Virtual Showcase Mi5 / Beta

Why not? That’s what we asked ourselves when developing our newest gadget: The Virtual Showcase Mi5. It does all the same as the real one, except for its now only bits and bytes and none of the real cookies and cocktails comes out. However, it has some nice features:

  • It is very portable: Built on wheels and completely integrated
  • All monitors are connected to only two computers, and it can be controlled with one keyboard and one mouse.
  • Software-updates can easily be tested, before it is ported on the real Showcase Mi5.
  • Perfect test machine for real-world application customers.
  • Test all kind of touch application thanks to our multi-touch panels.

Below you find some impressions:

IQS Design Study – Andres Garcia

We proudly announce a design study, made by the spanish university IQS under Prof. Andres Garcia. It is the university of our alumni team members Jordi and Bernard.

Students made a design study in order to make their ideas of possible modules more tangible. You can see a frozen yogurt machine, with a cooled yoghurt dispenser and a topping module. In another study, there is a dispenser of “disparillos” and other sweets to decorate the product. In video 4/8 you can see an animated dispenser with different toppings and a mixer.

All the Mi5 team congratulates the students at IQS for their great work. We hope to collaborate further on this topic, and would love to build a module together.

Keep up the awesome work!

Ps.: Please note that video 2/8 cannot be watched in germany, since there is a GEMA conflict :-/

Mi5 / Virtual Reality and Real ‘Steel’ side by side

We proudly present you our newest video, where you can see the configuration we used during the SPS IPC drives trade fair.

Side by side you can now compare the simulation in industrialPhysics and the real machine. Don’t get confused, it is not just a nice-to-have feature. It was essential for us, to use the simulation during the development for testing purposes of system-wide aspects.

You can see the following things:

  • No module is visible in the simulation. This means, that the module have not yet been initialized by the process tool, and no position is saved.
  • A virtual module is being initialized. The initialization works in a way, that the mover is passing a sensor (virtual/real) and the module sends back to the XTS a boolean value when the mover passes by.
  • The modules get initialized and, first the Cookie-Module, then one after the other appears in the simulation. Once a module appears, that signalizes, that they now are configured and ready to produce
  • You then will see an order in action.
  • Pay attention to the different colors that the mover is changing to. This is the virtual-reality-mode of the simulation, where a mechanic can see in which state the mover is in. He then would know, if it is save to touch or not.
  • Further you see, that one Cream-Module is missing in the simulation. It has been deactivated on purpose. But nevertheless the machine is able to produce any cookie without error, thanks to our modular approach.

We hope you enjoy the video. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

Start UP!

After one week-end of very intensive work, we managed to get all modlues up and running. Thanks to our extensive use of HIL simulation, we could manage the start up with the XTS and the Cookie Module in only three hours. It felt like plug and play.

  • Wiring the modules (Cookie- and Cream-Module) on Thursday and Friday
  • Setting up the modules on Saturday
  • Connecting them on Sunday

While it was the first time, that the modules were actually connected to our Process-Tool, the HMI and the Process-Tool and the simulation were already pretty firm. So on that side, we didn’t have any problems. But still, of course, there is still room for optimization, which we will use, until the fair. The clock is ticking. Less then 7 days!

Have a look at our first successful run:


On the video you see Oliver, how he is ordering a task on our touch panel. The XTS then starts, while Oliver goes to the “Manual Module” view on the HMI. The XTS is getting a cookie, and later Oliver is doing a manual task.

Constant Support – Beckhoff

Today we encountered a little challenge on the XTS programming. Since we load very large configuration files for the OPC UA Server (OPC UA does not let you change the data structure during runtime, therefore we configure it with free space beforehand), the Server had some unpredictable behaviour.

Thanks to our good contact with Beckhoff, Mr. Schätzle, application engineer at Beckhoff, with a lot of expertise in OPC-UA and TwinCAT, came to our office and gave us support. The problem then could be solved within a short time. We used this occasion to show Mr. Schätzle our current setup. He was quite impressed about the latest progress on our project, connecting TwinCAT 3 with Industrial Physics Simulation and the XTS. In our virtual setup we have the modules with motors and sensors, directly interacting with each other and the XTS. It is the first time that he saw, how neat the XTS integration with Industrial Physics works. We also used the time for a little brainstorming to get some input from an expert.

We are glad about the constant supoort by Beckhoff, that fully support us at any time, either through technical components or know how and expertise.

Ps.: Below, you find some impressions of this short visit:

Virtual Process Simulation – Realization

In the video below, you can see the XTS PLC linked to the simulation with the simulation software Industrial Physics and to the actual hardware at the same time. This is used by our developer team to test their programming in a virtual HIL setup. Even without the actual hardware components, it is possible do a systematic test of the whole system.

Further infomations can be found under


Have a look at our newest video of the recent start up , too!

