Industrial Internet of Things: Ensuring Quality Control on the Factory Floor

factory car production line

(DGIwire) – Many people have heard of the Internet of Things, in which everyday objects have network connectivity allowing them to send and receive data. This paradigm has already started transforming the world of industry in myriad ways. At its core, the so-called Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is about using Big Data to create automated manufacturing processes, buildings, lighting, security, energy production and transportation on a massive scale, according to TechRadar.

One particular way that IIoT can be transformative involves the installed base of millions of industrial machine tools in use across a wide range of industries. These devices may have been advanced technologies in their time but are now in need of a boost to make the transition to IIoT. As TechRadar notes, such legacy devices tend to have very long lifecycles, making upgrades to their capabilities a challenge.

By making devices such as machine tools internet-enabled, IIoT could collect data and information from each tool in ways never before possible, notes IndustryWeek. This would drive industrial manufacturing processes to become connected and networked through data sharing, leading to lower costs, more optimized processes and the ability for factory managers to make better decisions in real time.

“Consider the need to ensure quality control on the factory floor,” says Mark J. Cola, President and CEO of Sigma Labs, Inc. “IIoT makes it possible to completely transform ‘old school’ machine tools so that data about quality can be analyzed even before a finished part is made and necessary adjustments made. Technology now exists that can collect quality control data from individual machine tools and send it to the cloud, where it can be analyzed remotely.”

Sigma Labs has developed a proprietary, patent-protected, quality assurance software suite called PrintRite3D® that, while originally designed to ensure quality control for 3D printing processes, is adaptable to a wide range of industrial machine tools. In contrast to traditional quality assurance that is performed after-the-fact, PrintRite3D® works in real-time to assist quality inspectors in sorting acceptable from suspect components.

The PrintRite3D® suite benefits manufacturers that employ machine tools in several ways. The first involves metallurgy: in addition to optimizing the structure/property/parameter qualities of metal parts, Sigma Labs’ software allows engineers to assess each part’s microstructure—scanning and collecting data on potential weaknesses (like “pores” in the metal). The second benefit involves geometry: the software helps capture images of every layer of metal as it is being incorporated into the part; this data, available digitally, gives inspectors the ability to detect any distortion as parts are made and adjust the machine accordingly in real-time. Finally, the software enhances a company’s productivity by collecting Big Data regarding the performance of multiple machine tools at multiple locations into a single database.

“Given the tremendous range of machine tools in use that manufacturers would like to integrate into IIoT, and the continual need to maximize quality control, ideally before finished parts are created, we believe our technology will have wide appeal across a vast range of industries,” adds Cola.