Cisco and MEMEX Collaborate with Mazak to Develop Mazak SmartBox to Launch Manufacturers into the IIoT

By: Chantal Polsonetti in Industrial Internet of Things – October 16, 2015.

In an industry-shaping collaboration, Mazak Corporation, together with information technology (IT) leader Cisco and machine-to-machine solutions provider MEMEX, Inc., have developed what is described as an industry first – a “launch platform for easy and highly secure entrance into the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).” Called SmartBox, this technology represents a huge leap in digital integration across manufacturing. Access to real-time manufacturing data is used to improve overall productivity and responsiveness to customer/market changes. Using MTConnect technology as the foundation, SmartBox connectivity of machines and devices allows for enhanced monitoring and analytical capabilities including advanced cyber security protection.

Mazak is showcasing the SmartBox technology during its DISCOVER 2015 Technology and Education Event, held October 27-29 and November 3-5 at its North American Manufacturing Headquarters. The power of SmartBox will be demonstrated in one of the automated cells as part of the company’s own manufacturing operations. Each of the cell’s four machines are outfitted with a SmartBox and sensor array package, giving event attendees a firsthand look at the device in action within an actual manufacturing environment and network.

The SmartBox is yet another component within Mazak’s dynamic iSMART Factory concept and one that takes advantage of Cisco’s Connected Machines solution to provide insights into machine operations. Advanced manufacturing cells and systems, along with full digital integration, can achieve free-flow data sharing, i.e., process control and operation/equipment monitoring. The iSMART concept also incorporates Mazak’s SMOOTH Technology – a complete process-performance technology platform that includes the various levels of Mazak’s new Mazatrol Smooth CNC with advanced machine hardware and servo systems – working in tandem with the MTConnect standard connectivity protocol.

Mazak also developed SmartBox to work with any machine regardless of make, model, or age and will offer it in various configurations/kits based on the scenarios and challenges in which the units will be used. The device physically mounts to the side of machines without having to integrate into a machine’s electrical cabinet. With several standard input/output connecting ports, SmartBox lets users quickly and easily connect any standard off-the-shelf sensors to the system for machine data gathering and condition monitoring. One SmartBox may service several machine tools along with other associated manufacturing equipment, depending on the application.

At the heart of the SmartBox is Cisco’s Connected Machines solution, based on the IoT System, designed specifically for industrial environments and equipped with an MTConnect software agent. Using a fog computing model, the MT Connect software runs directly on the ruggedized Cisco Industrial Ethernet (IE) 4000 switch, providing real-time visibility and insights into data right on the factory floor.

The MEMEX software installed in Mazak’s own factory allows for monitoring analytics of machines, test stands, and other equipment within the plant. The Cisco hardware is designed to help prevent any issues with unauthorized access from both directions – to or from the machines and equipment within a network. SmartBox satisfies the highly critical security concerns of IT departments when connecting legacy equipment to a plant’s main network for the purpose of gathering manufacturing data via the MTConnect protocol.

The underlying Cisco networking platform helps ensure that IT technicians will be familiar with SmartBox’s operation and can use it to quickly and easily control and manage network security. Also, the hardware allows manufacturers to enable secure machine communications through secure access and identity policy mechanisms. Third parties, such as equipment suppliers, can then log on to a company’s network and access only those machines equipped with a Mazak SmartBox.

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