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Bringing old technology into the digital era

20 July 2020

Control Engineering Europe finds out how a traditional mains-driven geared motor can be integrated into the IIoT without the need for a frequency inverter.

Invented in 1889, today the squirrel cage asynchronous motor is still one of the most frequently used electric motor designs for standard industrial applications. 

Integrating geared motors into the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), would allow operators to benefit from greater precision, energy efficiency and reduced maintenance costs. But, how can such traditional, passive technology be brought into the digital world?

Bauer believes it has found a solution with TorqueControl4.0, an electronic controller which is able to convert a passive  asynchronous geared motor into a smart drive, communicating data via IO-Link. 

Simon Scharpf, research and development engineer at Bauer explains more about the history of Torque Control4.0: “A asked us to investigate an alternative to mechanical overload clutches. The company was looking for a solution that would be more efficient for torque monitoring and control of conveyor systems. It wanted to improve performance during operations and reduced reaction time in the event of torque overload. We quickly identified that an electronic solution was the best way to achieve this and it would also offer the added advantage of communicating real world data to the cloud via IO-Link.”

Mechanical torque limiters protect the drivetrain by designing in failure when a specific torque load is reached. This is an effective, if simple, means of protection for applications such as conveyors where a foreign object could obstruct the drivetrain and generate unexpected loads. 

Most modern mechanical torque limiters will also feature a sensor which can alert the operator should an overload occur. However, in this event, the mechanical clutch needs to be partly disassembled and then re-engaged, which prolongs any downtime encountered by the operator. The mechanical system is also self-contained and only allows for binary control – whether it is engaged or disengaged.

TorqueControl4.0 is an intelligent, electronic control that allows all mains-driven Bauer geared motors to be integrated into an Industry 4.0 network cost-effectively without the need for a frequency inverter. It makes it possible for the operator to set a flexible – yet precise – overload torque and constantly monitor performance. 

In the event of an overload being detected, the central controller can communicate the information to the production line and put all equipment on hold while the overload situation is resolved. Once the issue has been addressed it is a simple process to restart the system over the network.

The ability for TorqueControl4.0 to connect with the Industry 4.0 network via IO-Link allows environmental data from a standard geared motor to be monitored and reacted to in real-time, and because it is integrated into the motor’s terminal box, the motor will retain its standard IP rating.

“TorqueControl4.0 allows monitoring of the operational status, hours running, temperature and load cycle,” continued Scharph. “It can also effect independent shutdown of the torque while providing status data such as current, voltage or power. Parameters can be set to shut down the drive within milliseconds in the event of an overload, preventing any damage to the drivetrain. At the same time, operators can limit the starting current in the same way as a conventional soft start. By allowing continuous load-point monitoring, TorqueControl4.0 will be able to adjust the voltage to run the drive efficiently while under partial load. We estimate this increases motor efficiency by up to 25% in some cases.”

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