igus is introducing Smart Plastics energy chains, chainflex cables and linear guides that can help to avoid unplanned downtime by raising alarms before failures occur; in some cases the operating life of components can be extended because items are only replaced when they are actually worn, not when a calculated life expectancy has been reached. According to igus, the Smart Plastics can play a role in implementing Industry 4.0, and also support machine builders who are adopting 'servitisation' and providing long-term support for machines beyond the normal warranty period.
Intelligent energy chains
An RFID chip embedded in the gliding surface of the final cross bar of the intelligent energy chain is continuously checked by an RFID antenna and monitoring electronics. If the amount of abrasion is such that the chain is likely to fail, an isense EC.W module raises the alarm locally - though typically the alarm will be raised when the energy chain is only 80 per cent worn. An optional igus Communication Module module (iCOM) can be connected to the isense module, in which case the iCOM relays the alarm via a fieldbus or network so that the alarm can be integrated within an existing site-wide or company-wide management system in line with Industry 4.0 principles. Repair or replacement can therefore be planned in good time - fully automatically in some circumstances - so downtime is minimised. Depending on how the iCOM has been programmed, the alarm might be directed to the maintenance department where the machine is operating and/or the machine supplier, system integrator or third-party service provider. igus sensors and isense modules can be specified for any E4 energy chain, or a new Smart Plastics energy chain could be used to upgrade an existing machine.
A second monitoring system for energy chains is the isense EC.P, which has previously been available from igus as the PPDS (push-pull detection system). The isense EC.P system comprises a strain gauge that is installed on the connecting element of the energy chain or the floating/moving end of the energy chain, plus an isense EC.P evaluation unit. Any fluctuation in tension or compression beyond preset limits is interpreted as a fault, which might indicate an energy chain breakage, damage caused by foreign objects or a forklift truck, or a jam due to an obstruction. Appropriate alarms can be raised by the isense module and, if one is connected, via an iCom.
The third energy chain monitoring system is the igus isense EC.B system for detecting energy chain breakage (previously marketed as the igus EMA system); such a breakage might be caused by excessive wear or, more likely, physical damage. The isense EC.B uses a plastic wire mounted in the energy chain, connected to a potentiometer in the isense EC.B evaluation unit. A breakage alarm can immediately be raised locally or, if an iCom is connected, transmitted to a higher-level system or an engineer.
Intelligent chainflex cables
The condition of chainflex Smart Cables is continuously monitored by measuring several electrical characteristics of two spare cores in one cable. If the measured characteristics fall outside defined limits, indicating that a failure is imminent, the connected isense CF.Q module transmits a signal so that the cable can be replaced as part of a scheduled maintenance stoppage, without any extra effort or unplanned downtime. As with the intelligent energy chains, the alarm is raised locally at the isense CF.Q module, or via the optional iCOM to a higher-level system and/or the engineer(s) responsible for maintenance.
Over the last 25 years igus has built a vast database of information relating to the long-term performance of its chainflex cables, compiled using test data from many hundreds of millions of electrical measurements. Every chainflex cable can optionally be connected to the cloud-based igus 'data system', which measures various parameters and continually compares them with the database. If limit values are exceeded, an alarm is raised so that replacement can be scheduled. Installation parameters such as travel, bend radii, speeds and, of course, the characteristics of the respective type of chainflex cable all form part of the cable's intelligence.
For the Smart Cables, the igus database has been made smaller and mobile, and is continually populated with new knowledge from the igus test laboratory and also from intelligent chainflex cables that are being monitored and having their data share with the database.
Intelligent drylin linear guides
The isense DL.W operates in a similar way to the isense EC.W for monitoring energy chain wear; an RFID chip embedded within the plastic bearing of the smart drylin linear guide is monitored by an isense DL.W evaluation unit. As with teh otehr systems, an alarm can be raised locally or more widely via an optional iCom. Either way, replacement can be scheduled at a convenient time, thereby avoiding unnecessary downtime.
Enhanced machine condition monitoring
igus has had the ability to calculate the life of plastic bearings, energy chains and chainflex cables for several years, and facilities are available for designers and end users to calculate the life of individual components. However, for machine builders, system integrators and end users for whom the risk of unplanned downtime must be reduced as low as possible, igus Smart Plastics add a new dimension to machine condition monitoring and the ability to maximise uptime. Smart Plastics fit well in the Industry 4.0 concept, forming part of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) for those users who wish to take advantage of the data that is available.
Follow the links above for more information or go to the dedicated web page for igus Smart Plastics. Sensors and isense modules are availabel to purchase now, and igus is seeking partners for beta testing of iCom communications modules.