Success Story: Plug and play device management for thermal spray systems

High performance processes require perfection

Oerlikon Metco AG is a technology brand of OC Oerlikon Corporation AG and a leading supplier of surface solutions. Based in Wohlen in the Canton of Aargau in Switzerland, the company develops, operates and sells thermal spray systems, and other surface solutions and technologies. Their thermal spray technology is used to coat, for example, complex surfaces such as rotor blades of aircraft turbines, combustion engine cylinders, and medical implants to protect them from thermal influences, as well as wear and corrosion. High-performance processes such as flame spraying, plasma spraying, and arc spraying are extremely complex. The processes and parameters must interact perfectly, for example, in terms of fuel flow and machine cooling. In order to efficiently use and centrally process the vast amount of data being generated, Oerlikon Metco was looking for a simple and secure way to manage edge devices to enable an intelligent and modern IIoT solution.

A hand surrounded by several IIoT applications. In the middle is a tablet hovering above the hand. A head icon with several lines and dots is layed over the tablet.

From “Sneakernet” to automatic data ­aggregation

In the past, Oerlikon Metco was able to export machine data from the controller units, but only for post-analysis using a USB flash drive. This was a tedious task that involved manually extracting data, such as in Excel format, and feeding it into the processing system. Employees often jokingly referred to this process as the “sneakernet”.
“Our goal was to be able to automatically collect data with minimal effort, and then use complementary cloud services, to store, process and visually present the collected data in dashboards,” explains Sabin Banuleasa, IoT Software Engineer at Oerlikon Metco and member of the digitalization team.
“When it comes to connectivity and communication with their infrastructure, our customers have different needs. That‘s why we were looking for a flexible industrial PC that could act as both a local data provider and a connection to public cloud services.”

Thermal spray coating machine by Oerlikon.

Industrial needs require specific solutions

Initially, Oerlikon’s team tried to develop a solution of their own to collect data and remotely manage its edge devices. They used Hilscher’s netPI 3 as a data access point. But during the feasibility study of topics such as Operating System hardening, reliability and automated on-boarding procedures, the team realized that these are complex tasks. Aspects such as reliability, compatibility with new drivers and services, and security issues could be addressed but with the downside of high effort and increased number of resources. Coming up with a cloud and management solution for hundreds of devices also turned out to be much more challenging than originally expected.

Oerlikon Metco began to explore the obvious and seemingly simple alternatives of IoT solutions from native cloud providers. After all, the well-known hyperscalers such as Microsoft with Azure or Amazon with AWS make it very easy to build IoT cloud platforms for a wide variety of purposes. However, the implementation of various proof-of-concepts revealed that these IoT solutions were too generic and not tailored for Metco‘s needs. The Industrial Internet of Things, as a special niche of the IoT, has very specific requirements in many areas, such as the processing of very large amounts of data and real-time availability.

A netFIELD Compact being mounted to a DIN rail and connected to an Ethernet network.
Device management – out of the box

In search of a suitable solution that meets all requirements, Oerlikon then came across Hilscher’s managed industrial IoT range of products and services. Oerlikon Metco and the Hattersheim-based specialist for industrial communication have been working together for some time in the field of industrial communication. Until then, the equipment manufacturer hadn‘t been involved in IIoT solutions. “One day, Mr. Banuleasa asked about our netFIELD OS, and we promptly made it available to him for detailed testing,” says Jan Luginbühl, Field Application Engineer at Hilscher Swiss GmbH.

“Tests quickly showed that the Hilscher operating system met all our requirements,” Sabin Banuleasa sums up. “When we then also tested the cloud platform using a trial account, we realized that the overall package from Hilscher was exactly what we had been looking for. It’s easy to use and is essentially plug and play with minimal effort involved in its implementation. Now that we have a reliable remote management solution, we can focus our engineering resources on our core business to develop application-specific solutions and digital services.” Oerlikon Metco eventually chose a combination of edge gateway, runtime and cloud portal. The edge gateways netFIELD Compact X8M are integrated into the machines, ensuring the availability of relevant machine data in real-time. This is made possible in large part thanks to the netFIELD OS, which works with Docker containers. Regular maintenance and updates performed by Hilscher ensure maximum security of business-critical data. The entire device management is done remotely via the netFIELD Cloud portal and its intuitive user interface.

Metco IIoT Cloud Service

  • Exact overview on all thermal spray processing costs (material, power, process media, consumables, labor, etc.) with a recorded history
  • Optimizes job schedules for thermal spray systems
  • Helps identifying production cost and time variances for troubleshooting
  • Reduces downtime by optimizing system maintenance schedules
  • Manages multiple sites and roles for a globally installed base
  • Advanced data processing through Oerlikon Expertise
Logo of Oerlikon Metco in red.

We realized very quickly that the netFIELD ecosystem met all the requirements for our specific industrial use case and was exactly what we were looking for.

Sabin Banuleasa
IoT Software Engineer
Oerlikon Metco AG

A man in blue business dress smiles into the camera. He has dark hair and a dark beard. He is outside with blue sky in the background.
Connection to the Metco IIoT cloud platform

Using Hilscher‘s Edge Gateways, Oerlikon Metco also connects its machines to its own application-specific web interface, which can be used to access the processoptimizing Metco IIoT cloud services. Since the Swiss manufacturer already had experience with containerized software, no software modifications were required. After a test phase and a short training and various configurations made to the gateways, the entire solution was available nearly out of the box. With Hilscher’s solutions, Oerlikon Metco has a perfectly coordinated IIoT ecosystem for managing its machines. This allows the Swiss manufacturer to fully focus on its core business and to develop machine-specific applications.

Metco IIoT Connectivity

Metco IIoT Connectivity enables optimization of production processes by granting access to machine data. This helps improve availability of machines, reduce scrap rate and increase throughput.

  • Plug and play solution
  • Embedded into existing equipment
  • Data is provided on-premises or sent to the cloud

Leveraging netFIELD technology for Oerlikon Metco AG

  • Rapid implementation
  • IoT ecosystem tailored to the needs of industrial users
  • Security, thanks to professionally maintained components
  • Intuitive operation


A circle with several Oerlikon applications. In the middle is a cloud icon with several arrows pointing from and to it.

The cornerstone has been laid

Thanks to the simple remote management of the edge devices, Oerlikon Metco’s customers now have centralized access to important process data. Automated data collection saves a lot of time and significantly increases the efficiency of production equipment. The solution also allows any data to be tracked and analyzed over time to ensure the quality of the machine’s functionality remains consistent. “With device management and the first digital services under the name Metco IIoT, we have laid the foundation for the digitalization of our machines,” explains Sabin Banuleasa. “We’re also already planning to expand and enhance our IIoT offering. We will now turn our attention to the three technological buzzwords of machine learning, predictive maintenance and state-of-the-art hardware encryption to create additional value for our customers moving forward.”

Related links
Logo of Oerlikon Metco in red.

Want to know more about Oerlikon Metco's thermal spray coating solutions and the Metco IIoT? Visit Oerlikon Metco's website!

netFIELD Compact X8M - Edge Gateway con opzione di gestione remota

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Hilscher netPI Edge Gateway in use.

Una panoramica della nostra piattaforma Managed Industrial IoT: netFIELD è la vostra infrastruttura edge IIoT per l’implementazione di soluzioni per l’Industria 4.0. Consente di rendere accessibili i dati della macchina e di gestire centralmente il software e l’hardware necessari.