Large-scale automation systems have been at the heart of production line control for decades. Now, driven by changes in consumer demands, an alternative plug and produce modular automation approach is emerging. For many production lines, particularly in the pharmaceutical, fine chemical and food processing sectors, modular-enabled automation could be the cornerstone of bringing to life the concepts embodied in the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0. Modularization of process automation systems will help reduce time to market, increase automation efficiency and improve production flexibility. Modular Automation is the right solution for process industries that are facing market requirements such as more customized products, shorter delivery times and smaller batch series down to batch size 1.
In the publicly-funded ENPRO 2.0 ORCA project, ABB has joined forces together with 8 partners such as plant operators, automation vendors, module manufacturers, system integrators, universities and authorities to derive integrating concepts for modular, intelligent and flexible production plants. In several pilot installations at the project partners Evonik, Merck, TU Dresden and TU Dortmund, the basic feasibility of the module concept is developed for orchestration, authority engineering and virtual commissioning of modular systems. As a result, the interfaces and information models developed in the project are actively incorporated into current standardization work at NAMUR, ProcessNet, ZVEI, GMA and DKE.
Two pilot plants with project partner Evonik have used the ABB Orchestration Designer together with ABB Ability™ System 800xA as Process Orchestration Layer (POL) prototype to operate the process and orchestrate the intelligent modules: a membrane test plant with three automation modules automated with WAGO controllers, and a reaction pilot plant with six automation modules automated with PHOENIX controllers, which is likely to be the largest modular pilot plant in the market today.