The best enhancements are always based on precise measurement. This is the only way that lasting and reliable changes can be made to processes and to ensure that quality products and processes are available in the long term. Precise measurements accompanied by an equally precise analysis are an essential feature of Industry 4.0. The latest generation of Ethernet encoders from SICK opens up new opportunities for obtaining different measurements and tracking movements. For example, these new opportunities can be used for effective status monitoring.
Smart automation solutions do much more than simply connect individual components. In the case of mechatronic systems, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. However, the crucial factor for Industry 4.0 is the performance of cyber-physical systems. What is the result for encoders? The Ethernet communication options of SICK devices and the TCP/IP connections forms a node in the network to open up new opportunities. These go far beyond the original automation functions of the encoders.
More precise counting for more accurate results
For an encoder, it is useful to know how often a motor has turned, instead of only being given information about the period when a voltage is applied. Obtaining actual figures about the number of times a machine component has changed its position during the production process is also valuable. In both cases, the encoder first has to perform its original function of precisely identifying the position of components and passing this information to the controller or a servo converter within a closed control loop. The cycle frequency of the components provides important information about their service life in the long term. This data is much more useful than simply checking the date of manufacture and installation of machines when evaluating the condition of the production facilities.
The power-up times only offer limited information about the service life, the ageing of operating materials and the wear levels, particularly as machines are rarely if ever, disconnected from the power supply and go into standby mode. This new approach becomes useful when a machine’s components have different service lives, allowing individual parts to be replaced during regular or preventive maintenance.
The motion timer function of SICK’s Ethernet encoders makes it possible to record the encoder’s operating hours accurately. While the operating time meter only provides information about the number of the hours when the encoder is live, the motion timer records the periods when the encoder is moving. It also counts the number of times the encoder is powered up. This means that maintenance can be carried just when it is needed, which helps to prevent downtimes. No additional systems are required to achieve this.
The Ethernet-based encoders can also improve the working time of production facilities with temperature monitoring. The use of temperature sensors to measure the process temperatures or to protect components such as motors from shutting down because of the heat. Allows conclusions to be drawn out about the temperature profiles of the entire process and when combined with other parameters, can be used for application-specific condition monitoring.
More options without accessing the controller
The appeal of this solution lies in the fact that one single encoder can supply the traditional process data. For instance data such as position and speed, can be communicated via industrial Ethernet protocols and, at the same time, can make use of additional functions and configurations via TCP/IP. For this reason, SICK fits its Ethernet encoders with a dual port switch, separating the machine function from the overlying status monitoring. This process opens up the possibility of performing these higher level tasks independently, regardless of any restrictions imposed by a machine controller.
In practice, intelligent SICK encoders can be configured to meet the requirements of individual applications and specific conditions. By setting the limits and thresholds individually and directly in the encoder via the software system in the PLC or via a web server and a browser-compatible end device. The correct measuring range can be specified for every application with a high level of standardisation. When the specified position, speed and temperature thresholds are reached, the encoder automatically sends a signal via the Ethernet connection to indicate that an investigation must be carried out. This function operates independently of the machine controller.
Communication via the well-established industrial Ethernet protocols – Ethernet I/P, EtherCAT and PROFINET – allows the process data to be converted to the most suitable mathematical and physical units and evaluated accordingly. As the data is imported into control or MES systems in the right format, no further calculations are needed to produce the required figures.
Customized encoders – another aspect of Industry 4.0
The adaptability of SICK’s encoders also extends to their connectivity, particularly with plug options, mechanical supports and cable lengths. At SICK, customising is based on a sophisticated variant management system with flexible production options. This closes the loop to Industry 4.0, which is an industrial revolution built on individualised large-scale production.