If there is one topic that causes great concern in every industry, it’s downtime. Unplanned downtime of a machine can cost thousands of dollars depending on how long it stays down. In most electrical systems, and some hydraulic ones, diagnostic systems and sensors have been available to alert system operators that a critical component is not running up to speed or may fail. But within pneumatic systems, no such diagnostics technologies have been available.
Until now. Bimba Manufacturing has just launched IntelliSense, a technology platform that allows users to be proactive about maintenance and system optimization. The system combines sensors, cylinders and software to deliver real-time performance data.
Jeremy King, product marketing manager for the IntelliSense line, said it will bring pneumatics back into the conversation when it comes to competing with electrics in automation systems. “One of our customers said, ‘This is the first great leap we’ve seen in pneumatics in years,’” King said. “In a market that they thought had really developed its course and was going to be stagnant going forward, we really do think it does catch us up. It breathes new life into pneumatics or as we call it, Pneumatics 2.0.”
IntelliSense is an example of the Internet of Things (IoT) movement that is linking machines and their components to technology platforms. It is an intelligent production system that communicates real-time information to evaluate the potential life cycle of pneumatic components.
The intelligence of IntelliSense is embedded inside the Sensor Interface Module (SIM), a remote monitoring device connected to sensors attached to Bimba cylinders using pneumatic fittings. Users receive operational insights about cylinder condition, end of travel, cycle time, pressure (to one hundredth of a psi), stroke length (down to a thousandth of a second), and temperatures (down to a hundredth of a degree).
In addition, IntelliSense delivers predictive intelligence for pneumatics in the form of up-to-date condition information that predicts when a cylinder will fail. It can identify when a component is achieving its desired performance specification. For example, users will be alerted if a cylinder that should be actuating in 1 sec is taking 1.5 sec to actuate. This is especially important in sequencing applications that depend on precise stroke rates.
According to Tom Wood, director of marketing at Bimba, “Machines running at maximum load are increasing wear on pneumatic components and are more likely to break down, compromising operational efficiency. Bimba created IntelliSense to deliver precise and accurate performance-related data with which users can make smarter decisions to ensure maximum uptime and component effectiveness.”
Currently, IntelliSense is compatible with Bimba’s double-acting, single-rod, original line cylinders. King said that the software is very specific to the type of seals used on both the rod and piston side of these cylinders. However, Bimba does plan to expand into more of its cylinder lines over the next 6 to 12 months, and eventually across its entire portfolio.
While Bimba’s products are used heavily in automation and packaging, the IntelliSense monitoring system can be used anywhere users have critical applications to monitor. It is ideal anywhere a cylinder failure could result in costly downtime or in difficult to access applications, King concluded.
Core to the new technology is the sensor, which King, who came to Bimba from Honeywell, described as amazing. “Bimba’s sensor is fantastically small, which makes it great for fitting into any application in tight spaces,” King declared.
King added that the system is so intuitive, that once you set up IntelliSense, you don’t need to connect the software to it ever again, unless you need to replace the cylinder.
Use of the system is easy. King said for simple diagnostics, users can monitor the health and status of their cylinder strictly by using the LED lights built into the sensor interface module. For more complex systems and diagnostics, King continued, “You can either hook up a PC directly to the module and look at what’s going on in real-time or the next level up is you add what we call our IntelliSense beta gateway, which allows you to connect to the Internet and remotely monitor the system from anywhere in the world.”
Most importantly, IntelliSense allows users to collect data while the equipment is running, establishing threshold limits and scheduling maintenance accordingly. This allows users to move from emergency repairs to condition-based monitoring, ensuring optimal uptime and productivity, and in the end, save money.