Fluid Power Journal August 2021

Page 20



By Kevin Sargeson, Director of Field Sales, Balluff Canada; and Anthony Haywood, Technical Writer, Balluff Inc.


he year 2021 marks a decade since the concept of Industry 4.0 was introduced at the Hannover Messe trade fair in Germany. One year later, General Electric coined the term industrial internet. The concept of Industry 4.0 was a vision at the time, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) was on the horizon. In ten short years, we have arrived in an industrial era in which smart, digitally networked hydraulic solutions are a reality. What do we mean by Industry 4.0 and IIoT, terms that are often used interchangeably? Industry 4.0 generally describes the latest industrial revolution, in which production and various processes are coordinated, integrated, and monitored by cyber-physical systems. These cyber-physical systems have computer technology at their core. Industry 4.0 is also a philosophy that embraces ongoing change, such as lean manufacturing. IIoT grew from the beginnings of late1960s automation with programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and robots. Today, the term characterizes the networking of technologies, including advanced sensors, digital drives, and other devices that lead to new process efficiencies. In fluid power, IIoT refers to smart sensor technologies that monitor temperature, pressure, flow, level, travel, and position in hydraulic cylinders. Systems share this 18


data to provide information about hydraulic processes in real time. Additionally, they share information about components that can be analyzed and visualized to improve operations. For example, a digital drive solution using IIoT might include temperature, flow, and level monitoring, along with pressure measurement; parameterization and communication from field level to the controller via the IO-Link communications standard; a machine controller; monitoring and visualization of the data on a PC; and data analysis in the cloud. Systems that integrate smart hydraulics are used today across a wide range of industries, processes, and applications, including iron and steel, stamping in the automotive sector, the marine industry, offshore exploration and extraction in oil and gas, and offshore wind farms, among others. Smart hydraulics increases efficiency on multiple levels, beginning at the individual machine level. In the wind-energy sector, for example, intelligent systems with smart sensors adjust the blades of wind turbines to harvest the wind optimally. Magnetostrictive linear position sensors provide hydraulic cylinder piston position feedback. We also find intelligent hydraulics in control valves and hydraulic power units. Solutions such as these can be integrated

into existing or new installations to increase efficiency. This allows you to easily upgrade analog systems with classical hydraulic systems. When these pieces come together, they are more than the sum of their parts. They offer a systems-level understanding of work and work processes. Seeing the performance of individual parts can help you understand and optimize the system as a whole. Increased safety is another benefit. Ultrafast feedback motion compensation is now being integrated into gangway systems, for example, to compensate in real time for movement caused by wave or wind conditions. Reduced energy consumption is another example. Manufacturers of systems for hoisting and transferring loads use smart hydraulic systems to store energy released during lifting and transferring by harvesting the upward motion of a vessel. The smart system recovers this energy from a hydraulic accumulator when needed during the downward motion. And digital drive hydraulics can reduce material use and waste, making installations cleaner and greener. But some of the most significant benefits are in predictive maintenance based on precise condition monitoring, analysis, and modelling. Smart sensors continually acquire data, and analyze, diagnose, and visualize the condition in real time. This information is WWW.FLUIDPOWERJOURNAL.COM • WWW.IFPS.ORG

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