Industry 4.0 and the energy chain.

Richard Habering | 24. April 2020

How does a 50-year-old energy chain fit into Industry 4.0, the future-oriented project of comprehensively digitalising industrial production?

Energy chain on a crane
Energy chain on a crane

To hold your own in international business competition, it is necessary to be intimately familiar with what your customers want.

Technologies

Production for individual customers at low prices with short delivery times can often be achieved only with highly complex automation solutions. Terms such as Industry 4.0, the internet of things (IoT), and predictive maintenance describe technologies and concepts aimed at maximising the effectiveness of all machines, components and resources used.

Terms such as Industry 4.0, the internet of things (IoT), and predictive maintenance describe technologies and concepts aimed at maximising the effectiveness of all machines, components and resources used.

Expensive concepts

In practice, these terms often translate to very complex and usually very expensive software and hardware concepts in which everything is networked with everything else and, if possible, transferred to “the cloud”. Consultants offer “analytics” and develop “business cases” and “change management strategies”. In maintenance, new “condition monitoring” sensors are used to capture machine data, which is used to deliver “predictive maintenance” information.

Doesn’t sound perfectly simple and logical, does it? Will these concepts ultimately deliver the desired competitive advantage? How does one get started, and most of all – what does igus and the energy chain have to do with it?

smart energy chains in an engine factory
Intelligent energy chains in a factory that produces engines. The predictive maintenance option is a tremendous help in eliminating expensive downtime.

smart plastics

igus energy chains, highly flexible cables, and “smart designs” for lubrication-free and maintenance-free plain bearings are all part of what is meant by smart plastics. They represent products that are used in their thousands in systems and machines in a wide variety of industries all over the world.

Smart drylin linear system
drylin linear technology condition monitoring: based on the traffic light principle, the maintenance technician is now informed via an LED display on the drylin linear guide carriage whether the liner requires replacement.

Products

One of the igus smart plastics sub-categories is condition monitoring products that keep track of the products named above and switch off if an unexpected operating state arises or sound an alarm to minimise negative effects. The other is a number of online and offline concepts that igus offers for predictive replacement and/or maintenance recommendations communicated via the internet (IoT) or a local network (offline).

Figure: condition monitoring on a crane

Tests

igus product service life can already be reliably predicted using extensive testing results from our own technical centre, confirming our 36-month guarantee. But to plan pending maintenance work even more efficiently or identify impending failure early on, it makes sense to have these products and the energy chain “speak” and to make them “smart”.

igus laboratory, Cologne
igus’s 3,800m² laboratory in Cologne

Predictive maintenance and condition monitoring are considered to be components of Industry 4.0.With the energy chains, cables, plain bearing and linear bearing products mentioned, igus’s aim is to increase safety and machine efficiency, improving technical performance or reducing costs. Ideally, we can achieve both – if maintenance times are made predictable and products are used longer, for example.

Further information

At www.igus.eu/smartplastics, you can find out more about intelligent sensors on e-chains, chainflex cables, and polymer bearings for condition monitoring and predictive maintenance. You are welcome to contact me directly so that we can discuss a solution for making your machines smart, improving your technology, and reducing your costs.

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