Modular automation for flexible manufacturing

Fluctuating demand, more customised products, smaller batches – the markets are changing, and thus so are the requirements of the process manufacturing industry. Thanks to decentralised automation and modular systems, manufacturers can respond more quickly and flexibly. Festo is a driving force behind the development and standardisation of modular automation. Our solutions give you the competitive edge you need for the future: you can adjust your capacity to demand and speed up the engineering processes in new systems.

Modularity is simply more efficient

Conventional, large-scale process engineering systems have a central control system and are precisely set up to manage predefined requirements. This works well as long as the required production quantity and the product remain the same. If demand fluctuates or if smaller, more customised batches are required, adjustments are extremely time-consuming, if they are possible at all, because the system operator always needs to adapt the entire system. To do this, you need staff who are familiar with the specifics of the system. Operating at lower throughputs can also reduce the system’s efficiency. After all, the majority of the system has to be powered down for maintenance purposes.

Modular manufacturing with decentralised automation by Festo opens up new possibilities for achieving greater flexibility and cost-efficiency: every module connected to the system is its own functional unit that operates autonomously and comprises the entire control system. It is thus possible to connect and disconnect the modules depending on the manufacturing volume required. The standardised software interfaces of the module type package (MTP) make this integration process easier. If a module turns out to be faulty, it can simply be exchanged.

Four steps to modular automation

Step 1: Mechanical and functional modularisation

First, the manufacturing process is broken down into subprocesses and for every subprocess there is a specific module. This includes all mechanical and automation technology components that are required for autonomous operation.

Step 2: Modularising automation

Every module includes its own decentralised controller, remote IO components and pneumatic controls, and all aspects of their functionality are programmed. And of course it also has all the process sensors and actuators.

Step 3: Coordinating the complete system

After the modules have been connected to form a process-based system, each module makes its specific functionality available over a data interface that is standardised according to MTP. The operating mode, status, process measurement values, etc. can then be read out and/or written. A streamlined process orchestration layer (POL) coordinates the modules’ functions within the system as a whole. The MTP facilitates the seamless integration of the modules.

Step 4: Flexible adjustment of modular systems

Using the modules described, you can build systems in any design you like in order to meet your current needs and requirements simply by flexibly adding modules, i.e. by numbering up instead of scaling up.

Plug and produce with the MTP method

The module type package (MTP) is a standardised software interface between the module’s controller and the process control system within modular production. With MTP, you can get new manufacturing systems online more quickly and adapt your manufacturing processes quickly and at short notice. Individual subprocesses can also be flexibly swapped. In other words, it enables plug and produce, instead of complex change engineering.

The module type package defines control-related assets with regard to their functions and interfaces. These can be the interfaces of real or functional components, module service descriptions or operator display symbols.

Each MTP-compliant controller has an MTP description file that can be scanned into the higher-level process control system or process orchestration layer (POL). This is comparable to modern printer drivers in the consumer sector that ensure the seamless communication between a wide range of printers with various end devices, such as desktop computers, tablets or smartphones.

For MTP-compliant programming of the decentralised controller via standardised USB connection and the automatic export of the MTP description file, Festo offers the PA Toolkit.

Festo sets the standards for the future

MTP is on the way to becoming the internationally recognised standard for flexible manufacturing with modular systems. Thanks to its involvement with various committees, Festo is helping to shape the future of this process. This means you can be sure that you are always using the latest decentralised, modular automation – along with future-proof solutions that are open to new innovations.

  • We are also active on the Modular Production working group via ZVEI (German Electrical Industry Association).
  • A multi-member team is working on VDI/VDE/Namur guideline 2658 (MTP standard) as part of GMA 5.16 (Society of Measurement and Automation Engineering 5.16) and on various aspects of MTP.
  • As part of the BaSys research project,we create the specifications for an asset administration shell sub-model for MTP.
  • Building on the findings from the committees, we are working towards internationalisation at the IEC level – IEC standard 63280.