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Inventors of the Year 2017
Behind many of the products we use everyday, things like nasal spray or chocolate-covered popsicles, you will find highly complex industrial facilities that churn out these wares all by themselves. These units are frequently run by a Siemens control system called PCS 7 that has been a force in the marketplace for more than 20 years now. Inventor Benjamin Lutz works constantly at Process Industries and Drives to make this system even better.
Lutz frequently receives ideas for new control system functions from users and customers whose factories have been using the control systems for years. In the pharmaceutical industry, for instance, these systems do such jobs as control when which active ingredients are mixed together. In the process, they open valves, start pumps and measure the temperature during the production process. “The goal is simple: The unit must operate without interruption,” Lutz says. Every stoppage means lost production and potential harm to people or the machinery.
The main trend today is to rapidly retrofit manufacturing systems for various individual products and product variations. “To ensure that production runs without interruption, the control system must integrate all new parameters smoothly into the operation,” Lutz says. To test them, Lutz relies on a system’s digital twin. He inputs the changes here and virtually runs the production process. A production system in a factory is not converted until everything works just right.
Lutz writes down all ideas in a notebook that he always takes with him. When an idea turns out to be good, but not pressing, Lutz will still submit a patent registration for it as a precaution. He knew that he wanted to be an engineer when he was still in secondary school. Lutz decided to major in electrical engineering at the Technical University of Karlsruhe, his hometown. “This also involved information technology, automotive technology, medical technology, optic design, embedded systems and microsystems,” he says. All of this knowledge pays off for him at Siemens.
The nice thing about a patent is that you can apply the idea later without having to fight over it with your competitors.