Dr Ulf Lehmann, who leads the Linear Motion Technology business unit at Bosch Rexroth AG, explains how his company is taking linear motion to the next level by utilising smart mechatronics.
In times of increasing uncertainty it is becoming a key criterion for many companies to be able to quickly adapt their production. Flexibility is not only required of employees – the systems also need to be flexibly transformable to new production processes. New solutions have to facilitate easy and quick adaptation and just as fast commissioning. The digitalisation of what seem to be pure mechanical components, such as in linear motion technology, helps with the technical implementation.
Bosch Rexroth has laid the foundations for the evolution of linear motion technology at an early stage. Today already, we are offering a whole host of digital engineering tools and configurators which can be used to simplify design processes significantly. But that is only the beginning. For us, digital transformation is a process that is constantly developed further – and that helps us to raise linear motion technology to a new level.
New platform for smart mechatronics
We are benefiting from our proven expertise and decades of experience in linear motion technology, which is reflected in our best-in-class components. This basis enables us to consequently think about where linear motion technology is going and to demonstrate how it opens up new opportunities for the Factory of the Future, even as a seemingly purely mechanic technology.
On the basis of our proven product portfolio, we are making linear motion technology more intelligent – from the vertical integration with additional features such as software and electronics to the targeted use of sensors in our linear motion technology components. A first solution kit that does just that has been on the market since last year. The Smart Function Kit for pressing and joining applications is a modular subsystem consisting of mechanics, electrics and software. The real stand-out features are the intuitive commissioning and process configuration. No programming knowledge is required for either. Even during subsequent operations, the software is intuitive and can be used without any prior knowledge right from the outset.
From flexibility to transformability
With our new platform for smart mechatronic solutions, we are clearly focusing on the needs of our customers and are offering a suitable solution for every process step. This already begins when selecting and dimensioning a product: Rexroth customers do not have to cumbersomely familiarise themselves with the technology, but instead realise their ideas intuitively with our tools in just a few steps leading up to the finished product.
For commissioning, we are placing our focus on plug-and-produce, a principle that we have known for years in the consumer area as plug-and-play. Here is a practical example of what that means for linear axes: unpack, connect and carry out the function test within a few minutes.
In operation itself, our vision is adaptable – and thus transformable handling systems that can be flexibly adapted for new production processes. A concrete example is a quick-change system for linear axes: they can be exchanged with just two clicks, can then recommission themselves and are immediately ready for new tasks.
Ultimately, this quick component exchange also effects maintenance: if a linear axis needs servicing, a technician today can immediately insert a replacement and the machine can continue working without any downtime. In addition, sensors offer the opportunity to actively use predictive maintenance and condition monitoring to increase system efficiency. System efficiency is further enhanced by completely new product approaches, one example for which would be a compensation unit which offers unparalleled improvement of positioning accuracy for robots and Cartesian systems.