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A pneumatic revolution in automation?

03 May 2017

The Festo VTEM Motion Terminal heralds the beginning of a new era, catapulting pneumatics into the era of Industry 4.0 – with apps that can replace over 50 individual components. The latest developments in piezo technology and software have made this possible.

Just as the smartphone changed the face of the mobile phone market a decade ago, the Festo Motion Terminal is set to revolutionise automation technology. A new type of functional integration combined with software apps is set to simplify the entire value chain, from engineering through procurement and warehousing, all the way to downstream processes such as maintenance. Beneath the somewhat unassuming exterior and classic Festo product design lies technical refinement based on state-of-the-art information technology.
Genuine Industry 4.0
Piezo technology, integrated stroke and pressure sensors and control using motion apps are making it possible for machinery and plant manufacturers to venture into new areas. The symbiosis of mechanics, electronics and software realised in the Festo Motion Terminal transforms a pneumatic product into a genuine Industry 4.0 component and facilitates flexible production. Pneumatic function as well as adaptation to new formats are controlled by changing parameters using apps. The integrated intelligent sensors for control, diagnostics and self-learning mean that there is no need for additional components. The product key acts as a digital map, providing product information quickly and making traceability easier. Parameterisation is performed via web server without additional configuration software and Industry 4.0 interface standards such as OPC UA can, of course, be integrated.

Motion apps
When VTEM is launched, there will be ten functions available via motion apps for the new valve technology: from basic modification of the directional control valve functions through gentle travel to end positions to energy-efficient movement, from proportional behaviour to different movement profiles. Thanks to the rapid connection of new functions via apps, machine developers can create a basic machine type and then equip this machine with different functions and variants according to customer requirements by selecting the relevant apps. Further apps are in development.

The new automation platform makes it possible to select and to modify functions at the touch of a button – without tedious installation and without having to change the hardware or install additional components. This makes it easy to produce customised consumer goods – even in batch sizes of one.

Energy efficiency per se
The new automation platform is based on an integrated approach to energy efficiency. The specially developed motion apps and the diagnostic function for application leakage for condition monitoring ensure energy savings during application operation. The energy-saving piezo technology for the proportional pre-stage also plays its part. The "Selectable pressure level" and "ECO drive" apps make it possible to reduce air consumption flexibly for the first time. With the selectable pressure level, a digitally selected pressure can limit the pneumatic force to the level required for the application – and can do so flexibly for advance and return movements as well as various loads. The ECO drive application reduces compressed air consumption to the minimum level required for movement, provided no pressing and holding forces are required in the end position. Depending on the application, savings of up to 70% compared with standard operation are possible.

Reduced costs and complexity
The Festo Motion Terminal permits maximum flexibility and reduces complexity by decreasing the number of individual components needed from 50 to just one. It enables fast, powerful and energy-optimised motion and its integrated leakage diagnostics are considerably more cost-effective than current solutions. Data and diagnostic information are analysed in-depth for the Cloud; this information can then be used for self-regulating applications and sub-systems without the need for programming, thus enhancing long-term machine optimisation and availability. For customers from whom the total cost of ownership is important, this all-in-one package is a perfect Industry 4.0 solution, as the CPX modules not only control the pneumatic components, but the electric drives and servo motors too. 

Together with the Festo’s CPX automation platform it is unbeatable – modular remote I/O, comprehensive fieldbus options, optionally embedded CoDeSys controller and IoT gateway, controller for electric drives with stepper motor and servo controllers and, last but not least, perfect Industry 4.0 pneumatics. 

Detailed descriptions of all motion apps can be found at www.festo.com/motionterminal

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