Chicago, IL September 8 -- GE Fanuc Intelligent Platforms, a unit of GE Enterprise Solutions, announced its support of MTConnect, a new communication protocol to link machine tools from varying suppliers around the world. MTConnect will be officially launched by the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT) at IMTS 2008, September 8-13, 2008 in Chicago, and on display at the AMT Emerging Technology Center and at the GE Fanuc booth, A-8418, South Hall, at the show. At IMTS, GE Fanuc will demonstrate the integration of GE Fanuc CNC systems into an MTConnect Network and link multiple CNC controllers from both around the show and over the Internet to remote sites using the CIMPLICITY HMI software system.
MTConnect will enable a host of third-party solution providers to develop software and hardware to make the entire manufacturing enterprise more productive, said John Turner, engineering and solutions manager for GE Fanuc Intelligent Platforms CNC business. MTConnect is designing an open communication standard for interconnectability that mirrors the success occurring in the information technology world. That is, allowing devices, equipment and systems to output data in an understandable format that can be read by any other device using the same standard format to read the data.
Turner has been instrumental in championing the creation of MTConnect from its early stages and in the development of the protocol itself. He has worked closely with other industry influencers as part of AMTs Technical Issues Committee, and later as a member of the MTConnect Technical Advisory Group. In this role, Turner has contributed to the definition of the protocol, communicated its value to the machine-tool-builder and end-user communities, and worked to ensure an open and available architecture that would aid in its wide scale adoption.
MTConnect is based on XML (Extensible Markup Language), which offers widely recognized and accepted flexible representation for exchanging semi-structured machine-readable data. The standard will be open and royalty-free to insure the widest possible acceptance and utility. MTConnect will use commercially available technologies as its basis and will provide royalty-free reference implementations of sample software which can be used as-is, modified to suit special needs, reverse-engineered or included in users' own software systems. This approach allows connectivity from the lowest end of the process chain, nearest the workpiece or shop floor, to the highest design or process planning tools.
The protocol will be rolled out in three phases:
Phase One of the protocol, which is what will be showcased at IMTS 2008, provides the connection between devices through CNCs and the capability of sharing data between them. It allows users to build an application that can interpret the information coming from a wide variety of devices. The application can query another, find out what type of tool it is, and what it is designed to do.
In Phase Two, users will have the ability to write data that is being discovered and shared between devices. The host system would be in charge of sending out the queries between devices and monitoring what each is doing and what data each is collecting. This system will be able to control certain aspects of the CNC remotely including starting/stopping operations and providing setup information on parts, fixturing, tooling, etc.
In Phase Three, and this is the most exciting part of the future of MTConnect, said Turner, we will no longer need to rely on a host system. Information will be shared, collected and controlled across multiple devices, similar to how it is done in a USB hub. The CNC now becomes part of a network that is defined at the machine. This will allow machine-tool builders to build entire applications on top of connection protocols that are already in place for nearly every conceivable type of device.