Linking machines with information processing systems is the key driver of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This new level of innovation is based on cross-system communication, and so long as all devices contain the appropriate interfaces, it enables energy and process control as well as predictive maintenance.
Schmalz has developed a range of components for vacuum automation that not only capture energy- and performance-related data and deliver it in the cloud, but also monitor and analyse as well. Thanks to IO-Link and Industrial Ethernet interfaces, these smart field devices communicate continuously from the sensor and actuator level to the higher-level programmable logic controller and all the way to the control level.
These communications are bidirectional: as well as transferring data about energy consumption or condition, the controller can also be used to change parameters and transfer them to the field device.
In addition to an IO-Link and Industrial Ethernet interface, Schmalz’s intelligent vacuum components also contain a Near Field Communication (NFC) interface that enables short-range communications with mobile devices.
The smartphone can be used to parameterise the component as well, using Schmalz’s specially developed ControlRoom app. And parameter changes that are performed via NFC can be transferred directly to the device or copied from one device to another.
An additional benefit of NFC is the ability to directly assign a single device to a smartphone. As the two devices are linked over a very short distance - a maximum of 20mm - the user can rest assured that no neighbouring devices are inadvertently parameterised.
From air flow to data flow
One example from the Schmalz range is the SCPSi compact terminal, which consolidates up to 16 separate vacuum generators into a single compact unit with just one electrical connection and one compressed air connection. This enables both simultaneous and individual handling of different parts using only one system. The vacuum is generated with a venturi nozzle and recorded by a sensor. The user can read the precise vacuum value via the IO-Link process data or the generator display.
The cyclical process data are also used to control the ejectors and receive the current information reported from the SCPSi. The IO-Link connection settings and parameters and the measurement and analysis data are likewise available to the user.
Furthermore, the vacuum components’ diagnostic and prognostic functions gather information about the condition of the system and identify trends in performance and quality.
All this information is transferred to an external cloud, where it is processed and analysed, generating real added value. If the system identifies subtle changes or values that diverge from allowable tolerances, it quickly and clearly reports them to the user. For example, the system checks dynamic pressure and leakage for predictive maintenance assessments.
Furthermore, condition-monitoring events are triggered if dynamic pressure values deviate, the evacuation times for ejectors exceed their limit values or sensor voltage is outside the working range.
The energy-monitoring function oversees the energy consumption of the connected vacuum systems. Monitoring is based on the measured air consumption, including measurements of system pressure and nozzle size. The user can specify an externally recorded pressure value using the IO-Link process data. Using this value, the ejector can measure the air consumption in absolute terms and as a percentage.
This range of functions allows the user to maintain system efficiency and availability.
IO-Link provides additional benefits when integrating the compact terminal into the system environment. The IO Device Description file contains information about identification, device parameters, process and diagnostic data, and communication properties. Exchanging devices is also simplified as the IO-Link log provides an automated process for data transfer. When a device is swapped for a new one of the same type, the settings for the old device are automatically sent to the new device by the system master.
The SCPSi compact terminal is part of a growing range of smart field devices from Schmalz. These include: the VSi electronic vacuum pressure switch, which monitors and measures underpressure and overpressure in automation and handling systems; the SNGi-AE special gripper; and the ECBPi electronic vacuum generator with IO-Link and NFC for the digital factory.
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