NET@PRO is really powerful in interconnecting machines

Are field machinery happy islands? With a few machines, manual management is expensive, but when the number of machines to be controlled increases, management complexity also grows exponentially. A single platform running your machines (whatever they are) gives you incredible advantages. You can check the pieces produced, the amount of waste and send the recipes or part-program, from a single control panel… Incredible right? Massimo Scattolaro, Senior Industry 4.0 Engineer leads us to discover the FDI module.


What is the FDI NET@PRO module

The FDI (Field Data Integrator) module allows integration and therefore interfacing with all machines or devices in production.

With the advent of Industry 4.0 most of the suppliers of machines and devices we can say that it was forced to provide them with a connection to an Ethernet network and then through a protocol be able to exchange information.

The machines or devices we are talking about are all those that help in the factory or in some cases even replace the employees.

So to give some examples of machines:

  • Numerically controlled (CNC) machines for mechanical machining
  • Automatic machines for moulding
  • Food production machines: filling machines, packaging machines, palletizers, mixers, canning machines, etc.
  • Measuring instruments: scales, electronic gauges, etc.
  • Labelling devices

Each of these devices should be able to exchange information with the outside world. That is, it should be able to be connected via Ethernet and thus have a communication protocol.


FDI – interconnection with machines is powerful

The 4.0 Regulation (Industry 4.0 2020) as a first big step led to this great achievement. That is, there should no longer be machines that are “happy islands”, that is, working on their own without being able to be interfaced and integrated with the rest of the production flow.

As we have just seen the machines are of different types and even if of the same type there may be more suppliers. In addition, each provider may have implemented a custom communication protocol for data exchange from/to their machine/device and the rest of the world. 

What language does it speak?

Although fortunately some suppliers have relied on standard protocols such as OPC-UA, Mtconnect, MQTT communication protocols are still many.


In the picture the concept of multi-level platform developed by OPC UA in 2008



The MTConnect standard (ANSI/MTC1.4-2018)


Picture offered by MTCONNECT


MQT stands for Message Queing Telemetry Transport (MQTT) v 3.1.1, ISO/IEC 20922:2016

So that’s why the FDI module is indispensable.


Is the FDI fundamental?

Yes, because we can think of it as a multilingual translator (multi-protocol) that can speak with all these devices/machines in the company and then normalize all these possible data/information exchanges leading it to a single language “understandable” for NET@PRO but also for any other system.

To learn more: How to integrate machines and the supervisor

But thinking of the FDI module as a simple translator would be really reductive. Because this module is not only passive but is also active, that is it can also implement logic and then exchange data from machine to machine or device to device.

Last but not least, the FDI module allows to comply with the 4.0 regulation and therefore have access to economic incentives.


How does FDI work? Here are the main features

When Alessio Rodighiero and I thought of FDI, we realized it so that it can adapt to the various logics and therefore possible interconnections with the machines/devices of the various customers and production sectors.

To allow this adaptability and configurability, the FDI module has been divided between CORE (FDI Server) and DRIVER (App. Device).

The FDI server is the “brain” (for this we can call it CORE) and therefore contains the logic of the module.

For this, the FDI is mainly composed of the following list of features/sections:

  1. DEVICE MANAGER: receive data from various Apps. Device(DRIVER) that communicate and translate data from various protocols
  2. TAG MANAGER: normalize all the data coming from the App. Device in the form of universal and simple data(defined TAG)
  3. EVENTS/ACTIONS ENGINE: identify and manage any logic for data exchange between a machine/ device and the other
  4. NET@PRO MANAGER: data exchange (through transactions) between NET@PRO and FDI and therefore between NET@PRO and machines/devices.


Which machines can be interconnected with NET@PRO FDI?

The high configurability of the FDI allows it to be configured to provide the communication interface with different types of devices/machines:

  1. PLC: Programmable Logic Control of various brands/models (Siemens, Omron, Allen Bradley etc.)
  2. CNC: Computer Numeric Control of various brands/models (Fanuc, Sinumerik, Mazak, Okuma, Heidenhain etc)
  3. Special Machines: They are a subset of the above only that are machines in which you have to manage multipallet or nesting in which there is a particular management of production orders in parallel/alternating.
  4. Measuring instruments: such as scales, digital gauges or other instruments with which you can acquire weight values to be recorded within our software.
  5. Markers/Labelers: used especially in packaging departments where the connection between these devices and NET@PRO allows you to mark or label the packages with the correct data related to the production order.
  6. Barcode/RFID readers: ability to interface with these devices to track objects within the production.


What are the advantages of using FDI in the different production areas of a company?

  1. WMS: Warehouse management. It can interface with automatic warehouses or with devices such as RFID readers that allow to trace and locate the goods.
  2. Production Advancements: It can implement automatisms in production declarations such as the opening, closing and suspension of tasks/orders or the declarations of quantity produced and discarded. This is because reading the data from the machines (status, counts etc.) can go to make statements of times and quantities on production orders certainly more accurate and reliable than manual declarations by operators.
  3. Traceability: Ability through barcode reader and/or RFID readers to track materials throughout the production flow.
  4. Quality: include in the tests to be carried out during the production cycle for quality control data from measuring instruments such as scales, digital gauges etc..
  5. Maintenance: through the connection with the machines and therefore the continuous monitoring of the working time and of the pieces produced to be able to plan appropriately the various maintenances (maintenance orders).



Author: Engineer Massimo Scattolaro, Senior 4.0  Industry Engineer   Qualitas Informatica, an Impresoft Group company.

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