Think-tank for mechatronics and miniaturization
How do machinery and equipment manufacturers keep up with worldwide competition? With (energy) efficient solutions! “Mechatronics, miniaturization, piezo technology and systems technology are catchwords which aren’t just pointing the way towards more efficiency in emerging business areas like photovoltaic”, says Dr. Eberhard Veit, chairman of the board of directors at Festo AG.
Taking a look at nature’s motion sequences is often enough to promote the development of efficient solutions. The fluidic muscle from Festo demonstrates its merit as a universal genius in more and more new and astonishing applications from Festo’s Bionic Learning Network. For example, 32 pneumatic muscles move Airic’s arm, an artificial muscular system which simulates a human torso with arm. The muscles are actuated by piezo proportional valves.
The bionic fluidic muscle consists of a hollow elastomer cylinder, into which aramide fibers have been woven. When the muscle is filled with air or water, the diameter of the cylinder becomes larger and its length is contracted. This enables a flowing, elastic motion. Further advantages are: up to ten times the force during acceleration, no stick-slip effect, low weight, long service life and durability.
By incorporating concepts from the field of bionics, new markets are opening up for pneumatics which had previously been reserved exclusively for hydraulic or electrical solutions. These are, for example, transport, construction engineering, process technology for the garden, water and waste water technology, the automotive industry, public health and rehabilitation, factory automation as well as animation and simulation technology.
Festo products have been designed for maximum energy efficiency for many years, both as individual components and systems. Software packages are available to help customers deploy these products appropriately.
Festo’s direct sales channels make it possible for us, as the No. 1 partner in automation technology, to provide support in this area. Particularly in the emerging economic downturn, it is all the more important to present an image of innovation to the market. It is therefore not at all unusual for customers to discuss their latest ideas with Festo and work with Festo to identify solutions.
The Festo think-tank
With its pneumatic muscle, Festo has opened the door for innovative applications which, in combination with technologies such as mechatronics, miniaturization, piezo technology and systems technology, lead to numerous new and energy-efficient machine and equipment concepts. For instance, increased energy consumption due to malfunctioning can be detected without delay by means of remote diagnostics thanks to the integration of microprocessors into cylinders and valves. “The efficiency of a production system can be significantly increased by using an optimum mix of pneumatics, servo-pneumatics and electrical components”, explains Dr. Eberhard Veit.
For example, efficiency is ensured by ready-to-install handling systems, ranging from pick &place to gantry robots with five or six degrees of freedom. Complex tripod kinematics are actuated by the robotics controller CMXR, which is capable of implementing path applications in 3D space. Ready-to-install handling solutions are created on the basis of Festo’s mechatronic multi-axis modular system in accordance with actual customer requirements. In addition to electric drive systems consisting of controllers, motors and axes, the modular system also includes servo-pneumatic control, electrical and pneumatic grippers, as well as energy-efficient vacuum solutions.
Festo’s ready-to-install handling and control cabinet systems enable machinery manufacturers to focus on their core competencies. This saves time and money, because manufacturers don’t have to complete numerous tasks themselves, such as selecting the right components, sizing drives, drawing circuit diagrams, incorporating individual components into an overall system, placing orders, assembling and commissioning, as well as service and maintenance, thus reducing the total cost of ownership.
The right layout
“Festo views the complex issue of more energy efficiency for machinery and systems from several different angles”, stresses Dr. Veit. Especially automation components can contribute to reduced compressed air and electricity consumption. These range from a wide variety of valves to highly efficient compressed air preparation. But efficiency also necessitates intelligent layouts for the machine’s systems and subsystems, avoiding over-sizing and using the right technology for the respective application. Appropriate selection software is available to this end at Festo’s website.
Where reduced energy consumption is concerned, the servo-pneumatic gripper HGPPI offers an advantage in comparison with electrical grippers. It’s small and lightweight because, as opposed to electrical grippers, it doesn’t need a motor. And thus the drives to which it’s mounted don’t have to expend as much energy in order to get things mo-ving. Furthermore, pneumatics offer a more-or-less built-in holding function for which no energy is required at all. Electrical grippers can only perform a holding function with the help of electrical blocking or an electrical brake, for which energy is once again required.
Installation space and energy consumption can be reduced through the use of innovative piezo technology, because energy is only required during switching motion. Piezo-ceramic bender actuators with proportional switching performance ensure minimal energy consumption and short cycle times.
More functions with microsystems technology
New functions are made possible by means of microsystems technology with bus compatible sensors and micro-components – entirely in the spirit of mechatronic systems. Decentralized intelligence, flexibility and increased precision as well as continuously increasing degrees of miniaturization and production with reduced consumption of resources are the most important innovation drivers for microsystems technology in the field of machinery manufacturing.
Wherever manufactured parts are becoming smaller and smaller and where minute structures can only be recognized with the help of a microscope, pneumatic automation technology is also moving into the micro-ranges. Extremely small miniature valves, mini-slides, micro-grippers and service units are already available today and have become firmly established in the areas of light assembly and electronic components manufacturing. For example, the Festo miniature valve MH1 demonstrates three times the volumetric performance of conventional valves of similar design. With a flow rate of 150 liters per minute, the world’s smallest valve terminal, namely the CPV Smart Cubic, enables actuation of small drive units in very tight spaces.
Focus on new areas of business
In particular for the photovoltaic industry, Festo offers efficient solutions. Photovoltaic and display substrates can be moved gently with the new air bearing transport system – without contact, accurately and with minimal compressed air consumption, because fragile glass substrates are becoming thinner and thinner, as well as larger and more complex, and more sensitive as a result.
Previously used electrical roller drives have often led to damage and contamination of the display substrate, and to high reject rates. As a contactless, high-speed transport system, the pneumatic stepper drive air bearing is superior to electric drives – and it’s a concrete example of improved efficiency within the application.