next, the conveyor moved the bases to the station for peg insertion. Here, an overhead hopper fed the colored pegs, which had been custom-ordered, and they were inserted into the base.
In the fourth operation, a Machine Vision International vision system verified that the pegs had been inserted correctly, and that they conformed to the colors the customer had previously ordered. Finished jobs were then moved to an unload station, and products were approved or rejected.
A Gould PC on the first line and a Honeywell PC on the second line controlled the peg insertion, final inspection, and the acceptance/ rejection system.
Finally, the completed products that the computer systems had accepted were reviewed by a worker. Any defects, such as scratched or cracked parts, that he or she noticed were fed back into the system through a voice-activated input/output module built by Intel.
In the real factory world, hopefully, a company would not own systems from so many different vendors. General Motors and Boeing set up the demonstration deliberately to show how computers from a number of manufacturers could work together on a production line.
Other systems connected on the networks were ten end systems on the MAP network and eight end systems on the TOP network. The MAP end systems companies are: AT&T, Digital, Gould, IBM, Intel, NCR (two end systems), and Motorola (three end systems). The TOP end systems suppliers were: ACDS/Charles River Data Systems (a joint development project), Sun Microsystems, AT&T, Intel, Industrial Networking, Inc., Computer vision, Honeywell and NCR.
How Map Solves Manufacturing Problems
Getting computers and intelligent devices (automated equipment and/or numerically controlled machines) to communicate, using a single standard communications language, has been a significant barrier towards achieving computer-integrated manufacturing. Because computer-based systems designed by one vendor could not easily communicate with those of another vendor, bridging the isolated "islands" of automation and information was either impossible or had to be solved by costly, one-of-a-kind solutions.
MAP, which allows companies to generate and transfer information quickly within and between a factory and its support offices, will help industry to remain competitive. Manufacturers need easier installation, maintenance, modification, and expansion of their communication systems. Because MAP products are interchangeable, it's easier to put in automation, and to reduce wiring time and cost.
Manufacturers need more accurate and timely data from the shop floor. MAP helps, because a computerized plant floor with a common communication network can substitute MAP for people and paper to transfer information. Result? Faster communication, fewer errors, and increased productivity.
And manufacturers who want to integrate plant floor applications (CAD/CAM, control of flexible manufacturing cells,) or to gain immediate access to data for statistical quality control find that MAP provides high-speed transfer of files and messages among computers.
The 21 companies that participated in the AUTOFACT '85 demonstration serve the worldwide market for industrial automation and communication. They were: Advanced Computer Communications, Allen-Bradley, ACDS, ASEA, AT&T, Charles River Data Systems, Computer vision, Concord Data Systems, Digital Equipment Corporation, Gould, Hewlett-Packard, Honeywell, Industrial Networking Inc., Intel, Intergraph, IBM, Motorola, NCR, Northern Telecom, Siemens, and Sun Microsystems.
"We've only just begun," says Boeing Computer Services' President Robert Dryden. "The ability to integrate and effectively transfer information in a timely manner within a factory, within an office, and between the two has become a key factor to improved quality and productivity.
"I believe it's a key to the future of industry worldwide."