Siemens registers SIMATIC trademark at German Patent Office and thus launches one of the world’s most successful automation systems. At the Paris machine tool fair in 1959, Siemens proudly presents the first generation of a "modular system for contactless controls: SIMATIC G. Conventional electromechanical systems had used relays and contactors as switching components. SIMATIC G used transistors, which were small and not vulnerable to mechanical wear. So the first uses for SIMATIC G were primarily in transformer stations and power plants, where especially reliable control elements are essential.
The early 1970s were the start of the era of programmable logic controllers, whose functions were no longer determined by fixed wiring but by software – making programming significantly easier. At the same time, computing power soared, enabling SIMATIC to handle not just control functions, but also higher-level tasks.
This industrial automation system has been improved continuously down to the present day, and its functions have expanded as well. While the first SIMATIC systems focused entirely on control technology, the latest SIMATIC generation can handle almost any conceivable task in industrial automation. That's why every one of the 30 largest automotive manufactures uses Siemens automation technology for production – thanks to SIMATIC.
In 1960, Siemens developed the first numerical control (NC) system capable of industrial use in running machine tools. Four years later the system was named SINUMERIK. It was first tried out on a turret lathe. Specialized control versions followed for turning, milling, grinding and nibbling operations.
A major step in the direction of CNC (Computerized Numerical Control) came in 1973, with the SINUMERIK 500C, the first to be based on a process computer. The SINUMERIK System 7, introduced three years later, was the first microprocessor-equipped CNC system, and was capable of DNC (Distributed Numerical Control) networking.
In 1994, for the higher-performance range, Siemens introduced the SINUMERIK 840D as the system standard, equipped with a digital drive coupling and an open NC core. It allowed software components to be integrated into the CNC, thus making the technological expertise of machine tool builders a part of the automation process. Subsequently capabilities for simulation, CAD connection and safety were also integrated into the system.
1996: Totally Integrated Automation (TIA)
In the 1970s, all segments of a factory were connected together by what was known as a bus system. Production timing was monitored entirely by central computers and the calculated setpoint for each operation was transmitted directly to the various production machines. Ultimately, minicomputers increasingly relocated hardware functions to software, enhancing flexibility.
In the 1990s, Siemens developed the concept of “Totally Integrated Automation,” (TIA), in which all phases and components of an automated production operation were integrated into a single automation system: SIMATIC.
Applicability extended all along the value chain – from material feeds, to production proper, to packaging and logistics, this end-to-end software helped to increase productivity, improve quality control, assist automation system maintenance, and reduce life-cycle costs.
2007: The world's largest Corex plant
In 2007, Chinese steelmaker Baosteel Group began operating the world's largest Corex plant, with a capacity of 1.5 million metric tons of liquid pig iron a year. The plant was built under Siemens’ guidance in just 29 months after the contract was signed. This was the first Siemens Corex plant in China.
Unlike conventional blast furnaces, the Corex process produced liquid pig iron directly from coal and lump ore or pellets, eliminating the need for high-emission equipment like coking plants and sinter plants. The Corex process reduced sulfur and nitrogen oxide emissions as well as ultrafine dust particles in exhaust gases, by as much as 90 percent compared to conventional pig iron processes. And the export gas from the Corex plant was used to generate electricity in a combined-cycle power plant, and to heat the entire Baosteel mill.
A second Corex-C-3000 plant, with an almost identical configuration, was commissioned in the spring of 2011 at the steel mill in Luojing near Shanghai.
2010: Totally Integrated Automation Portal (TIA Portal)
The combination of industrial software and automation technology was the key to significantly shorter times to market for new products, and a substantially faster return on investment.
The Totally Integrated Automation Portal (TIA Portal) software architecture, launched on the market in 2010, ushered in a new era in engineering. It was the foundation of all future engineering systems for the planning, programming and commissioning of automation devices and drive systems in the Siemens Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) range. The TIA Portal offered all engineering functions in a single framework with a uniform user interface. Its functions could be expanded easily and conveniently by installing additional software packages.
To develop the TIA Portal, Siemens spent several years studying typical engineering applications, and analyzing and assessing customer requirements from all over the world. The result was a product that was suitable for everyone from the entry level to highly experienced users.
2012: The Mars rover with PLM software
NASA used Siemens Product Lifecycle Management software to develop the "Curiosity" Mars rover. It enabled them to design the Mars vehicle digitally, simulate complex motion sequences and assemble the rover virtually before even building a prototype. The effort was a notorious success: In 2012, "Curiosity" landed on Mars and began exploring the planet's surface.
Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) means integrating a company's data, processes and business systems, with a close involvement of employees, all with the aid of an information management system. PLM software makes it possible to manage this information efficiently and cost-effectively throughout a product's life cycle – whether in coming up with the idea, design, production, servicing or disposal.
Siemens' unique combination of PLM software and automation technology not only helps cut products' time to market by up to 50 percent, but also reduces consumption of resources and energy.
In 2016, Siemens introduced MindSphere, the first cloud-based, open operating system for the Internet of Things. Applications (apps) and digital services could be developed, operated and sold on this platform.
MindSphere made it possible to enhance a plant's performance by gathering and analyzing large volumes of production data. Machine and plant builders, for their part, could use the platform to monitor fleets of machines all over the world, for servicing purposes. This enabled them to reduce downtime and thus offer new business models.
Whether in manufacturing, railroad operation, power generation or building management, MindSphere enabled a broad range of apps to analyze all the raw data generated by plants and systems. These might be performance data from a production environment distributed all over the world, or operating data from running trains, or status data from a power grid or many other assets.
In this way, MindSphere laid a foundation for applications and data-based services provided by Siemens and third-party providers, for example in predictive maintenance, energy data management and resource optimization. MindSphere added another important component to Siemens' digitalization strategy.