Smarter Mechatronics

Mechatronics and the Internet of Things go hand in hand, so it’s no surprise that leading mechatronics companies are coming out with IIoT products now, too.

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that mechatronics and IIoT would go hand in hand. In a field that is all about combining electronics, physical machinery and automation, IIoT’s goals of making more intelligent, communicative machines is just the next natural step. So it’s even less of a surprise that Rexnord, an expert in mechatronics, came out with the “Smart Gear Drive,” an IIoT solution that makes your V-Class gear drives more responsive than ever.

The Smart Gear Drive provides a lot of the standard features you might expect from an IIoT-enabled component. Its primary function is to keep an eye on the most vital performance characteristics of a drive: oil condition, vibration, load, temperature and speed status. The Smart Gear Drive analyzes a drive’s status 24/7, measuring each of these parameters in real time and making sure they always remain within acceptable limits. If the drive’s oil quality becomes poor or it starts suddenly experiencing an unusual amount of vibration while in-operation, Smart Gear Drive automatically alerts technicians of the problem, allowing you to find and solve difficulties and mechanical breakdowns faster and with less risk to the drive.

Much of what the Smart Gear Drive does is thanks to Cloud technology, which not only enables the constant influx and storage of so much data, but also allows the drive to alert someone off-site, making the Smart Gear Drive useful for any company with multiple locations, be they separate factories or mines. If you have multiple gear drives, you can also detect which drive is having issues via a GPS location tag that is accurate within 50 feet and an on-site stack light that changes colors based on what error the system has detected. Technicians on-site can be alerted to any issues both through the stack light and through a PLC, which can be connected to the Smart Gear Drive.

The benefits of IIoT technology are myriad: preventative maintenance reduces the amount of unexpected downtime manufacturers experience; constant monitoring from the Smart Gear Drive means that fewer physical inspections need to be scheduled; and fewer replacement units are needed.

Schaeffler’s taken similar technology and come up with something truly interesting: Sensotect, a product designed for bearings with a similar objective to Rexnord’s Smart Gear Drive. Sensotect’s twist, however, is that it attempts to accomplish the same thing Rexnord does, but with a coating instead of a bunch of add-on equipment.

Designed for the automotive and industrial sectors, Sensotect is a strain-sensitive metal coating that can measure the load conditions on a bearing in places where adhesive bonded strain gauges can’t be utilized. And it does all this  with a thickness of under a micrometer, meaning that the design envelope remains unaffected. Sensotect offers accurate, continuous measurement of force and torque without suffering from aging effects or temperature deviations.

Schaeffler offers a number of IIoT solutions through their Smart EcoSystem, and many of them work along the same lines as Sensotect. The FAG VarioSense bearing, for example, comes with a built in sensor system that can monitor the part’s temperature, speed, number of revolutions, vibration signals and maximum radial shaft displacement.

And Schaeffler has accomplished this with a sensor cluster that takes up roughly the same amount of space as a rotary shaft seal. If you haven’t noticed, it’s an ever-present concern across many of Schaeffler’s lines to make sure that the IIoT technology they include leaves as small an imprint as possible; the smaller the imprint, the less manufacturers need to design around the new part’s profile, after all.

According to Schaeffler, the VarioSense is finding use in industries ranging from agriculture and wind power to conveyor systems and construction and are used in everything from pumps to motors and drives.

But sensor technology like what Rexnord and Schaeffler are producing is useful across every application, and if it hasn’t come to an industry near you, it probably will soon.


For more information:

Rexnord Corporation

(414) 643-3000



Schaeffler Group USA Inc.

(803) 548-8500

Categories: Editors Choice

About Author

Alex Cannella

Alex Cannella is Associate Editor of Power Transmission Engineering and Gear Technology magazines.

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