Intelligent Connection Enables Capturing, Collating & Controlling of Data

05.04.2021

Computer screen seen through glasses

Written by

Ulf Lindhe & Frank Louwers

General Manager of Additive Manufacturing & Head of Security and Compliance

The industrial internet of things (IIoT) centres around one core proposition — the digitalisation of data. Over the last decade or more, data has become an extremely valuable commodity. We’re not talking about personal data here, which is an important issue on many levels, but rather in an industrial context, specifically the data generated at every point of the process chain for manufacturing.

Understanding the value that can be harnessed from connecting systems to enable the capture, collating and controlling of data — intelligently and safely — is the foundational principle of Oqton.

There are a number of keys that unlock the intelligence that can be extracted from this data enabled by new technologies emerging as part of Industry 4.0, such as AI and cloud-computing. This is where the Oqton team’s experience and expertise lies and the Oqton platform has been developed to provide the most intelligent and comprehensive connectivity between systems (hardware, software, processes and people) to enable greater automation that significantly improves overall productivity and efficiency across the manufacturing process chain.

The Oqton platform has been developed to provide the most intelligent and comprehensive connectivity between systems…

A fully connected manufacturing workflow — from end-to-end — with embedded AI capabilities and the power of cloud computing offers a number of untapped and significant benefits, which include

•eliminating highly repetitive manual process steps to achieve greater automation of the workflow •simultaneous analysis (as opposed to linear steps) which greatly reduces the time it takes •simplification of complex and inter-dependent steps in the workflow •ability to learn from the data and feedback improvements into the process •more efficient use of resources •greater flexibility •improved agility •ability to predict and improve future requirements.

From start to finish, additive manufacturing (AM) for production is a complex discipline and involves various steps, including but not limited to part design, part and process simulation, qualification, digital part modifications and fixing, support generation, build preparation, slicing, defining machine parameter sets, material handling, in-process monitoring, quality control and post processing. Across every stage, data is being generated that is pertinent to the build, traceability of the part(s) and the overall process chain. By capturing all of this digital data in one place and collating, connecting and analysing it intelligently using specially developed AI algorithms, it is then possible to use it to control and improve the entire workflow — across entire factory floors — irrespective of the number of machines or 3rd party software programmes involved.

But what about data security?

The fear that people have concerning data security is a legitimate one, of course. Every piece of technology that connects to the internet, whether personal or industrial, is at risk of being abused. This is invariably the result of programming errors or an aggressive data breach by malicious actors. For connected machines and connected factories this risk includes any data links that can subsequently adversely affect any or all of the machines and/or the parts they are building.

As of March 1 2021, Oqton has officially been SOC2, Type 1 certified.

At Oqton we take this risk extremely seriously and have developed a secure system, with a series of controls, that mitigate the risk at every level to demonstrably combat any fears our customers might pose. This has included SOC2 compliance. SOC2 is a recognised international standard that ensures data security. It has typically been adopted by large multi-national organisations, but even though Oqton is still in the early stages of commercialisation, the company has prioritised achieving SOC2 certification. As of March 1 2021, Oqton has officially been SOC2, Type 1 certified.

Type 2 certification is scheduled later this year as we prove ongoing compliance, with subsequent annual audits.

So what does this actually mean in real terms?

Simply put, we make sure that each of our customers hardware and software infrastructure is connected — and protected — via a gateway that we completely control. So even if a machine vendor suffers from a security breach, we can control and repel it. We also go a step further – ensuring that the gateway is not connected directly to the internet but via a VPN with multiple levels of encryption.

Oqton makes sure that each of our customers hardware and software infrastructure is connected — and protected

In a further step the Oqton platform ensures that there is no crossover of client data — ever. This is achieved by using unique encryption for each client, which guarantees that there is zero chance that data will be leaked or mistakenly sent to the wrong company.

The Oqton platform has the capability and the capacity to connect with every machine on your factory floor by virtue of its intelligent IIoT integration.

Capturing Data: The Oqton platform has the capability and the capacity to connect with every machine on your factory floor by virtue of its intelligent IIoT integration. This means that it can capture all of the relevant data from each machine. Apart from the clear visibility that this provides in terms of machine usage and scheduling, this data can then be collated and analysed to optimise the entire workflow as well as each individual machine.

The machine learning capabilities of Oqton mean that the system can learn from the data it gathers when things go right, and when things go wrong, consistently optimizing the entire data loop.

Collating Data: Once the data is captured, making sense of that data — including what is relevant and what is not, is absolutely essential. And this is where the Oqton AI algorithms really set this platform apart. The collected data is sent securely through the Oqton gateway, to the cloud-platform, where it is collated and used to optimise the processes and workflow.

The Oqton AI algorithms really set this platform apart

Controlling Data: To effectively and efficiently control your manufacturing process chain it is necessary to collect both broad and deep real-time data and use this to predict the future. This is where Oqton excels because it has captured the big picture data (from across the whole factory) as well as the machine-specific (deep) data and combines the two.

This all contributes to an outstanding Manufacturing Execution System (MES), but Oqton goes much further and adds even greater value. Oqton’s team of experts, with a core understanding of additive manufacturing (AM), have taken “connection” to the next level with an integrated build processor that enables greater automation from the receipt of the build data to nested builds that are ready to push to the AM machines. The build processor includes AM functionality including optimised nesting, state-of-the-art build supports and AM process simulation all with an integrated and intuitive interface.

This ensures that Oqton maintains a full digital thread of every single process step along the production line, minimizing manual interaction and ensuring every part is fully traceable.

But it all starts with a connection…