The use of industrial networks to make sensors and actuators more intelligent has become common across modern factory environments, and the use of continuous position sensing is a pathway to achieving smart motion control in pneumatic systems.
Continuous position sensors are more sophisticated sensor devices with two-way data flow that help to bring intelligence to pneumatic motion control and provide necessary continuous data to help facilitate a true Industry 4.0 environment.
Using contactless technology to continuously detect the linear position of a piston in its cylinder, the quick, precise and high-resolution sensing of the piston magnet is achieved without the need for separate position encoders or additional mechanics, therefore minimising the cost of implementation.
The data communicated by the sensor allows for monitoring, and when information flows in both directions and actuators are employed, control. The result is that positional data is made available for fast detection of any issues that might cause downtime or potential loss of productivity.
For cylinders, linear slides and grippers with common T-slot or C-slot dimensions, the latest continuous position sensors, including the P8S CPS series from Parker, can be mounted without the need for extra accessories. Mounting on other cylinder types, such as round body, tie-rod and profile cylinders (and cylinders with a dovetail groove), is possible using a simple adaptor.
By externally mounting on the cylinder body, you avoid complicated integration requirements or any drilling of the piston rod itself. This design also facilitates quick and simple sensor maintenance or replacement.
Among the principal benefits of continuous position sensors is the ability to monitor quality and provide process control and support optimisation, especially in tensioning applications such as paper or film processing where quality, repeatability and speed are paramount to profitable operations.
Here, the remote reading of data from position sensors allows process deviations to be seen quickly and acted upon, thus keeping processes optimised and supporting predictive maintenance strategies.
Many other types of applications will also benefit, including materials handling, consumer packaging, small component assembly, machine building, and even tasks in the renewable energy industry, such as the positional control of solar panels as they track the sun.
With the appropriate shock, vibration, moisture, chemical and water ingress resistance, continuous position sensing can be used in challenging environments reliably over very long periods of time.
Two-way data flow
The monitoring of sensor data via traditional discrete or analogue signals is one-way communication; this is sufficient to allow the remote monitoring of automated processes, for example. However, in order to implement Industry 4.0 strategies, two-way communications are required meaning a connection to a network such as Profinet or IO-Link. In terms of Continuous Position Sensor implementation with pneumatics, it would include not only monitoring but also automatic configuration at start up and/or during maintenance replacement.
In many cases, the early sensor notification of issues allows system operators to investigate, consider, plan and schedule the required corrective maintenance for a time when production throughput is either low or can be stopped. This could be overnight or during a larger planned plant maintenance shutdown.
Another critical part in the success of Industry 4.0 manufacturing strategies is choosing the right protocol to connect sensors with controllers and actuators. Here, IO-Link provides the ideal solution, allowing two-way communications to receive data and then download a parameter to the device/actuator. As a result, processes can be adjusted remotely.
The advantages of IO-Link include the automatic detection and parameterisation of the IO-Link device, device monitoring and diagnostics, changes on the fly and reduced spare part costs.
Ultimately, the key to unlocking the power of smart sensors is in making diagnostic information easy to access. IO-Link allows for cyclic data exchange capabilities so that programmers can easily send the information directly to where it is required, either to an HMI screen, a signal light or a maintenance request. If sensor or actuator parameters need to be changed or calibrated, this can be done remotely, even while the production line is still running, ensuring that shutdowns, stoppages and unnecessary costs are avoided.
Continuous position sensing devices can make a significant contribution in creating a smarter, more efficient factory environment. To find out more, download our brochure and discover how you can better schedule corrective maintenance and reduce your downtime.
Article contributed by Franck Roussillon, product manager for actuators, Pneumatic Division Europe, Parker Hannifin Corporation