The digitalisation of pneumatics

15 May 2017

At Hannover Messe, Suzanne Gill spoke to Marcio Lopes da Silva, product manager at Festo, about the latest pneumatic developments from the company.

With software apps that replace over 50 individual components, it looks like Festo has succeeded in moving pneumatics into the era of Industry 4.0 with its new VTEM Motion Terminal. The pneumatic and digital automation platform combines all the functions necessary to enable more adaptable and economical production processes and offers a new control concept, with a fusion of mechanics, electronics and software. 

What are the major benefits of Festo’s latest development?
A single Festo Motion Terminal valve is able to substitute up to 50 individual components. This offers a huge reduction in complexity as the use of an app makes it possible to adapt a single valve to achieve a wide variety of different pneumatic functions. Of course, this also makes spare part handling much easier. 

For the design engineer, function extensions or changes from an original machine design concept during the commissioning phase can now be done simply at the click of a mouse. This can offer significant reductions in the time it takes to get a product to market.  For the end user the technology will make machines more flexible and it will be a key enabler to help achieve one of the Industry 4.0 goals – greater product variation and batch sizes of one! It allows users to visualise and modify a production system in real-time, providing the flexibility to meet their customer demands for greater product customisation. This is all achieved using a single programme. 

Due to its design as an industry 4.0 cyber-physical system, the Motion Terminal is also able to provide new functionality for pneumatic systems. Constant and self-adjusting speed of cylinders, complete application diagnostics and leakage testing are just some of its features. 

Could you talk us through the system and how it works?
Basically each app-controlled valve consists of four 2/2-way membrane poppet valves which work together in a bridge and can be actuated separately. Each of these four valves are piloted proportionally by a piezo valve. The membrane poppet valves functionality is defined and driven via the simple to use apps. It is the interplay between these components and the bridge circuit design that makes the system so flexible. A host of integrated sensors form the cyber-physical system and these give it self-adjusting functionality.

You talk about it being a cyber-physical system. Doesn’t this require it to be connected to the IoT? How is this achieved?
There are two different approaches for communication and system modification. It can be handled cyclically, via standard fieldbus connections and the PLC attached to them, with the PLC being connected to the web/IoT.  Alternatively, it can be achieved via an integrated web server on the Motion Terminal – directly from a laptop and its browser, or via any other IoT infrastructure that is attached to the Motion Terminal – such as a cloud visualisation solution.

Does this mean that Festo will be offering its own cloud concept?
Yes. At Hannover Messe this year we showed an IP65-rated IoT gateway, based around the CPX remote I/O terminal. A pilot version of a Festo cloud and dashboard was also demonstrated with cloud-based apps being able to visualise a range of Festo products and mechatronic sub-systems as smart and intuitive solutions. We have started with just three sample products and installations, and will continue to create more apps for other product ranges, as well as developing more offerings for the Motion Terminal too.

So, when with the Motion Terminal be available?
We are currently running several pilot projects with customers, who have reported that the use of such a modular system can offer engineering improvements, opening up a whole new world of potential solutions. If any other customers wish to try it out we would be happy to talk to them. The official launch of the Motion Terminal is scheduled for October this year.

Detailed descriptions of all VTEM Motion Terminal apps can be found at

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