As Industry 4.0 becomes more of a reality drive condition monitoring is becoming more important

Written by: Tom Austin-Morgan | Published:

Intelligent drive technology is the prerequisite for digitalisation and automation of production, because it enables networked or autonomous production processes in ‘smart factories’ and keeps them running. As a leading supplier in the sector, Nord Drivesystems provides pioneering drive solutions (hardware and software) and supports customers with its communication and application know-how for networking and connection of their Industry 4.0 environments.

As part of this, Nord provides its customers with intelligent digitalised production with advanced maintenance concepts and new services. All N drives are Industry 4.0-ready and can be directly integrated as active components in Industry 4.0 environments throughout the world. The prerequisites for this are the internal PLC as decentralised intelligence and the extensive range of communication options.

The drive units are compatible with all common fieldbuses and Ethernet-based protocols and provide analogue and digital interfaces for sensors and actuators. Thanks to the integrated PLC in the drive electronics they can provide autonomous control of sequences and movements and reduce the load on the central control system. As well as this, the drive systems are scalable, so that they can be individually adapted to the automation application with regard to complexity, quantity and size. Nord drives are prepared for integration into a cloud and can be connected to various external cloud systems.

Fast, efficient and comprehensive evaluation of analogue and digital data by the intelligent PLC in the drive electronics forms the basis for modern maintenance and servicing concepts such as condition monitoring and predictive maintenance.

Due to continuous monitoring of the field level, linking of communication, sensors, process data and vital parameters of the drive, deviations from the normal state can be quickly detected. Drive operators therefore have the possibility of responding in good time before damage or breakdowns occur. Condition-oriented maintenance replaces time-based maintenance. This results in many benefits for users such as an increase in plant availability, prevention of unscheduled down time, improved planning of service and maintenance, as well as a significant reduction in maintenance and repair costs.

At present Nord is investigating sensorless monitoring of oil ageing and the condition of geared motors with virtual sensors. The aim is a predictive maintenance concept which determines the optimum oil change and maintenance intervals for each individual geared motor, oriented to the actual condition of the geared motor and the gear oil.

For this, intelligent algorithms evaluate the operating data of the frequency inverter and determine the oil temperature from this information. Without the hardware costs for external sensors, oil ageing and the optimum time for replacing the gear unit lubricant can be determined with great reliability. Tests have shown that the oil temperature as measured in tests can be reliably calculated.

The company demonstrates the function and opportunities of predictive maintenance, virtual sensors, drive networking and other Industry 4.0 concepts to its customers in its in-house application test area at its headquarters in Bargteheide near Hamburg. With the scalable system a large variety of operating modes and operating states can be tested in real time. Geared motors and frequency inverters can be examined, or algorithms can be tested and validated under real-life conditions.

Another company that has been active in this area is Mitsubishi Electric, which has introduced a new app for iOS tablets and smartphones that provides convenient commissioning, maintenance, troubleshooting, parameterisation and monitoring support for the company’s FR-F800E and FR-A800E inverters. Available from the Apple App Store, the Inverter StartApp addresses modern requirements to glean more information from manufacturing processes, with easier accessibility, and to be able to act on that information in a timely and convenient manner.

Connecting over a wireless LAN, the Inverter StartApp enables the user to scan for Mitsubishi Electric FR-F800E and FR-A800E inverters on that network and interrogate them for operational data. It provides for both offline and online (operation mode) functions.

Mitsubishi Electric Corporation has announced a global strategic partnerhship with Schaeffler Technologies as part of the e-F@ctory Alliance network. Since 2010, both companies have been partners in the e-F@ctory Alliance, which is part of Mitsubishi Electric Corporation’s e-F@ctory Concept. This concept supports companies with measures within the framework of the digital transformation, such as the integration of machine and plant data into MES (manufacturing execution systems) and ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems.

Schaeffler and Mitsubishi Electric collaborate to boost connectivity and to create Industry 4.0 solutions that reduce machine downtime and maximise productivity for the customer. For example, the machine protocol SLMP (seamless message protocol) implemented in Schaeffler condition monitoring systems enables vibration sensors to communicate bi-directionally with Mitsubishi Electric’s PLC (programmable logic controller) and to transmit the characteristic values determined. The PLC processes the data into information, which is prepared as plain text messages and shown on a display. An additional integration level also allows the condition monitoring system to be connected with the PLC of the relevant plant via a network cable and Modbus protocol.

Schaeffler contributes concepts that combine mechatronic products, condition monitoring systems, and digital services to form application-specific 4.0 solution packages. These provide the basis for the creation of customised products and services whose main focus is always on the effectiveness of the overall system.


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