Drives & Controls Magazine June 2024

NEWS n 5 Generative AI is now an industrial tool that can generate PLC code THE FIRST GENERATIVE AI product dedicated to industrial engineering has started to roll out into practical applications. Pilot trials of Siemens’ Industrial Copilot for TIA Portal Engineering are now underway and the software will soon be available to download from its Xcelerator marketplace. The Copilot – developed with Microsoft – can generate code and visualisations for PLCs, and provide help for engineering teams. Siemens says it can handle repetitive tasks and will reduce workloads. It will also make the engineering of complex tasks less error-prone, cutting development times and boosting quality and productivity. The Copilot app generates PLC code in structured control language (SCL). TIA Portal can take code suggestions directly from the AI, eliminating the need to copy-and-paste. The Copilot can explain SCL code blocks, or guide and create machine or plant visualisations in WinCC Unified. Engineers can use the app to search Siemens manuals using natural language, while endusers have the option to access a private instance of Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI Service which doesn’t need customer data to retrain models. One early adopter of the Copilot technology is the German industrial automation specialist Grenzebach, which has been testing how generative AI can save it time and effort, and cut the risk of errors. Based on the company’s experience so far, Grenzebach’s CEO, Dr Steven Althaus, says: “Generative AI is a must-have,” adding that it “will allow us to make the most of the rapidly increasing amount of data available in a factory. And it will take human-machine collaboration to the next level. We can address the skilled labour shortages, boost innovation and significantly increase the productivity of our workforce.” Siemens has also been working with the mechatronics giant Schaeffler to apply the Copilot to production machinery. At the SPS show last November, the partners demonstrated the first production machine to be enhanced using generative AI, and at the recent Hannover Messe they signed a memorandum of understanding covering the joint development of industrial AI applications and digital shopfloor systems. During the Messe, Siemens and Schaeffler demonstrated the Copilot app connected to a production machine from Schaeffler’s Special Machinery business. The AI assistant was generating complex automation codes for the machine using natural spoken words. The Copilot also had access to documentation, guidelines and manuals to help identify potential causes of errors. “With the Siemens Industrial Copilot, we are bringing the capabilities of generative AI to the Schaeffler shopfloor,” says Cedrik Neike, CEO of Siemens’ Digital Industries business. “Together, we are showing how AI is revolutionising production – from the generation of machine code to AI-based maintenance. And that is just the beginning.“ Schaeffler’s COO, Andreas Schick, adds that the collaboration with Siemens proves that AI can already be used in production. “With the Copilot, we are providing our experts on the shopfloor with an innovative digital tool, which simplifies their work and significantly increases their efficiency. We are taking production to a new, digital level in collaboration with Siemens.” Siemens envisages a suite of generative AI-powered industrial Copilots transforming the way that companies design, plan, develop, engineer and work. Working with selected customers and partners, it is applying generative AI in multiple sectors, including automotive, transportation, healthcare and manufacturing. “The Siemens Industrial Copilot is bringing industrial generative AI to the shopfloor and will be an indispensable part of the engineering process in the future,” predicts Rainer Brehm, CEO of factory automation at Siemens Digital Industries. “With the easy and seamless connection to our TIA Portal, we’re the first to offer a generative AI product for engineering to industrial companies worldwide. “Industrial AI is an important lever for combining the real and the digital worlds – with the ultimate goal of addressing major challenges, such as the shortage of skilled workers or making industrial production more efficient and sustainable,” Brehm declares. June 2024 WATT DRIVE Antriebstechnik, the Austrian manufacturer of geared motors and drives which WEG acquired in 2011, has been renamed WEG Gear Systems. The business will be upgraded to a competence centre for gear technology and will be responsible for the WEG Group's global gears and geared motors activities. The Watt business was founded in 1972 as Wustinger Antriebstechnik, initially operating as an engineering office for drive technologies. In 1976, it added its own assembly plant and production machines for small series production, followed in 1983 by its first geared motor. In 1990, the company was renamed Watt Drive Antriebstechnik and opened a new factory in southern Austria, including production of gear components. Following its acquisition by WEG Group in 2011, it was integrated into the Group, which made major investments in ugrading its production halls and warehouses. In 2016, it launched the WG20 series of geared motors. Watt Drive is renamed WEG Gear Systems and takes on key role Schaeffler has demonstrated a production machine whose control codes were generated using AI