Applied Research Solution has tested, validated and adopted BlockTac’s blockchain-based solution in the scope of BlockStart:
Why has the company decided to implement the solution: We are constantly seeking to test and adopt new, state-of-the-art, technologies for our field of activity in the industry and energy domains. As there is a growing interest in blockchain, mainly related to cryptocurrencies, we were interested to go beyond this and try to find out firsthand if there is real value behind its usage in other application areas. This was also a learning experience to find out many technical details that would help us in the future to provide high level services to our customers. The interest of industry in blockchain solutions is growing and having a use case developed within the Blockstart program would allow us to present tangible results to potential customers, offer significant competitive advantages and develop the relation with the DLT/blockchain provider SME. Networking with partners of the Blockstart consortium and the other Blockstart ecosystem members was another important motivation. For the pilot stage, we envisioned that, as automated decision algorithms are being deployed at larger scales in safety-critical control systems, the trustworthiness of the input data needs to be validated beforehand and mitigate false data injection and data poisoning attacks. This increases the confidence in the machine learning solution with minimal computing and cost overhead and can drive end-user acceptance. With growing adoption of blockchain applications we also expect the number of suppliers of this technology to increase.
Added value of the solution to the company: We develop and provide services based on a dedicated hardware solution. This is a pilot system for training and research and development of smart manufacturing solutions. It realises the complete production of a 3D printed part with current, Industry 4.0 enabled, automation technology. The five stages of production are covered by: pallet station, base piece, robot handling and assembly station, top piece station and storage station. The use cases of the flexible assembly line for training, research and application development are related to the following topics: PLC programming (Siemens S7-1200 and S7-1500 family IEC 61131-3 compliant PLC programming under the TIA Portal/Step 7 development environment), standard-based industrial communication (IO-LINK, CANopen, PROFIBUS, PROFINET, RFID, OPC-UA, MQTT), drive systems (AC and DC motors, synchronous and asynchronous motors, brushless motor), human machine interface (Siemens TP700/TP1500), robot programming and integration (ABB IRB120C) and energy monitoring and management (Sentron PAC3220).
In this context, by adding the DLT/blockchain solution as an additional data processing and validation layer on top of the existing system, we aim to present an enhanced case study that proves the security of process critical data that is subsequently used in automated decision making. Collaboration with the provider partner is also essential for future projects where this can be implemented in production together with the industrial automation solution.
What has been done during BlockStart’s pilot stage: We have added a blockchain data certification layer between the physical equipment and the algorithms for forecasting and anomaly detection that use the data generated for higher level tasks e.g., indirect inference of defects from the recorded energy traces at each station level. The flexible assembly line that we used for testing and validation is a five-station system which goes through all the steps of producing a sample product from individual parts, handling, and assembly and finally storage. This is a complete product which is delivered to customers, mainly technical training centers and universities. We also have one for research purposes at the university. One of the manufacturing stations, the robotic cell, can also be used as a stand-alone equipment for developing applications with Siemens S7 family PLCs and an ABB IRB120 robot. Asides from the plc and robot technologies, many types of industrial communication (rfid, io-link, profinet, opc ua, mqtt, etc.) are integrated as well as sensors and drive sytems. For this station, a digital twin model has been developed to enable rapid testing of various control strategies, using CIROS modelling software from Festo, which can be used also as synthetic data generator. Types of data include, digital sensor timestamps, reflecting the progression of the product pallet through each station, and energy readings from the robotic cell over multiple assembly/disassembly cycles. The blockchain layer can be deployed on a local embedded computing device, Raspberry Pi or Siemens Nanobox with Linux OS, or can be streamed in real time to a BlockTac system via mqtt.