As it relates to mechatronic solutions, what we’re seeing is people migrate, to go ahead and utilize smart motor technology with the most prominent industrial networks tied into them, whether that be, if you’re an Allen-Bradley fan, even an IP, Beckhoff and others, EtherCAT, the variants of fieldbuses that are out there, Modbus, Profibus, over an ethernet, etc.
Imagine migrating from what was discretely wired devices, with lots of cables, with lots of labor, with the expense point of all those terminations, the reliability negatives of all of those terminations, imagine smart motors that are connected to the hierarchical control system by way of a network connection and power. Huge benefits in terms of lowering installed cost.
That means significant benefits in terms of flexibility. When you look at a transition to something like a packaging line, imagine people wanting to go ahead and do short run packaging, because they’re going to go ahead and have the promo of the week because of the football game that’s taking place and then the next week it’s a different promo, or maybe I’m going to go ahead and put a company’s logo.
Increasingly, packaging equipment is being asked to be recipe driven, and by going to smart mechatronics, literally, people have the ability to go ahead and with a keystroke on the operator interface change over a machine from part variation A to B to C without having to send an army of technicians out there with wrenches, screwdrivers, or even just turning dials and hand wheels. The cost, flexibility and then the final thing is achieving uptime.
When you start getting into smart motors and that type of thing, that motor knows how hard it’s working, how much current it’s drawing, and you know what, that motor can go ahead and raise its hand and say, “Uncle,” because the current draw from day one keeps going up and going up because it needs lubrication or maybe there’s contaminants that have accumulated on the guides.
At some point and time, before the smart actuator has a heart attack, it can go ahead and say, “Hey, come on out here, I’ve been running my heart rate at a 160 for about five weeks now and, you know what, I’m not going to be able to do it much longer.”
So it can ask for help—and then you can go ahead and implement techniques with preventative maintenance, scheduled maintenance that drives what’s called OEE, overall equipment effectiveness, up, which is what the marketplace is looking for. They want their machines to be producing excellent quality 24 hours a day and anything that detracts from that is a negative. Smart motors help to achieve that endgame.