Whereas the third industrial revolution began with the computerization of individual machines, the fourth industrial revolution is seeing the development of smart factories with machines that share data in all stages of manufacturing through internet connections.
The standards for these practices are becoming known as the Industrial Internet of things (IIoT) or Industry 4.0.
Industry 4.0 makes smart factories possible by gathering more data from all its machines. By installing different sensors throughout a machine, its internal operating statuses can be monitored over an intranet and even recorded for future reference.
For machines or robots in an industrial setting, this shared data can be used to create virtual representations of each machine as well as the entire manufacturing facility.
The Role of Servo Drives
By design, servo drives are a natural gathering point of machine status data. Their central location in each machine system gives them direct real-time access to many critical pieces of information. This doesn’t just include current, voltage, speed, position, and back EMF from the motor; it also includes operating information from all the devices connected to the servo drive including I/O devices and sensors (such as limit switches, door sensors, temperature sensors or even accelerometers). Servo drives also have their own useful internal operating data to provide.
Since servo drives are already connected to a network bus, all that data is easily accessible by the machine’s main controller. From the main controller, the data can be compiled and then shared or accessed via an internet connection with the facility’s servers or even over the web.
Advantages of Shared Machine Data
Making IIoT machine status available throughout the factory and beyond has numerous benefits.
Maintenance and Technical Support
Analysis and readouts of temperature, pressure, speed, or other properties can indicate the health of components within a machine. As long as the servo drive has access to the relevant data, then it can send it to the controller
which can make it available over the intranet or internet. Factory managers can set up alerts when a machine’s component readouts reach a level indicating that they might need attention or replacement.
If the machine owner’s technicians can’t fix a machine’s problems themselves, they can seek help from the machine’s original manufacturer. With access to the status of the machine’s components, remote technical support becomes much more streamlined.
The data servo drives send to the controller can not only be
shared with the facility’s central command to observe in the moment, but also logged over time. This creates a record of each component’s readings and can make it apparent when errors may have been occurring.
Products being built can be tracked throughout the entire assembly process. This data can also be logged.
If it’s found that a certain machine was operating incorrectly for a certain time, it becomes easy to determine which products were possibly affected and isolate them for inspection.
The digital record of each IIoT machine’s processes and performance can also be analyzed and used to improve overall manufacturing productivity. With data on timing and throughput of each machine process, algorithms can be developed to optimize efficiency for different jobs.
New algorithms can also be developed to modify production procedures if a machine is currently non-operational to preserve as much efficiency as possible