More performance, more speed, less energy
The Festo Motion Terminal VTEM, a product of the Industry 4.0 era, combines digitalisation and pneumatics. Quickly activated software apps are a game changer for pneumatics by increasing flexibility and energy efficiency, and accelerating production processes. This also benefits tire manufacturing, as demonstrated by the use of the automation platform VTEM in tire curing presses.
The Festo Motion Terminal VTEM is controlled via software apps that can replace over 50 individual components. Just as the smartphone turned the mobile communication market on its head a decade ago, so too is the Festo Motion Terminal set to change automation technology. The new type of function integration – combined with software apps – simplifies the entire value chain, since only one piece of hardware is now required.
Thanks to the fast activation of new functions via apps, machine developers can create a basic machine type and then, depending on which apps are selected, equip it with different functions and features as per the customer’s requirements. Assigning functions via software has the added benefit of preventing 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, as long lists of spare and wearing parts will be a thing of the past.
In tire manufacturing, this results in potential savings for loading operations at the curing presses, as the “selectable pressure level” app included with the Festo Motion Terminals ensures gentle loading of the green tire*. The smaller the fluctuations of the handling system during loading, the more the feeding-in speed can be increased. The process for each tire is thus accelerated by several seconds. This doesn’t sound like much at first, but with roughly 1.8 billion car tires produced each year, this can result in considerable sums for each tire manufacturer.
Less pressure = less energy
In practice, it is not just that the loading operations are accelerated, they also require less energy because pressure can be reduced and so compressed air consumption is also decreased. Calculations even reveal compressed air savings of nearly 33% when comparing the movement of the horizontally installed pneumatic cylinder DSBC with standard pneumatics, and of nearly 75% when the same cylinder is installed vertically. Just for controlling the vertical and horizontal cylinders, energy savings of roughly 60% are achieved for these loading and unloading operations.
The “leakage management” app enables predictive maintenance by pinpointing leaks throughout the entire pneumatic control chain including valves, tubing, connectors and drives. The goal is to detect defective components at an early stage before they bring production to a standstill or damage the machine.
Furthermore, the Festo Motion Terminal can seal off the faulty air duct, thus preventing the supply of more and more compressed air in the case of a leak. The innovative automation platform thus prevents unnecessary air consumption.
New machines versus retrofitting
The Festo Motion Terminal makes retrofitting projects particularly easy, since the embedded functions can be assigned by software apps. Digitized pneumatics extends life cycles, improves the performance of machines and reduces energy consumption. It maximizes the spread of technology and thus multiplies the benefits from the tire manufacturer to the machine builder.
Smart maintenance as one brick in the “IoT wall”
Digitalization and artificial intelligence (AI) are mega trends that are also opening up the potential for savings in tire manufacturing. Machine learning algorithms can be implemented decentrally, e.g. – on edge, in other words at the specific production stage to be monitored. Decentralized monitoring of actuator characteristics, such as pressure in the actuator chambers, travel speeds and their variation over time, not only enables the parameters of the actuator itself to be analyzed, but also allows anomalies in the technical process to be detected.
This is the basis for predictive maintenance concepts and for data analyzes aimed at optimizing the production process. The artificial intelligence in the module controller detects any anomalies without the need for additional programming. The algorithms are taught in based on data representing normal production; they can then independently detect deviations in the production process or in the performance of the actuators. This enables plant operators to detect problems in good time and avoid unscheduled plant downtimes caused by malfunctions.
* In technical jargon, a green tire is the raw, unprofiled tire.
Festo is a global player and an independent family-owned company with headquarters in Esslingen am Neckar, Germany. Festo has set standards in industrial automation technology and technical education ever since its establishment, thereby making a contribution to sustainable development of the environment, the economy and society. The company supplies pneumatic and electrical automation technology to 300,000 customers of factory and process automation in over 35 industries. The LifeTech sector with medical technology and laboratory automation is becoming increasingly important. The products and services are available in 176 countries. With about 20,800 employees in over 250 branch offices in around 60 countries worldwide, Festo achieved a turnover of around €3.81 billion in 2022. Each year around 7% of this turnover is invested in research and development. In this learning company, 1.5 % of turnover is invested in basic and further training. Festo Didactic SE is a leading provider of technical education and training and offers its customers worldwide comprehensive digital and physical learning solutions in the industrial environment.