Smart plastics offer Industry 4.0 intelligence

Posted on 5 Jul 2016 by The Manufacturer

igus has embedded Industry 4.0 technologies into its motion products in order to create intelligent smart plastics, designed to offer manufacturers increased plant availability.

According to the motion plastics specialist, this evolution of its cable, energy chain and linear bearing products offers a step-change in design thanks to the addition of sensing, monitoring and communications intelligence.

By deploying smart plastics, igus  claim customers can increase plant availability, maximise uptime and reduce costs through automated condition monitoring and predictive maintenance.

Intelligent cables, energy chains and linear guides constantly monitor themselves, providing performance data and early warning of critical wear.

How do igus smart plastics work?

igus smart plastics encompass a range of sensing technologies and monitoring modules grouped together in one system – isense:

  • isense EC.W(ear) – an RFID chip built into the final cross bar of the energy chain to signal necessary replacement or repair requirements in good time.
  • isense EC.P(ush/pull) – used the monitor the push/pull forces of energy chain; any fluctuations in which could indicate wear.
  • isense EC.B(reakage) – a sensing system which indicates when there is a broken link, for example, an obstruction by a foreign body.     
  • isense CF.Q(uality – electronic conductor) – a system used to determine the service life of the chain flex cables installed. The conductive value of the wires are continually checked and compared with igus test data and the customer’s parameters. Any anomalies may indicate the end of service life for the cable is approaching, so a replacement can be planned in good time before critical failure.
  • isense DL.W(ear) – used to detect the wear limit of drylin linear units when the wear of a linear guide has reached a level normally associated with the end of its service life.   

isense encompasses sensing technologies and monitoring modules, while networking with icom provides direct integration with IT infrastructure or the igus data cloud - image courtesy of igus.
isense encompasses sensing technologies and monitoring modules, while networking with icom provides direct integration with IT infrastructure or the igus data cloud – image courtesy of igus.

The isense control units can be networked with the igus Communication Module (icom) to provide direct integration with the customer’s IT infrastructure, making automated continuous condition monitoring and predictive maintenance possible.

An optional connection with the igus data cloud opens up the possibilities of automatic ordering of external maintenance crew or replacement parts – a significant step towards the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).   

Managing director of igus, Matthew Aldridge explained: “isense continuously monitors the service life of your e-chain, cable or linear guide via measurements and calculations using the parameters of your system.

“These measurements are referenced against aggregated test data from the igus test laboratory to reliably predict smooth functioning in real-world operation. Alerts are sent when measured values exceed thresholds, allowing timely maintenance or replacement.”

Aldridge added that data can also be optionally shared with the igus data centre, opening up additional possibilities for customised service life calculation and optimisation of business processes, including maintenance commissioning, spare parts ordering, and just-in-time delivery.

In this way, he concluded, electronic intelligence lowers maintenance costs even further and increases plant availability.

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The Manufacturer Smart Factory Expo is the UK’s only dedicated exhibition in response to Industry 4.0

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