Seven organisations are collaborating on a research project called AMELI 4.0, to develop the sensor system for connected manufacturing or Industry 4.0.
The seven organisations include Robert Bosch GmBH (which is leading the project), Siemens AG, Hahn Schickard Gesellschaft, the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology IPK, Binder-Elektronik GmbH, Schaudt Mikrosa GmbH, and Stackforce GmbH.
The sensor system developed under AMELI 4.0 will monitor machines and immediately detect deviations from their normal operating status, to help factories prevent unplanned downtimes.
The system will also enable companies to maintain their equipment only when required. This is expected to reduce the cost of maintaining, inspecting and repairing machines by up to 30 percent, according to a joint press release.
To fulfil the objectives of the AMELI 4.0 project, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) sensors will be used in the sensor system. Compared to conventional industrial sensors, MEMS sensors are small, smart, energy efficient, and economical. However, they are not yet robust or powerful enough for the demands of an industrial environment, according to the press release.
As such, the AMELI 4.0 research team will further develop MEMS sensors to make them suitable for industrial applications. Energy supply plays a major role here: the new system will not require either power cables or batteries. It is designed to be completely self-sufficient by generating the necessary power itself from the machines' vibrations (energy harvesting).
Monitoring via sound
To monitor the machines, the new sensor system will measure two types of noise: structure-borne sound (ie. vibrations inside the machine) and acoustic sound (ie. noise emitted by the machine).
When a machine is not working as planned, it vibrates and sounds different than it does when operating normally. The system compares the measured signals with stored profiles. It continues learning, and takes action only if the changes in the signals indicate a defect or wear and tear.
Consequently, the sensor system will be able to detect when a machine needs maintenance or repair in future. In more complex systems, this smart evaluation can be handled by the gateway/router to which the sensors transmit their data, or the manufacturing facility's computer network, according to the press release.
AMELI 4.0 stands for micro-electromechanical system for condition monitoring in Industry 4.0. Launched in December 2015, the project is scheduled to conclude at the end of 2018.
Since AMELI 4.0 is aimed at improving the market position of German companies with regard to Industry 4.0, it has received 3.84 million euros in funding by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), as part of its "IKT 2020 - Research for Innovation" programme.
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