We're in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution.
Whereas the third industrial revolution began with the computerization of individual machines, the fourth industrial revolution is seeing the development of smart factories with machines that share data in all stages of manufacturing through the internet.
The standards for these practices is becoming known as the Industrial Internet of things (IIoT) or Industry 4.0.
What Does "Internet of Things" Mean?
The Internet of Things is the collection of all the electronic devices around the globe that are connected to the internet. This goes beyond computers, smartphones, and tablets; it also includes fitness bands, nanny cams, smartphone-controlled light switches, self-driving cars, and everything in between.
With an internet connection, information about these devices can be shared over the web, creating an enormous collection of data.
For purposes ranging from simple usage statistics to failure-preventing diagnostics, this data can be incredibly valuable.
Industry 4.0 (or IIoT) applies IoT on a smaller scale in a business setting, especially in manufacturing.
Smart factories, as they are becoming known, are composed of machines that constantly share information.
With chip technology becoming smaller and less expensive, it's far easier to install many sensors in machines and gather more real-time operating data than ever before.
With web connectivity, the information from all the machines can be used to compile a complete and detailed overview of the entire manufacturing process that's constantly updated and recorded.
Manufacturers can use the IIoT machine status information in various ways to optimize productivity.
How Servo Drives and Motion Control Facilitate Industry 4.0
While servo drives in the modern era weren't necessarily designed with IIOT in mind, most of them are actually very well-suited for Industry 4.0 integration. How is that?
Servo drives are already connected to many components in a machine, many of which aren't directly connected to the network such as the motor, feedback, and I/O components. By design, the servo drive is always collecting information from these components in order to do its job.
Servo drives are also equipped with their own sensors for current, voltage, temperature, and other properties.
So each servo drive is privy to a lot of information, including operating status, current levels, voltage levels, motor speed, motor position, hall states, temperature, sequence steps, I/O logic states, and much more. Unlike the previously mentioned components, however, servo drives are typically connected over a network bus to the controller. This means they already have a convenient method for transmitting all of this data.
Using the network bus, the controller can obtain the information from all the components of each servo axes in the system. The controller can then compile all this information and make the desired data available over a web connection.
We've only begun to scratch the surface of Industry 4.0 with motion control. While IIoT is currently mostly used for diagnostic purposes in motion control, in the future it could be used for remote servo drive tuning, firmware updates, configuration, and more!