The Digital Manufacturing Centre (DMC) has partnered with Beckhoff Automation Limited to bring completely automated building control to the DMC’s state-of-the-art engineering and production facility at Silverstone Park. Intended to optimise factory and office conditions as well as monitor and minimise energy consumption, Beckhoff is working with the DMC team to digitalise and automate many of the building’s key systems.

Often, important building systems like lighting, shading, ventilation, heating and cooling are designed separately, with little to no consideration of their interaction. Not only can this have a negative impact on a building’s energy efficiency, but it can also be detrimental to the building’s intended function. At the DMC, Beckhoff’s focus is on maintaining optimum conditions on the production floor and ideal working conditions within the office and meeting spaces.

Collecting high-frequency data from all available streams – including a variety of sensors throughout the facility as well as the additive manufacturing and finishing equipment itself – Beckhoff’s PC-based control platform will manage building systems in real-time. Referred to as holistic building control, Beckhoff’s solution capitalises on all available information to simultaneously maintain production quality and consistency while ensuring staff can work comfortably by regulating temperature, humidity, light and air circulation.

Beckhoff’s real-time building management will significantly reduce the DMC’s energy costs, using only what is required and precisely when needed. With fast and granular energy monitoring capabilities the system is also able to observe energy quality at the machine level, monitoring power quality while reporting any anomalies or potential issues.

The flexibility of the Beckhoff IPC platform allows integration of real-time machine data to ensure production quality and can be obtained by non-invasive means via cross-platform cloud communications from any number of sources – something that is scheduled for 2022. Beckhoff’s distributed control system will also enable continuous self-diagnostic features, collecting operational and lifetime data to provide the DMC team with valuable insight and inform predictive maintenance.

Lighting requirements will be determined via motion sensors and lux meters, with the platform automatically balancing natural and artificial light. Dimmable LED lighting in combination with deployable window shades will ensure that all areas of the building have uniform and comfortable light, with minimal glare on workstations and surfaces.

Not only are the shades used to regulate light, but also building temperature. Linked to the other building systems, deployment of the shades is dictated by a sun position algorithm that also takes into consideration shadowing from surrounding structures at different times of the year. Even within the same room, Beckhoff’s platform can adjust heating, cooling, ventilation, shading and lighting requirements to establish consistency throughout.

To provide DMC staff and visitors with real-time visual information of all systems linked to the Beckhoff platform, a large overview screen will be located in the DMC’s foyer. This highlights system activity and conditions and well as machine productivity. This critical information is also accessible via a panel on the factory floor as well as on staff smartphones, for effective remote monitoring.

Bradley McEwan, business development manager at Beckhoff Automation, commented: “The DMC will be a showcase for Beckhoff’s industry-leading building automation systems. As one of the most advanced additive manufacturing facilities in the world, environmental control of the factory floor is essential to reaching and maintaining extremely high part quality. At the same time, those working in the facility’s office spaces need to be comfortable, so, we are able to monitor and manage these separately – even in different areas of the same room.

“Our platform takes advantage of data from across the facility, interpreting this enormous volume and automatically adjusting key building systems like lighting, shading, ventilation, cooling and heating for the optimal environment. We look forward to our continued work with the DMC team, refining one of the UK’s most advanced AM engineering and production facilities.”