Pneumatics is an intrinsically user-friendly technology and it is set to become even more straightforward, versatile and flexible thanks to the new Festo VTEM Motion Terminal. This is said to propel pneumatics into the era of Industry 4.0 with apps that can replace over 50 individual standard components, by virtue of the latest developments in piezo technology and software.
Andy Parker-Bates, Product Manager at Festo, states: "We predict that the VTEM Motion Terminal will revolutionise automation technology in much the same way that the smartphone turned the mobile communication market on its head a decade ago. In addition to transforming pneumatic products into true Industry 4.0 components, the VTEM simplifies system design, reduces costs and offers greater energy efficiency."
Festo believes that the new method of function integration exemplified by the VTEM – in combination with software apps – will simplify the entire value chain, since only one piece of hardware will be required. Beneath the new Motion Terminal's somewhat unassuming exterior and classic Festo product design lies technical refinement based on state-of-the-art information technology.
Pneumatics for Industry 4.0
Piezo technology and integrated stroke and pressure sensors – together with control via motion apps – opens up new opportunities for machine builders and plant manufacturers. The fusion of mechanics, electronics and software featured in the Festo VTEM Motion Terminal will transform a pneumatic product into a true Industry 4.0 component, and enable 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.
Functions defined by apps
At launch, the VTEM Motion Terminal offers ten different functions via motion apps: from basic modification of the directional control valve functions to energy-efficient motion, and from proportional control to different motion profiles. What makes this so special is that the same valve hardware is used for everything. Thanks to the fast activation of new functions via apps, machine builders can create a basic machine type and then select the relevant apps on the fly, to equip it with the necessary functions and features to meet customer requirements. Further apps are already in development.
Assigning functions via software has the added benefit of protecting against tampering and protecting know-how, since it is 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.
The specially developed motion apps as well as the leakage diagnostic function save energy during operation. However, the energy-saving piezo technology for the proportional valve's preliminary stage also plays its part.
Air consumption can be adapted flexibly to suit the requirements using the 'Selectable pressure level' and 'ECO drive' apps. With the selectable pressure level, a digitally selected pressure can limit the pneumatic force to the level required for the application. ECO drive reduces the compressed air consumption to the minimum level required to achieve motion, provided no pressing or holding forces are needed in the end position. This enables savings of up to 70 per cent compared with standard operation, depending on the application.
Festo claims that its VTEM Motion Terminal permits both fast and powerful movements and leakage diagnostics at much lower costs than current alternatives. For example, fewer controllers are required compared with electrical systems since one controller can control up to eight movements with the VTEM. Energy consumption is also reduced, and the required installation space is decreased by up to 65 per cent.
In a comparison of the technology, systems with the VTEM Motion Terminal offer truly cost-effective alternatives for eight applications. Instead of a valve, a pressure regulator and a pressure sensor (ie three components), only one single technology – a valve – is needed.
Follow the link for more information and to watch a video about Festo's VTEM Motion Terminal.