Detecting causes of faults directly on the components

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#machinedowntime #pneumatics #causesoffaults #SMC
3 minutes Reading time
3 minutes Reading time

Wear on pneumatic components leads to machine downtime. Maintenance technicians often need a long time to find the affected component. An Industrial IoT solution detects wear directly on the related parts and alerts technicians in time.

The problem: Dirty pneumatic cylinders stop the whole plant

Manufacturing plants consist of a large number of machines that are linked together. Raw materials and components are fed through the production system in a predefined sequence and all manufacturing steps interlock. Regardless of the industry, the failure of even a single component can bring an entire production system to a standstill.

In many cases, the exact cause of the error is not clear. Because with most machines, the defective component must first be identified. This may take several hours in some circumstances. In part, the individual machines are not directly accessible. In addition, housings must be removed and components closely examined to find the cause of the fault.

SMC Germany offers a simple solution for this situation. The company: a leading manufacturer of pneumatic and electric automation technology. Its components, such as pneumatic cylinders, can be found in numerous machines, for example in the packaging industry.

Pneumatic cylinders often operate in an environment with heavy dust exposure, which causes the cylinders to wear more easily. Dust lowers the mobility and makes seals porous. This reduces the speed and pressure force. Under certain circumstances, the cylinder may fail, bringing the entire machine to a standstill and subsequently the entire production chain. In individual sectors, such as the food industry, this can lead to batches having to be disposed of because they cannot be filled and hygienically packaged in time.

The solution: Sensors monitor stroke and compressed air

SMC’s solution is a system that uses sensors and is connected to the industrial Internet of Things (IoT). It can be retrofitted into existing systems at any time. The retrofit does not interfere with the actual production process. It also requires no changes to existing infrastructure and industrial controls.

The solution itself consists of three components: First, sensors for the travel path of the cylinders and compressed air consumption; second, an edge gateway suitable for industrial use; and Software AG‘s “Cumulocity IoT” IoT platform. The sensors are attached to each pneumatic cylinder and connected to the Edge Gateway. SMC uses standard protocols such as IO-Link or OPC UA for this purpose.

The software part of the solution convinces with flexibility. One variant uses public Industrial IoT (IIoT), so the gateway sends data to Cumulocity’s cloud variant via cellular or an existing Internet connection. It is also possible to operate the platform in the company’s own data center. Finally, there is also a particularly secure variant: the data remains on an edge computer and is evaluated there by a local instance of the platform.

The real-time data is compared with the historical data. In case of deviations, the operators or maintenance personnel receive a message. The alarms are displayed on a separate dashboard or automatically forwarded as a ticket to an existing ERP system.

The result: Timely replacement of wear parts, downtimes are minimized

The data obtained, after accurate analysis, shows whether the performance of a pneumatic cylinder is declining. This makes it possible to replace the cylinders before they fail or lead to production defects.

The bottom line is that companies do not have to destroy or dispose of defectively produced or undelivered goods. The quality also increases, as there are no more deviations during production. In addition, delivery reliability improves because production can be carried out as planned.

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