Pneumatics is intrinsically a user-friendly technology. And it’s set to become even more straightforward, versatile and flexible as the brand-new Festo Motion Terminal VTEM catapults pneumatics into the era of Industry 4.0 – with apps that can replace over 50 individual components. The latest developments in piezo technology and software have made it possible.
Just as the smartphone caused a great stir in the mobile communication market ten years ago, Festo’s Motion Terminal will turn automation technology upside-down as well. The new method of function integration – combined with software apps – will simplify the entire value chain, since only one piece of hardware will be required. Beneath the somewhat unassuming exterior and classic Festo product design lies technical refinement based on state-of-the-art information technology.
Genuine Industry 4.0
Piezo technology, integrated stroke and pressure sensors together with control via motion apps will open up entirely new perspectives for machinery and equipment manufacturers. The fusion of mechanics, electronics and software featured in the Festo Motion Terminal will transform a pneumatic product into a genuine Industry 4.0 component, and permit flexible production. Changes in pneumatic functions and adaptations to new formats are controlled via apps by changing parameters. The integrated intelligent sensors for control, diagnostics and self-learning tasks will eliminate the need for additional components.
When the Festo Motion Terminal is launched, there will be ten functions available via motion apps: from basic modification of the directional control valve functions to energy efficiency, and from proportional performance right on up to leakage diagnostics. What makes this so special is that the same valve hardware is used for everything. Thanks to fast activation of new functions via apps, machine developers can create a basic machine type and then select the relevant apps to equip it with different functions and features in accordance with customer requirements. Further apps are under development.
Assigning functions via software has the added benefit of protecting against tampering and protecting know-how, since it’s not possible to tell from the outside which functions the valves are executing. Maintenance is also simplified, because long lists of spare and wearing parts will be a thing of the past.
Intrinsic energy efficiency
The specially developed motion apps, as well as the leakage diagnostic function, save energy during operation. However, energy-saving piezo technology in the proportional valve’s preliminary stage plays a role in this respect as well.
With the Motion Terminal, different pressure levels can be used for opening and closing process valves. This can drastically decrease compressed air consumption if significantly less force or torque is required for one of the two working strokes. In addition, a diagnostic function can be activated after a freely selectable number of switching operations. This function detects any leaks on a drive-specific basis and, depending on their severity, simply sends a message indicating that maintenance is required or shuts down that section of the plant. Leak detection in extensive networks can thus be avoided.
Any production-related changes that need to be made to the plant, and thus to the individual parameters in the Motion Terminal, can be easily implemented via an integrated interface. Parameters can also be changed via the master control system and uploaded to the Motion Terminal in the field via communication interfaces. Festo has already presented systems from Siemens and Rockwell that have the capability to do this.
However, the Motion Terminal can also autonomously adjust required opening and closing times for process valves during commissioning. After the parameters have been set, exhaust air flow control is automatically adjusted during teach-in so that the required times are achieved. The plant is monitored during operation to ensure that the specified times are complied with – amongst other things, air flow control is adjusted so that the original values are maintained even if external influences such as increasing friction affect the times. This is done automatically and decentrally, i.e. directly in the field and without intervention by operating or maintenance staff.
Reduced costs and complexity
The Festo Motion Terminal permits fast as well as powerful motion and leakage diagnostics at much lower costs than current solutions. For example, fewer controllers are required as compared with electrical solutions, since one controller can control up to eight movements with the VTEM. Energy consumption is also reduced, and required installation space is decreased by up to 65%.
A technology comparison reveals that solutions with the Festo Motion Terminal offer truly cost-effective alternatives for eight applications. Instead of a valve, a pressure regulator and a pressure sensor – i.e. three components – only a single technology is required, namely a valve. The sum of these numerous advantages is indicative of a revolution in the field of automation technology with Festo’s Motion Terminal system.
Festo AG is a global player and an independent family-owned company with headquarters in Esslingen am Neckar, Germany. The company supplies pneumatic and electrical automation technology to 300,000 customers of factory and process automation in over 40 industries. The products and services are available in 176 countries. With about 18,800 employees in over 250 branch offices in 61 countries worldwide, Festo achieved a turnover of around €2.74 billion in 2016. Each year around 8 % of this turnover is invested in research and development.
In this learning company, 1.5 % of turnover is invested in basic and further training. Yet training services are not only provided for Festo's own staff – Festo Didactic SE also supplies basic and further training programmes in the field of automation technology for customers, students and trainees.