A revolution in automation
3rd Quarter 2017, This Week's Editor's Pick, Pneumatic systems & components
Pneumatics is intrinsically a user-friendly technology and it is set to become even more straightforward, versatile and flexible as Festo’s brand new VTM Motion Terminal catapults pneumatics into the era of Industry 4.0 with apps that can replace over 50 individual components.
All this is made possible by the latest developments in piezo technology and associated software. Just as the smartphone turned the mobile communication market on its head a decade ago, so too Festo’s Motion Terminal will revolutionise automation technology. The new method of function integration – combined with software apps – will simplify the entire value chain, since only one piece of hardware will be required. Beneath the somewhat unassuming exterior and classic Festo product design lies technical refinement based on state-of-the-art information technology.
True Industry 4.0
Piezo technology, integrated stroke and pressure sensors together with control via motion apps will open up entirely new perspectives for machinery and plant manufacturers. The fusion of mechanics, electronics and software featured in the Motion Terminal will transform a pneumatic product into a true Industry 4.0 component, and enable flexible production. Changes in pneumatic functions and adaptations to new formats are controlled via apps by changing parameters. The integrated intelligent sensors for control, diagnostics and self-learning tasks will eliminate the need for additional components.
When the VTEM is launched, ten functions will be available via motion apps – from basic modification of the directional control valve functions to energy-efficient motion, and from proportional behaviour to different motion profiles. What makes this so special is that the same valve hardware is used for everything. Thanks to the fast activation of new functions via apps, machine developers can create a basic machine type and then select the relevant apps to equip it with different functions and features as per the customer requirements. What’s more, additional apps are in development.
Assigning functions via software has the added benefit of protecting against tampering and protecting intellectual property, since it is not possible to tell from the outside which functions the valves are executing. Maintenance is also simplified, as long lists of spare and wearing parts will be a thing of the past.
Intrinsic energy efficiency
The specially developed motion apps, as well as the leakage diagnostic function, save energy during operation. However, the energy-saving piezo technology for the proportional valve’s preliminary stage also plays its part.
The air consumption can be flexibly adapted to the requirements using the apps ‘Selectable pressure level’ and ‘ECO drive’. With the selectable pressure level, a digitally selected pressure can limit the pneumatic force to the level required for the application. ECO drive reduces the compressed air consumption to the required minimum level, provided no pressing and holding forces are needed in the end position. This enables savings of up to 70% compared with standard operation, depending on the application.
Lower costs and complexity
The Festo Motion Terminal permits both fast and powerful movements and leakage diagnostics at a much lower cost than current solutions. For example, fewer controllers are required compared with electrical solutions since one controller can control up to eight movements with the VTEM. Energy consumption is also reduced, and the required installation space is decreased by up to 65%.
In a comparison of the technology, solutions with the Festo Motion Terminal offer truly cost-effective alternatives for eight applications. Instead of a valve, a pressure regulator and a pressure sensor, (in other words three components), only one single technology – a valve – is needed.
For more information contact Kershia Beharie, Festo, +27 (0)11 971 5509, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.festo.co.za