February 6, 2024
Shaping the Future of Manufacturing(Contributed to PTE by Wittenstein North America)
Digital transformation is a catalyst for profound changes in all branches of industry. Products, production, sales and work culture are all going digital in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), creating huge opportunities in the process. Wittenstein SE recognized this trend early on and has already been pursuing a digitalization strategy for several years now – with considerable success.
Patrick Hantschel is in charge of the Digitalization Center at Wittenstein, where 30 or so sensor, electronics, software, data and cloud specialists are actively shaping the digital transformation and driving it forward Group-wide.
“There’s no doubt that digitalization’s greatest potential lies in the increased efficiency and added value of our own products as well as in the development of smart products, additional services and derived business models,” said Hantschel.
This is reflected in the company’s experience since 2012 with “Future Urban Production,” the shop window factory at the Group’s Fellbach facility.
“That’s where Industry 4.0 concepts have been implemented, tested, optimized and successively integrated into production and logistics,” Hantschel explained.
“It’s accelerated the build-up broad digitalization expertise in manufacturing, assembly, logistics and materials management processes for the entire Wittenstein Group.”
Gearboxes Learning to Talk
Mechatronic drive systems that can collect and communicate information independently are fundamental to the IIoT’s implementation. Their decentralized intelligence enables data that was previously hidden from sight to be mined, so that new knowledge can be created and information flows made more efficient.
“Our drive solutions are increasingly smart as a result, and we’re expanding them with suitable digital services for the Internet of Things and the cloud. This gives Wittenstein the ability to analyze and interpret data. The knowledge gained from data analyses can then be incorporated into data based services and shared with customers,” Hantschel said.
The development of a smart gearbox, which was recently unveiled during Hannover Messe 2019, is one example.
“Gearboxes have always been unable to talk in the past, but now they literally have something to say,” commented Michael Herkert, product management, at Wittenstein alpha.
The Wittenstein product catalog has been gradually going digital for some time now with offerings like the sensorized Galaxie drive system, the iTAS servo drive system with a web server for automated guided vehicles and the smart drive system for heavy-duty torque multipliers.
Herkert said that the new smart gearboxes with cynapse from Wittenstein alpha are a significant milestone on the company’s path into the digital future – thanks to an integrated sensor module that enables Industry 4.0 connectivity.
“In fact, after unveiling the smart gearboxes during Hannover Messe, Wittenstein became the first component manufacturer in our field to bring smart gearboxes to market as standard products,” Herkert said. “They come in an industrial grade design, in other words there are no externally mounted parts – with its IO-Link interface and form-closed connection, the sensor module is elegantly integrated into the gearbox.”
It’s a fact that there are no major, external constructional differences between the Premium Line gearboxes with cynapse – they are identical in terms of design, size and contour, so that existing drive solutions need no further modification.
“The most important differentiator is the sensor module, which lets us output data using IO-Link as a standardized interface,” Herkert said.
In practice, this means that smart gearboxes are able to identify and measure influencing quantities in the process and the environment which impact on gearbox operation, and exchange them with the machine control as well as with applications on IIoT platforms.
The cynapse line comes hand in hand with integrated logic functions that are capable of “thinking” and allow gearboxes to execute intelligent monitoring activities independently. Smart gearboxes measure temperatures and report overheating, they detect vibration, they count operating hours, and they store and document all events linked to gearbox use.
“All of this supports condition monitoring and preventative maintenance, minimizes the risk of gearbox damage or machine downtime and optimizes the availability and productivity of machines,” Herkert added.
For the first time in this form, gearboxes with cynapse deliver process data that originates directly from the gearbox itself. According to reports from the first lead customers, this direct and transparent visibility enables even more performance, reliability and availability, especially with critical axes. Critical operating states are avoided, laying the ground for efficient process improvements – an invaluable return on intelligence for machine operators.
“Invaluable but not priceless,” Herkert said. “At the very latest, the costs which result from damage far outweigh the comparatively modest markup for the integrated sensor module. When you look at it that way, the return on investment is right as well.”
It comes as no surprise to learn that Wittenstein alpha intends to follow up the launch of its Premium Line gearboxes with cynapse by gradually extending this feature to all other gearbox series.
For more information:
Wittenstein North America
Phone: (888) 534-1222
(This information first appeared in recent issues of Wittenstein's Move magazine.)