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Intelligent E-chain Warns Of Failure

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Intelligent E-chain Warns Of Failure
Intelligent E-chain Warns Of Failure

Video: Intelligent E-chain Warns Of Failure

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Since it was first used four decades ago, the energy chain made from high-performance plastics from Igus has undergone constant development: mechanically, as engineers have developed better materials and designs through continuous research, making the e-chain lighter and quieter. And technically, because today not only linear, but also movements in all directions and torsions are possible. Now the e-chain has become smart: With the help of intelligent sensors, it continuously monitors itself, detects malfunctions and predicts wear before an unplanned downtime occurs. The result: The maintenance and repair of affected parts can be planned so that downtimes can be reduced compared to periodic maintenance.

Avoid machine downtimes

Under the name “Isense”, the company has developed various sensors and monitoring modules in or on the plastic components of the energy chain that contribute to predictive maintenance. This is made possible with the abrasion monitoring Isense EC.W. A sensor installed in the chain's opening web continuously measures the state of the sliding E-chain during the travel. If the abrasion has progressed so far that the end of the service life will soon be reached, the sensor reports and triggers a signal. A nearby antenna unit receives the data by radio and forwards it to a reader module. This processes the signal and then reports it to the central communication unit Icom. The Icom module processes the data and forwards it to the system.In this way, the user can replace the worn part in good time during the maintenance process.

Additional information on how Chainflex cables become fail-safe

Even the safest e-chain is only worth half as much if the cables inside do not hold. And the challenges for cables suitable for e-chains are many times greater than for cables in flexible applications. For this reason, Igus has been developing its cables for moving applications under the name Chainflex for over 25 years and guarantees a guarantee of 36 months. As part of Isense, the company has taken a step further and developed a failure monitoring module for cables: Isense CF.Q - Electrical Conductor Quality. Intelligent sensors continuously check the measured values ​​of the cables and indicate when the limit values ​​are exceeded. The limit values ​​themselves are based on empirical values ​​from millions of results from the test laboratory.The intelligent Chainflex cable thus provides information about its remaining service life during operation - before a failure.

A few years ago, the company introduced products for predictive maintenance with the PPDS traction and shear force monitoring and the EMA diagnostic tool, which can identify a broken link. The manufacturer gradually developed these components further and integrated them into the Isense family. In the case of EC.P, which was previously called PPDS, a load cell is installed in the connecting element of the E-chain, which controls the shifting forces on the E-chain. For travel distances over 100 m, the force sensor is installed in the floating driver, which compensates for lateral tolerances during the driver travel: If a foreign object - for example a tool that falls into the travel area of ​​the chain - blocks the movement of the E-chain, the displacement forces increase.Above a defined threshold value, the sensor - comparable to abrasion monitoring - outputs a signal that picks up an evaluation box and forwards it to the communication module. If the permissible forces are exceeded, the system switches off the system before major damage can occur.

The side part can break due to mechanical action or overloading of an E-chain. When this happens, the Isense EC.B polymer sensor built into the separator - previously known as EMA - reports the break to a sensor unit. The user is warned by the maintenance signal and can repair the damage in order to prevent major consequential damage.

Isense as a means of maintenance

The replacement of a single damaged chain link is done in a few minutes. This prevents the second side part from breaking and the system comes to an unplanned stop with major damage. Both signals, the break alarm and the tensile and thrust monitoring, can be read out via a reader module. A readout unit can process up to four antennas. As a result, up to four energy chains can be connected to one module.

Picture gallery

Icom is the central communication unit. It networks all the data from the Isense monitoring modules and then forwards them to the production systems on site. Optionally, Isense can also be connected to the Igus data center. In this case, the real production data could be compared with the millions of results from the Igus test laboratory and the service life of the components used could be calculated more precisely.

The procurement of spare parts and the maintenance work could be automated accordingly. This could improve business processes and reduce maintenance and service costs. Due to the many test procedures, extensive data are available today that predict the expected service life and that result in numerous online tools and apps. However, the use of sensors and IT-supported data analysis has further developed the maintenance strategies to date.

Reduce manufacturing costs

The key is not to react to failures anymore, but to anticipate them and plan accordingly. This means that smart plastics are used as a strategic means of reducing production costs: be it in the optimization of resources, in maintenance and spare parts logistics or through higher reaction speeds within production processes. In addition, users can avoid expensive production downtimes due to machine and plant downtimes.

The Isense sensors are used for the first time in the production systems of various German automobile manufacturers. However, they can be used wherever predictive maintenance is required for cost reasons or to increase plant efficiency and reduce energy consumption - for example in e-chains with long travels in port facilities or crane systems. The Isense components can be installed in many products of the wide range. In some cases, they can even be retrofitted into existing systems. (kj)

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