Simulation of the Cookie Module with Industrial Physics

We are working with Industrial Physics to generate our HIL setup. Starting with the first parts of the setup we are developing a digital representation of the cookie module.

The cookie dispenser works in the way, that the rotating disc is moved by a stepping motor. Whenever the cookie comes to the yellow ramp, it falls down by gravity. The simulation uses the same effects. The friction and other details are as close to reality as possible.

We will keep you posted about other modules and simulations.

Please feel free to comment below.

HMI Cooperation with TH Ingolstadt

Since June 2014 we are working together with Prof. Grossmann from TH Ingolstadt and his student, to develop an innovative approach for an HMI. For this approach the students use typical elements from Computer games, which can then adapted in an HMI, that is used for real automation processes. At the end of the semester, the students presented their work to the MI5-Team in a big presentation. It followed, a discussion and feedback.

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ITQ GmbH: 48.252077, 11.634312
TH Ingolstadt: 48.767116, 11.431704

Below you can find an example of the report of the investigation of the different game elements. Visible is an so-called inventory view. Something similar could be used to show with what kind of actors or sensors a module is equipped. It could show a picture of a module, status information or more. Typically this is shown at some corner of the screen for an overview, or centralized for more information.

TH Ingolstadt

Inventory Elements from some games. (TH Ingolstadt)

This research was then adapted to some more practical approaches by other students. They made a list as it can be used in production to see a queue or control the process. In the picture below, you can also see a message box, that keeps the user up to date about ongoing events.

List of Events in Production with message box. Source: TH Ingolstadt

List of Events in Production with message box. (TH Ingolstadt)

With this ideas in mind, and some very good approaches, we transformed it into a more practical approach with a tool called Balsamiq. It allows us to use typical desktop elements like lists, tabs, dropdown menus in a sketchy way, so that the idea can be transported easily. Colors and fonts are not yet finalized.

Sketch for HMI. (MI5)

Sketch for HMI. (MI5)

Besides, we looked at possible use cases for the HMI. Therefore we used two different perspectives:

  1. User by skill level
  2. User by perspective

The first ist divided into the groups first-time users, that have no knowledge of the HMI, intermediate users, and expert users. With our approach we will be able to give all of them a good user experience. Next to the skill level we looked at the task of the user, e.g. maintenance operator vs production operator.

It is now July, and since our HMI shall also be portable to any modern device, responsive by design and with an intuitive touch experience, we decided to do it with web-technologies. One prototype can be seen below. It is hard-coded and runs on an Apache server.

HMI Protoype with HTML and JavaScript

HMI Protoype with HTML and JavaScript (MI5)

While developing this proof of concept, and during the following month, September 2014, we investigated technologies for further development.

Node.JS is a JavaScript Interpreter, similar to PHP5 module in Apache server, with the Google V8 Engine, that powers also the popular Google Chrome Browser. With this approach only one programming language is required. There is a big movement to use JavaScript not only for Browser-Coding but also for server-side applications. One of the main features in comparison to a classic webserver is the inherent non-blocking approach, that is perfect for an HMI and a constant connection.

Further information: creates a constant connection to a browser, or to any other REST-compatible device. It is then possible to send updates of text field directly from the server to the client. It is even possible to broadcast events, so that multiple clients (HMI screens) are updated simultaneously
Express.js handles the different requests. Due to the event-based architecture of javascript, it is asynchronous and interrupt-free.
Jade serves as a template engine. It delivers easy to read templates for the designers.
Stylus is used to generate CSS code out of JavaScript. It uses a markup language that lets you use variables, that simplify CSS development.



These technologies are then combined to one HMI module (we follow our modular paradigma). This module includes an OPC UA client, and acts as a server for the HMI-web-pages. Doing something so complex like an HMI in a web-page is in our opinion a good approach, since the web-development community is huge, and all technologies used are for free and open source. They are also bullet-proof and exist for production for a long time, just look at a website like Google or Amazon, that practically have no downtime, and run on any browser flawlessly.

Our draft for the system architecture of the HMI looks like this:

System Architecture (MI5)

System Architecture (MI5)

It is now end of September, and the JavaScript client is under heavy development. One of the most complex parts so far, is the investigation of the connection of the node-opcua module to the OPC UA Server. We investigate the compatibility of different OPC UA Servers, for example Beckhoff TwinCAT OPC UA Server or the equivalent from B&R.

As of now, we can say, that the decision for JavaScript looks very good. It looks lean and clean. Since we do not need to actually write anything else, besides JavaScript there is no cut in code development. Once all the programmers are familiar with the somewhat different way of programming, they can read all the code.

For developing we use Nodeclipse and GIT versioning.

Please let us know what you think, in the comment section below. We also attached some more screenshots and excerpts of the Students report from the TH Ingolstadt.

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