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Tag: ECO production

Ekomachines (3) – On Trend

The current time of geopolitical shifts, with energy being one of the main topics, seems to favor a realistic view of the energy transition. How can we be eco-friendly in an era of disrupted supply chains, rising energy prices, and ambitious goals such as those set by the European Green Deal? How can we become more eco-friendly through flexible Industry 4.0 solutions without incurring gigantic costs and endless implementations?

Integrated Provider

The importance of data collected from machines and production lines is continuously growing. This data is essential for ensuring high-quality and optimal operation, which has significant ecological implications in the industry. Essentially, without this data, Industry 4.0 systems would make little sense. A comprehensive provider can play an important role here, offering end-to-end engineering in designing, building, and commissioning production lines, as well as tailor-made solutions for digitizing production. Such an integrated provider thoroughly understands the construction and operation of the line and can design appropriate data sources (sensors or entire smart sensor networks, IoT, etc.) and software modules necessary for their useful analysis and application (digital twin, smart factory, etc.). This approach helps avoid the common pitfall of implementing “off-the-shelf” solutions that are too generic and expensive. It should be clearly stated that implementing Industry 4.0 solutions is not just about installing a few modern sensors and an appropriate application, but also requires significant client involvement. This involvement is necessary for in-depth analysis of processes, the data to be analyzed, expected changes, and indicators. Having the right provider can also be a significant competitive advantage. A provider with extensive know-how in machine and production line construction, their integration, automation, and robotics equips the client with valuable interdisciplinary knowledge. Such consultancy and in-depth knowledge of various systems and solutions facilitate and accelerate the implementation process, bringing the set goals closer.

Tailored Digital Twin

Reflecting a physical machine or production line in a data space that defines the process state allows for remote monitoring of its operation as well as useful analysis of potential problems and quick responses. Desired functional areas of a smart factory/digital twin include:

-System integration
-Data acquisition
-Material and component traceability
-Historical analysis
-KPI monitoring
-Production supervision
-Media monitoring
-Quality management, support for good manufacturing practices
-Maintenance support (CMMS)
-Customized reporting capabilities
-Multi-system accessibility via the Internet
-Thanks to the modular architecture of the software, the implemented solution is even more optimally cost-matched.

More Eco-friendly Example

At ELPLC S.A., an innovative production line for shock absorbers or gas springs has been designed and built, incorporating unique solutions for many processes. Improving production quality and efficiency, these solutions have also become eco-friendly by optimizing the use of resources, materials, and energy. The previously described modern linear drives reduce the need for mineral oils (eliminating hydraulic drives), and the design of stations such as the oil filling station, CTS, or EPICS significantly reduces cycle time and ensures high process quality.

It is also worth analyzing the aspect of optimizing line control and equipping it with an Industry 4.0 system – ELPLC Smart Factory. In a typical solution, despite high automation, an engineer or team of engineers must frequently and laboriously adjust process parameters (e.g., the amount of gas introduced into a cylinder of theoretically the same volume) to maintain product quality. This necessity is driven by changing environmental conditions (temperature, pressure), wear and tear of line elements, material differences, etc. To address this problem, an intelligent network of sensors monitoring environmental parameters, wear of production means (vibration sensors on mechanical elements), process flow (a Coriolis force flowmeter assisting in oil dosing), and vision systems was proposed. Necessary process parameter adjustments can be precisely and autonomously made by the ELPLC Smart Factory AI algorithm, analyzing a substantial data stream (big data) from the sensors, further reducing material and energy consumption. Reducing the number of defective shock absorbers or gas springs simultaneously reduces the environmental footprint in the form of waste. Using vibration sensors on mechanical elements adds value for maintenance services, enabling predictive diagnostics. Early detection of dysfunctions and signs of impending defects in machine elements allows for their timely replacement or repair. This helps avoid worse and unforeseen damage or lack of spare parts, often reducing downtime to a minimum.

Towards the Future

ELPLC S.A. continuously develops the most advanced solutions in designing, building, programming, and delivering production lines and machines with the modern ELPLC Smart Factory environment. We go beyond Industry 4.0 by increasing the product maturity of application systems in areas such as digital twins, predictive maintenance, mixed reality, big data, and machine learning/AI.

Ekomachines (2) – Energy-efficient Drive Technology

Automation and robotics in production would not be possible without drive technology.Drive devices are essential elements of lines and machines. They can be found in a range of industrial processes, such as transporting components on a production line, various types of assembly, mechanical processing, mechanical functional testing, or in various pumping devices, pollution extraction devices, or fans. At a time when electricity prices are not decreasing and reducing the environmental impact of production is a crucial issue in the industry, the energy efficiency of drives and the modernization of processes gain importance.

Where to Find Savings?

According to various sources, electric drives can account for up to 60-70% of industrial electricity consumption. Therefore, there is a lot at stake in terms of energy efficiency and innovation. Estimates are even made about the possible levels of savings, which are difficult to relate to precisely but are in the order of 103 TWh per year. The industry mainly uses electric, pneumatic, or hydraulic drive devices. Ultimately, pneumatic or hydraulic devices are powered by compressors or hydraulic power units, whose essential element is an electric motor. Electric motors themselves also vary depending on their purpose. Permanent magnet (PM) motors can provide more efficient operation in applications with variable speeds than typical asynchronous motors because the efficiency of permanent magnet motors is higher. Among the advantages of PM motors are high torque overload capacity, wide speed range, good regulatory properties, smaller size (compared to induction or DC motors), and increased reliability due to the lack of a brush node. Modern permanent magnet motors are generally divided into two groups: brushless DC motors (BLDC) and synchronous motors (PMSM). It is hard to imagine today’s industrial automation without servo drives. These drives operate in a closed feedback loop system, where the actuating element is an electric motor, and the control element is a controller. Feedback comes from encoders or sensors. The mentioned advantages of servo drives include reduced energy consumption, immediate start-up, dynamic regulation, and size reduction.

