The Norwegian magazine AMNYTT recently published an article about how Norsk Titanium — a company that produces aerospace-grade titanium parts through an innovative process — used Ignition to create a highly scalable control system that provides a central place to view data. Autic System AS, an Authorized Ignition Distributor in Norway, was a key collaborator on the project.
In the article, an automation engineer at Norsk Titanium discusses the company’s innovative solution consisting of Ignition, Canary Historian, and a new data architecture based on Unified Namespace principles.
To read the article in Norwegian, click here. An English translation of the article is available below.
The Ignition SCADA System: Mature, Forward-Thinking — and Full of Possibilities
By Leslie Henriksen
Jon Forbord’s primary task is to program PLCs for Norsk Titanium's 3D printing machine, and then lead the development of Ignition.
“The biggest bottleneck is that I have been alone with all the tasks,” says Forbord. He is one of three automation engineers at Norsk Titanium. They are responsible for each of their fields at Norsk Titanium, and one of Forbord's tasks is to manage the Ignition SCADA system. The mentioned bottleneck disappeared like dew before the sun after getting an impressively talented student on the team.
Forbord was looking for a platform for problem-solving. He spent a whole year acquiring knowledge about the various offers on the market.
Well prepared, he was able to present the Ignition SCADA platform to management. With a test demo on the screen, they arrived at a fully set table, and the order could be placed.
“After a careful analysis of what was available on the market, in April last year we purchased the web-based platform Ignition. Several platforms were considered, but none could compare to Ignition,” says Forbord. He elaborates, “Ignition is easy to learn, it talks to everything, and you can download it and test it on your own, without having to talk to a sole seller. You can learn on your own terms. Ignition is simply fun!”
In April last year, Autic became a distributor for Inductive Automation and its Ignition software. It would turn out to be extremely good timing.
“I had probably already decided to go for Ignition, but I was extra excited when we could collaborate with a Norwegian distributor,” Forbord states.
The Ignition SCADA system, which is rapidly growing in the market, is platform-independent and does not rely on proprietary protocols. The software ensures interaction between machines, instruments, and sensors, such as business systems, databases, and APIs. Everyone in-house can also try Ignition for free.
“With access to an unlimited number of clients, tags, and simultaneous developers without restrictions, we can adapt the setup, which we see as a clear advantage,” Forbord points out.
At first, he was a little skeptical about Ignition because of its relatively moderate price. But the skepticism turned out to be completely unfounded, according to the automation engineer, who describes the system as mature, advanced, and full of possibilities.
“In addition, it is a huge advantage to be able to collaborate with a well-established player such as Autic.”
High-Quality Titanium Parts
Norsk Titanium has development and production at Eggemoen, which is located a few kilometers outside Hønefoss. The company also has two factories in the USA, where only production takes place.
The high-tech company supplies high-quality titanium parts that satisfy all requirements for aerospace equipment and the aviation industry, and which reduce costs, lead time, and environmental footprint. The company is both a raw material supplier and a full-service parts supplier and can offer finished components through OEM-approved suppliers.
“Using our patented RPD process, the production machine MERKE IV turns titanium wire into complex components suitable for a variety of different applications. Depending on part size and geometry, each MERKE IV machine can produce several metric tons annually. Norsk Titanium's RPD technology takes metal additive manufacturing to new heights by efficiently producing ‘near netshape blanks’ for both small and larger components,” explains Forbord.
The MERKE IV machine is always ready for use and the operator only needs to replace the consumables to be able to run a program and thus produce a "preform." The time this takes varies with the size of the parts.
“In the long term, Ignition can be used to remotely control the entire process,” says Forbord.
The production is monitored by the Ignition SCADA system, and the student does most of the development work.
“He works independently, has a full overview, and does an excellent job,” says Forbord. The student thus receives exclusively positive feedback from his boss.
Norsk Titanium's solution design mainly consists of three components: Ignition, Canary Historian, and a new data architecture.
“We use an architecture based on so-called publish-subscribe, where the machines send their data, instead of Ignition having to ask the machines for data. This automates large parts of the work with data retrieval from the machines. For example, when we update the machines, any new data points (signals) will appear automatically in Ignition, and all other systems that are connected to the architecture,” explains Forbord.
He further explains that they have based this architecture on principles called Unified Namespace, or the hub and spoke model.
“I dare say that we are among those who are the most advanced in this architecture in Norway. Simply explained, Unified Namespace is the idea that you go from working with individual systems that talk to each other from system to system, to connecting everyone to a common meeting point and that the systems are nodes that use and produce data in an ecosystem. The fact that Ignition supports this type of architecture is another reason why the choice fell on Ignition,” he admits.
The flexibility of Ignition has also made it possible for the company to build what Forbord has called "namespace-defined SCADA."
“The principle is to program Ignition to automatically generate most of the screens used, based on the structure and shape of the data from the machines. This again means that when we update the machines, the new information will automatically appear on the users' screens. About 90% of our screens in Ignition are generated in this way, while the rest is done in a more traditional way. This has made it possible to create a SCADA system for hundreds of thousands of signals, in less than a year,” emphasizes Forbord.
With a basic SCADA system in place, the road ahead appears full of possibilities.
“This is when the ‘fun’ begins,” says Forbord. “We have now begun work on integrating Ignition with several systems and building extended functionality. This is where Ignition's ability to ‘talk to everything’ comes into play, including business systems and databases. We've also started training more engineers and technicians, and with free online courses available from Inductive Automation, more engineers are already developing in Ignition. To quote one of the managers, ‘Ignition has been a revelation.’ With Ignition, we can give our people the information they need about our operations, when they need it, where they need it, and in the form they need it,” concludes Forbord.