Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things are a hot topic of discussion in mechanical engineering, and rightly so. This could easily give the impression that sooner or later it will be possible to replicate any technical requirement in software and perform it electronically. As long as real machines and systems produce real products, however, performing movements with the necessary power precisely and quickly will also always be a central concern.
The idea that there may be only one dominant drive technology for all uses in the future is unrealistic. Rather, even in the future, electro-mechanics, hydraulics and electric hydraulics will have to be combined in order to automate economically and in accordance with the application.
Hydraulics and I4.0
This is particularly true if the fluid technology cannot be economically replaced due to its physical properties. Power density, resistance against shocks and vibrations, and robustness in adverse industrial conditions are not only important in heavy machinery and plant construction, but also in factory automation. However, it is also clear that modern hydraulics must fi t into the newly emerging Industry 4.0 environments and therefore must be consistently electronified.
A lot of progress has been made in this area over the last years. Electro-hydraulic power units, pumps and actuators with their own intelligence and open interfaces have already been added to tens of thousands of forming presses, plastic processing machines and machine tools. In these applications, hydraulics in various system structures work smoothly with electro-mechanical drives and no longer require any in-depth hydraulics knowledge from machine manufacturers and users. If the corresponding expertise is integrated into the software of the hydraulic drives, all essential motion sequences can be preprogrammed. During commissioning, integrated auto-tuning wizards in the commissioning software suggest suitable parameters for the specific application type.
This shifting of functions to software is increasingly spreading to other sectors and leading to new business models relating to hydraulics. This is why standstill costs are immensely high for continuously producing systems such as steel works, paper and sugar factories or off -shore installations. Here, cloudbased big data solutions reduce the risk with predictive maintenance. For this, hydraulic power units, also in already existing systems, are fi tted with a wide range of diff erent sensors. They continuously measure values, e.g. temperatures, vibrations, pressures and oil quality. By using machine learning methods, critical mistakes or signifi cant changes to the normal operating condition can be recognized in advance from this data.
With regard to modern automation structures, electronified hydraulics are not only as powerful and economical as ever, they are also extremely viable for Industry 4.0 and thus for the future.
More information: http://www.connected-hydraulics.com
Author: Steffen Haack
Job title: President Industrial Hydraulics
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