The Challenges for the transition of legacy machine tools to Industry 4.0 compliant equipment article, written by Tanassis Souflas from the Laboratory for Manufacturing Systems and Automation in Patras (Greece), discusses the challenges associated with transitioning legacy machine tools to Industry 4.0 compliant equipment in the context of modern manufacturing initiatives.

Industry 4.0 aims at digitally transforming the manufacturing sector through interconnected machines and data management technologies. While new machine tools come with built-in functionalities for Industry 4.0, updating existing machines is a practical approach for many manufacturers due to cost considerations and the sustainability aspect of avoiding unnecessary equipment disposal.

Challenges in hardware integration

The article highlights the challenges in hardware integration, emphasizing the need for non-invasive sensor installation close to the manufacturing process. Miniaturization of sensors and wireless communication facilitate integration without interfering with machine operation. Software integration poses another challenge, especially with controllers using older communication protocols. The need for connectors to enable communication between legacy machines and new Industry 4.0 applications is emphasized. Standardized data formats and modeling approaches are also crucial for handling diverse datasets from various sources.

The business-related challenges and opportunities in the digitalization of manufacturing assets are discussed, including the shift from product-oriented to service-oriented business models. The value of data in certification and defect correlation is emphasized, along with the importance of data privacy and IP distribution.

R3GROUP, supporting manufacturing retrofitting 

The article introduces R3GROUP, a project focused on supporting the digital retrofitting of existing manufacturing assets. Three out of five pilot lines in the project preserve legacy equipment through digital retrofitting. R3GROUP aims to develop solutions for digitalizing manufacturing assets, including non-invasive sensor integration and a secure data exchange platform based on the Asset Administration Shell. These solutions will be available for testing through R3GROUP Expression of Interest that will be oponed in 2024.