Production often comes to a standstill until the error has finally been pinpointed – and that can take hours. The causes are legion; in many cases it is all due to a single interrupted contact.
Consequently, many manufacturers have long been hoping for a technology that will work without vulnerable power and data cables. The idea is basically feasible, using small devices that harvest energy from their surroundings and provide their own power supply rather like a solar calculator. Experts speak of energy self-sufficient sensor-actuator systems. These high-tech components normally consist of a sensor, a processor and a radio module.
They measure position, force or temperature and transmit the data instantaneously by radio. In this way, vital machine data reach the control center without using cables at all. Is the machine overheating? Is the drive shaft wearing out?
So far, however, there are hardly any off-the-shelf solutions with their own energy supply. Research scientists from the Fraunhofer Technology Development Group TEG in Stuttgart have now joined forces with industrial partners and universities in the EnAS project, sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, to build a transportable demonstrator. This is a miniature conveyer system driven by compressed air that transports small components in an endless cycle.
The round workpieces are picked up by a vacuum gripper, transported a short way and set down on a small carrier, which conveys the parts back to the starting point. All steps of the process are monitored by sensors as usual. The special feature of the demonstrator is that the sensing elements have no need of an external power supply. The machine uses photo diodes, for instance, to check whether the carrier has been correctly loaded – if so, the light from the diodes is obscured by the workpieces. Solar cells supply the energy for this workpiece detector.
Another example are pressure sensors which monitor the work of the vacuum gripper. In this case, the power is supplied by piezoelectric flexural transducers. The piezoelectric elements contain ceramics that generate electricity on being deformed. This deformation happens when the vacuum pump is switched on and off. The electricity thus generated is sufficient to send an OK signal to the central control unit. The sensor thus draws its power from pressurized air that is present anyway.
Within the next two years, the various system components are expected to make their way into everyday industrial use.
Monika Weiner | alfa
Did you know that the wrapping of Easter eggs benefits from specialty light sources?
13.04.2017 | Heraeus Noblelight GmbH
To e-, or not to e-, the question for the exotic 'Si-III' phase of silicon
05.04.2017 | Carnegie Institution for Science
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
28.04.2017 | Event News
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering
28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
28.04.2017 | Life Sciences