IoT 3 mins read

Compressed air and the IoT

Combine SMC’s machine-building knowledge and Software AG’s IoT knowledge and what do you get? Data knowledge capable of saving money, time, and the planet.

Sabrina Bohr Sabrina Bohr

The paint job on your car is beautiful; it turns heads and reflects your personality.

Did you know you could thank the Internet of Things for its mirror-like quality and flawless surface? It’s true. Because the robots that spray the paint over cars in the factory are powered by compressed air or gas. And the compressors, known as pneumatic cylinders, get the job done right by using the IoT.

An air compressor converts power into potential energy which is stored as pressurized air. When the tank’s pressure reaches its upper limit, the air compressor shuts off and the air is held until it is needed.

Because compressed air is economical and safe, demand for cylinders that produce it is growing, with high-end automation and robotics driving the market. Growth is estimated at nearly 5% a year up to end 2027.

The IoT is expected to play a big role in robotics, by giving operators more control over their equipment, such as by manipulating the machines from a distance using an app.  

The SMC Corporation, a global leader in the manufacturing of pneumatic equipment, decided to put IoT and pneumatics together.

Smart Field Analytics

SMC was under pressure from end users, who wanted to get more information out of their machines. These were already equipped with sensors, so SMC started looking for an IoT partner. The company wanted someone who help it to extend its product lines using smart networking and decentralized intelligence.

With Cumulocity IoT, SMC developed a strong solution and its first use case within four months: Smart Field Analytics – a powerful, simple but easily scalable solution to customers. With simple dashboards, factory managers can deploy predictive maintenance across the floor. The data generated by sensors in pneumatic cylinders can be monitored in real time at the point of origin.

Cumulocity IoT, fitted with Dell’s Edge hardware devices, enables real-time reporting on machine latency times, alerts to prevent impending faulty productions, and reports about unplanned machine downtime. And there is more: With its built-in machine learning algorithm, SMC is able to partner with customers to get reliable analytics tailored to each machine. Machine learning enables SMC customers to analyze results and intelligently adapt how each is interpreted.

But the new business and use cases don’t stop there. SMC customers can now deploy a leakage detection service. Here, Cumulocity IoT analyzes how much compressed air is being utilized. This can enable early detection of a downstream issue that might lead to process failure. When a valve is consuming more air than expected for a process, a message is sent out to an ERP/MES-system.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, Smart Field Analytics has found another area in the manufacturing market: energy efficiency monitoring. The first potential customer—a world-renowned supplier of automobile components—is already interested. In this application, the pressure and flow data that Cumulocity captures on the edge can be combined with data relating to peaks in consumption during machine start-up. This can be used to monitor energy consumption and optimize total factory efficiency.

That’s end-user machine-operation knowledge, combined with SMC’s machine-building knowledge and Software AG’s IoT knowledge. Together they create wisdom capable of saving money, time, and the planet.

You can read the entire case study here. And to find out how to be successful with your next IoT project – like SMC – click below.