For the fourth time, the Ethernet POWERLINK Standardization Group (EPSG) held a competition calling for innovative projects and automation concepts based on the open industrial Ethernet protocol POWERLINK. All students at European universities and technical colleges were eligible to participate. The most innovative and creative projects were rewarded with prizes totaling €50,000 in value.
Applicable projects ranged from mechatronic applications to the creation of solutions for industrial applications by developing new devices with POWERLINK interfaces and even implementation of new features in the openPOWERLINK stack. The main requirement was that the projects were relevant to the topics of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things.
Each project each consisted of up to four students and a university supervisor – usually their professor. The students were preferably to come from a thematically relevant degree program such as electrical engineering, automation, computer science or technical mathematics. The goal was to build a functional prototype, accompanied by a scientific paper.
The projects were evaluated based on multiple criteria. In addition to the creativity of the concept, how well it presented POWERLINK technology and adhered to the open-source philosophy, the judges looked at the overall quality of the engineering and the scientific paper.
Twenty-seven teams from ten countries had registered their projects by February 2017. Of them, the best five were selected by the four-person jury consisting of Stefan Schönneger (CEO of the EPSG), Wolfgang Seiss (Head of Open Automation Technology Solutions at B&R), Dimitri Phillippe (CEO of BE.services) and Carsten Emde (General Manager of OSADL).
The awards ceremony took place on October 20, 2017. In addition to their accommodations in Austria, the top five teams enjoyed an event that included dinner, go-kart racing, a tour of the B&R Headquarters and much more. They were also able to publish their scientific findings as sponsored open access articles. This was particularly significant for the young scientists, since open access articles are read and cited much more often than others.
First place went to the team from the University of Valencia in Spain. Their project involved highly dynamic motion control based on image processing. The control loop includes an event-triggered camera connected via POWERLINK. This type of camera only measures changes from one image to the next and is therefore significantly faster than a conventional frame camera, which opens up new possibilities for innovative automation concepts.
Second place was awarded to students from the Technical University of Kosice in Slovakia. They developed the "Pathfinder", an AGV for transporting materials in hospitals. Pathfinder is equipped with the latest B&R components and uses software stacks for autonomous localization, navigation and mapping. The strengths of the robotics system are cleverly combined with the Ethernet POWERLINK protocol.
The team from Germany's Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) developed diagnostics software for visualizing POWERLINK data traffic in a real-time network, including detailed analysis of process and service data. Their efforts were rewarded with the 3rd place prize.
Honorable mentions went to a second team from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and one from the University of Poitiers in France.