Energy-efficient Innovation on the Example of a Shock Absorber Characteristic Tester

In the production process of shock absorbers, functional testing is crucial, which simply means simulating road irregularities and observing the shock absorbers’ response presented as an appropriate characteristic. When attempting to automate the process of testing the damping force characteristics of shock absorbers, it is necessary to use appropriate drives that induce movement to measure the relationship between vibration amplitude and frequency, considering various damping coefficients. Practice shows that most testers cannot simulate movements that reflect the real working conditions of a shock absorber. Additionally, during characteristic testing, the smallest possible measurement error is required, which can be as high as 10% in standard applications. Furthermore, a short cycle time and precise displacement measurement over a wide range are necessary. For proper shock absorber characteristic testing, force measurement with a certain precision is required.

Typical market solutions are based on a hydraulic actuator that moves the shock absorber rod with appropriate force. The design of hydraulic drives has its drawbacks, the main one being the dependence of speed on oil temperature and operating loads. Oil, as the main working medium, is also very sensitive to contamination, which is detrimental to the drive. In principle, the only preventive measure is frequent oil changes, which involve more time-consuming and resource-intensive maintenance. Multiple energy transformations in a hydraulic drive result in lower efficiency compared to electric solutions.

In the CTS workstation – an innovative design by ELPLC S.A. – Siemens electric linear motors were chosen as the drive for the testing actuator. This achieved a compression force (Fmax) of 10350N. The motor was also chosen for its maximum speed (Vmax) reaching 90m/min, which allowed for a shorter testing cycle time. The force measurement is complemented by distance measurement in the unit of time using the IMS-I measurement system by Bosch Rexroth. The measurement error achieved was 1.5%, whereas in hydraulic drive-based solutions, this parameter can be as high as 10%. A cycle time of 6.8 seconds was also achieved – compared to 7.2 seconds for hydraulic drives. Replacing the traditional hydraulic drive brought many benefits: no additional oil supply system, no need to monitor oil temperature, pressure, and consumption, high control dynamics at high power. Changing the drive technology resulted in not only energy savings but also specific operational and quality benefits in the form of shorter cycles and more accurate measurements.

It is worth noting that the tester can also be part of a complete, modular production line for assembling and testing shock absorbers. This solution is ELPLC S.A.’s response to the needs of manufacturers expecting automation of the shock absorber assembly process with autonomous operation, high assembly accuracy and testing, and durability and energy efficiency. The line only requires loading and unloading operations, which can eventually be performed by robots and AGVs.

Ekomachines (1) – With the Future in Mind

Ecology has become one of the most frequently discussed topics in modern public debate.Politicians, entrepreneurs, and scientists all discuss it. Our daily lives also confront us with this topic when we sort waste, try to save water, and conserve energy. Industrial production may seem to be on the opposite end of the spectrum. The word “industry” often automatically conjures images of smoking chimneys, massive energy consumption, and extensive use of raw materials and water. However, various industrial sectors are increasingly focused on reducing the ecological costs of their operations.

Don’t Throw It Away, Use It!

When introducing a new product reference into production, one of the key decisions is whether to build a new line or refurbish an existing one. This is particularly challenging in the current supply chain crisis. It is worth opting for an experienced provider of production lines and machines with extensive know-how in automation and robotics equipment and their integration. Such a provider often has a strong team of specialists—designers, mechatronics engineers, automation experts, and programmers—who can effectively and optimally utilize existing line components for modernization or to complete a new production line. A provider’s in-house machinery park is an additional advantage, allowing for the regeneration or modification of mechanical elements and the quick production of entirely new parts if necessary. Production line owners are often surprised at how extensively existing components and devices can be reused. The result is simple: significant cost reduction for new production introduction, reuse of components instead of their disposal or storage, reduced waste, and decreased raw material consumption for new components.

Avoid Disposable Solutions

When ordering a new production line, especially in industries where new references frequently appear, it is worth considering various aspects for future production. It is difficult to precisely determine the parameters of future references, but design patterns that extend the line’s usability can be defined during the specification and design stages. Again, choosing an experienced line and machine manufacturer who can accurately identify potential challenges and effectively solve them is crucial. One aspect is modularity—the modular construction of the production line allows for flexible reconfiguration in the future or the replacement of a single module instead of the entire line. Modularity is achieved through appropriate mechanical solutions, standardizing dimensions, and elements that facilitate transport. Another important aspect is reconfigurability—features embedded in the mechanical design, connection structure, and programming that enable the line or machine to be used for future product references. This makes the entire body and its infrastructure universal, with only the tool package being replaced for specific references. Reconfiguration must be intuitive, quick, and safe. This is achievable through mechanical solutions like ergonomic handles, grips, or hooks, connection solutions such as coded quick connectors, and design patterns in the software. All these factors make future modifications of the line or machine cheaper, easier, and environmentally friendlier.

If you are looking for a manufacturer of complete robotic production lines and assembly stations, feel free to contact us. ELPLC S.A. is a team of over 160 specialists: designers, programmers, mechatronics engineers, automation experts, and operators. We have our own R&D department, a digitized production system, and a design studio. Our production capacity is defined by approximately 4200 m² of production space and our own park of 26 machines, including 8 modern CNC centers, 9 conventional milling machines, 3 lathes, and 6 grinding machines.

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