Questions and Answers
SIMATIC RTLS - Real-Time Locating Systems
Siemens acquires Agilion, the world’s RTLS technology leader
On March 29, 2018, Siemens acquired the world’s RTLS technology leader, Agilion. Based in Germany, the company brought a long-standing reputation for precision engineering and sophisticated expertise. Agilion pioneered the use of UWB wireless technology in RTLS solutions for manufacturing and logistics. It brought to Siemens a base of about 150 customer RTLS installations in more than 20 countries.
The company joined the industrial communications and identification business of the Siemens Process Industries and Drives Division, with North American headquarters outside Atlanta, Georgia.
Increasingly dynamic markets demand faster time-to-market and more flexible in manufacturing production and logistics. What’s needed is the automatic, real-time synchronization of production processes in the physical domain with their virtual counterparts in production’s digital twin — a software-based 3D virtual proxy of the production model. That is essential to avoid costly errors, reduce expenses, and meet delivery commitments on a just-in-time basis. Siemens SIMATIC RTLS solutions can complete the production digital twin picture by providing dynamic location data in real-time for all physical objects and personnel, whether at rest or in motion.
Siemens SIMATIC RTLS offers a full portfolio of options for capturing location data to gratify accuracy, precision and range requirements. It can also feed data into higher-level MES and ERP systems for issuing alerts, alarms, or commands. Plant and logistics operators can use the data to increase efficiency, visibility, and safety. To gain a complete enterprise wide view across multiple plants, even those located on different continents, your company can use cloud platforms like Siemens MindSphere, the open IoT operating system, to link each one and combine its RTLS data with other plants’ data streams. Ultimately, SIMATIC RTLS solutions can answer “what-and-who-is-where-and-when” questions as they occur in real time, for every relevant asset in production and logistics across a wide range of applications.
Real-time locating systems basically consist of three main components:
The Siemens SIMATIC RTLS platform uses wireless ultra-wideband (UWB) or 2.4GHz technology to facilitate communications between a variety of active transponders – attached to tools, tool holders, AGVs, robots, products, or personnel – and wall-mounted RTLS anchor devices. The anchors collect and transmit positioning data to the locating server. They serve as reference points for the real-time positioning calculations executed by the server, which feeds that information to higher-level systems.
The active transponders emit a radio signal at defined intervals, which is received by at least three synchronized anchors. The anchors transmit the collected data together with the transponder ID number and the precise receiving time, via a gateway
to the locating server. The SIMATIC locating manager software calculates the position of each transponder by a method called Time Difference of Arrival (TDOA) or Time of Flight. Accuracy is increased even further using flanking measures such as the automatic correlation of RTLS position data with the 3D model of the production environment as stored in the digital twin.
In the Smart Factory of the future, Siemens SIMATIC RTLS solutions can supply the essential foundation for use in intelligent production units, involving the cooperation of different production facilities, such as transport vehicles and mobile robots with machines and plants. Simultaneously, the actual location of a machine, robot, AGV or individual tools will become a variable factor. This means that an autonomously controlled, highly efficient work flow can be organized with the knowledge of the factory’s current spatial configuration and all its moving parts as well as its people.
Specifically, this means that:
Tool use can be documented through identification of, for example, a tightened screw by means of the xyz position in comparison with the 3D virtual twin model. This information can be saved in a product database together with the relevant tool data, such as the torque and angle used.
Removal of materials from storage systems can be monitored in order to ensure the correct use of parts.
It is possible to control the assembly of large products (e.g., aggregates, power drives, special machines, and airplane parts) in which the use of other identification technologies is technically or economically problematic due to the product structure.
Automatic inventory monitoring and thus optimization for production aids, such as containers, mesh pallets and tools, can be performed.
Position monitoring for finished products can be done to minimize search processes when products are stored temporarily due to disruptions in the production sequence, missing parts, failures, or other issues.
Dynamic self-organization of production processes takes place whereby the products are automatically transported to the next available processing station by AGVs.
All components of the SIMATIC RTLS portfolio are manufactured in Germany.
SIMATIC Ident (RFID and Code Reading Systems) detects an asset and determines the time when it passes a certain read point. In addition, SIMATIC RTLS has the ability to locate the object or person in real time at all times. Importantly, these solutions can provide a critical temporal dimension to production digital twins of modern, self-organizing factories of the future that pinpoint “what-and-who-is-where” in real time.