Siemens Automation Summit Opens
We are gathered in the historic Roosevelt Hotel in the French Quarter of New Orleans for the opening of the Siemens Automation Summit for 2013.
The conference themes are manufacturing renaissance and productivity. Siemens is the oldest, biggest company in the world, according to the welcome speaker, but that's really the oldest, biggest company in Europe. Both Matsushita and Mitsubishi are in fact older, and similarly sized. The Japanese companies were started in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Siemens has come into the social media age, with a digital planner app and a Twitter hash tag #automationsummit.
Dennis Inverso, Principal Consultant from DuPont, the chairman of the Users Advisory Board (UAB) added his own welcome and discussed the activity of the UAB in putting the Automation Summit together. He also spoke of the refocusing and rechartering of the UAB to establish a global user committee. The UAB is facilitating knowlege sharing by being a forum for communication, leveraging user community feedback, and by helping the users influence product development-- all to deliver business value to the community.
Inverso talked about DuPont's vision for the Smart Plant, embedding intelligence into the engineering tools, automation systems, manufactuirng computing systems, field instrumentation, safety instrumented systems and production assets.
He quoted the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition: Smart Manufacturing is a dramatically intensified knowledge enabled industrial enterprise in which all business and operating actions are executed to achieve substantially enhanced energy, sustainability, environmental, safety and sustainable manufacturing.
DuPont's deep dive: Phase 1 is Front End Loading and proof of concept projects. Phase 1 Completion expected Q4 2013.
Raj Batra, president of Siemens Industrial Automation, spoke without PowerPoint (to great rejoicing of the users). "The community is getting tighter, we're bonding with each other, and that's the goal of this user group meeting."
Batra introduced Helmuth Ludwig, CEO of Siemens Industry North America, Eckard Ebberly, CEO of worldwide systems business, and the keynote speaker, Doug McCuistion, retired NASA executive who led the Mars Exploration Program.
"Siemens was an important part of making the Curiosity rover work. This is a great automation story. The seven minutes of terror was the pucker factor for this mission...when the rover sent 'I'm starting my sequence', it was already on the ground. We didn't know the end of the movie but it was all over. That 14 minute bidirectional communication lag made the mission totally autonomous...fully automated."
"The reason we go is because of the science. I know this is an engineering conference but I am going to make you listen to some science. Mars is the cousin of earth. We have now conclusively proven that at one time Mars was a wet planet. And Mars is the easiest place for us to go. We want to know what happened to Mars. Why is it dry and dusty now when it was once wet? We are finding features that are very similar to existing features on Earth. We know that there is water, usually expressed as ice at the poles. We have actually watched it snow on Mars, thanks to the Phoenix lander, which also discovered water-ice. We think there is an active water process on Mars as well. Mars is a water planet, or was."
"The things needed for life are energy, fuel and water. The key part of the mission was searching for water."
"We believe that the loss of Mars' atmosphere is the cause of the dry planet we have today. Maven, launching in November, will study the Martian atmosphere."
"We've gone from the 10.5 kg Pathfinder to the huge Curiosity rover in 15 years, with 16 successful missions out of more than 40. Mars' thin atmosphere means that there are stages of velocity that are different and must be compensated for. Mars is hard."
"We need a new method to land a metric ton. Airbags don't work. JPL came up with the Skycrane...the descent stage and the rover and the cabling harness between them."
"We had to recognize the difference between a technology and an engineering challenge."
"We had problems with the complex actuators to move, steer and operate Curiosity. It was a technology problem, and we treated it as an engineering problem. It didn't respond to engineering, it required new technology."
"Redundancy gave us a packing density problem...and we were pushing the hardware so fast that the FPGAs couldn't keep up."
"We had to test Curiosity in pieces, drop tests, vibration tests, thermal testing, vacuum testing, and then we packed it. 33 states and 9 different countries were involved in the mission."
"Then the launch, 8 months of travel, and then the 'seven minutes of terror' when we had no idea what was going on. This was the first guided entry we have ever done on another planet. We landed within 250 meters of target, all autonomously."
McCuistion showed a JPL video that showed the control room during and after the landing evolution. "Curiosity's landing site is in Gale Crater near Mount Sharp. We don't understand this crater, bigger than Delaware, and the mountain is three and a half miles high. Our error band for landing was orders of magnitude smaller than previous missions. We picked the landing spot because it was an important location to answer the question, 'could Mars have ever supported life?'"
"We found that what we thought was an alluvial fan actually was one. We landed in an ancient river bed. This actually proved to us that we had a knee to thigh deep river. Mars had running water."
McCuistion talked about the commercial spinoffs of the instruments which are already being used, since they are very small and battery operated, by people like archaeologists (in King Tut's tomb) and by Department of Homeland Security. He talked about "Yellowknife Bay" which is clearly a dry lake bed, where Curiosity is currently studying. "We have fast running rivers, lakes and groundwater, and we have proven this conclusively. This is important for human exploration, because astronauts cannot take their water with them. The water we're founding is neutral pH and clean. We have proven that Mars was once habitable."
"We named the landing site Bradbury Landing, after science fiction author Ray Bradbury. We're going from there to the base of Mt. Sharp, a distance of six or so kilometers. We think we can see the climate shift that happened where the water erosion changed to wind."
"We need to send people to Mars. This is really the right next destination. It is the only place humans can go and put their feet on the ground in the solar system. Exploration is more about the journey than the destination."