Topic: Energy Efficiency Takes On A Fundamental Role In Industry 4.0
Energy Efficiency Takes On A Fundamental Role In Industry 4.0
Table of Contents
IIoT and Industry 4.0 offer several opportunities to improve production processes and reduce energy consumption.
By connecting machinery and tools, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) enables manufacturing companies to improve production visibility in real time. The vast amount of data collected by IIoT devices allows you to optimize production, improve the quality of products and services, apply predictive maintenance, automate the supply chain, and more. The link between IIoT and Industry 4.0 is very close, considering that the IIoT infrastructure is what allows an industrial reality to become fully digital and intelligent. Despite the difficult economic climate of the last two years, investments in IIoT have marked a positive trend, with further growth forecast for the coming years.
Energy efficiency is acquiring a fundamental role in the industrial world. The objective of the “Green Factory” is now pursued not only to meet the needs of the environment and sustainability, but also to increase the profitability of the industry. The increase in the cost of energy and its impact on the environment have made energy efficiency one of the main objectives of Industry 4.0.
Power Management and Energy Efficiency
Energy management systems are tasked with real-time monitoring of the energy sources required to carry out industrial activities, providing useful information related to energy distribution parameters and identifying patterns and trends. The main objective of energy management is to ensure the supply of energy, particularly its availability, reliability and quality. Energy Efficiency Takes On A Fundamental Role In Industry 4.0.
Energy efficiency, on the other hand, is more focused on aspects related to cost reduction that a company can achieve by reducing energy losses and reducing environmental impact. Industry 4.0, which has now entered all major industrial sectors, cannot ignore energy efficiency. The link is so close that today we speak more properly of Energy 4.0, a context in which smart grids allow the management of different energy sources (including renewable energies) and their distribution. On the other hand, the integration of different sources of energy generation in an increasingly distributed market requires management techniques capable of guaranteeing quality, sustainability and efficiency in energy consumption, objectives that, once again, the digitization can help achieve.
IIoT Benefits for the Smart Factory
IIoT contributes substantially to the conversion of the industry into a smart factory reality, providing benefits such as:
- Greater efficiency: Sensors continuously monitor the system and collect useful data to determine the correct operation of machinery, the progress of processes and energy consumption. This allows for a better understanding of how resources are being used and whether a more efficient way of using them can be found.
- Greater safety: Some productive activities, such as assembly, molding of parts, inspection and control of machinery, can present serious risks to the health of operators. The ability to remotely manage data acquisition and entrust the most dangerous activities to robots and intelligent machinery allows the company to better ensure the safety of workers and maintainers.
- Reduced downtime: Predictive maintenance allows you to estimate the time remaining before a failure occurs. By planning the appropriate interventions in advance, it will be possible to reduce the risk of unplanned downtime and the associated costs, ensuring greater resilience for the business.
- Balance between energy supply and demand: Compliance with the ISO 50001 standard allows industries to equip themselves with an energy management system to continuously improve energy efficiency. With an ISO 50001 certification, companies can gain insight into internal energy consumption and can control and reduce their energy needs. Energy Efficiency Takes On A Fundamental Role In Industry 4.0.
Energy Efficiency Trends
We have seen how energy efficiency has become a primary goal in IIoT applications and how this can contribute to the full realization of the plans envisioned by Industry 4.0. Next, the main trends in energy efficiency will be examined, focusing on the technical content and the benefits provided.
Because sensors are the building block of any IIoT application, it is important that they themselves be highly energy efficient. Several hundred or thousands of sensors can be used in a single IIoT application, so an efficiency improvement of a few percentage points weighs heavily. In addition, since most of these sensors work with batteries, it is essential to try to extend their autonomy as much as possible. Figure 1 shows the block diagram of an electricity meter, taken from a reference design by NXP Semiconductors. The choice of all the necessary components (MCU, communications transceiver, display, etc.) must give priority to low power components capable of supporting low power operating modes with very low quiescent current. It follows that improvements in the energy efficiency of sensors can be obtained through proper and accurate design of the IoT device.
One of the main dilemmas in any IIoT application is finding the right trade-off between processing performed in the cloud and processing performed on-premises. The former has the advantage of requiring little computing power but requires higher bandwidth and longer transmission times, with a consequent increase in current consumption. However, the availability of high-performance microcontrollers, combined with the ability to run real-time artificial intelligence algorithms such as deep learning, is driving the transition of many applications to edge computing.
Smart Grid Integration
Without the need for human intervention, the smart grid monitors local variations in energy demand and reacts automatically. It requires communication between the network and the consumer in both directions, in real time, which allows consumers to adapt their energy consumption according to their personal preferences, such as prices and/or environmental concerns. By communicating with cell towers or other similar infrastructure, the smart grid sends crucial statistics such as immediate power usage, cumulative power consumption, peak demand, and more.
The term “digital twin” refers to the virtual replica of a physical resource, represented by an object, process, system or device. Digital twins are used for various purposes, in particular to optimize production and predictive maintenance. Compared to the Industry 4.0 paradigm, therefore, this type of approach is cutting edge.
Mixed reality devices allow you to create a virtual replica of industrial machinery, visualize it and place it exactly in the destination location, evaluating the correct dimensions and anticipating any problems in the installation phase. Through digital twins, it is also possible to carry out simulations and stress tests without having to stop production.
The number of IIoT connected devices is growing all the time. Cloud-based machine learning, energy harvesting technologies, and ultra-low-power radio transmission combine to create a flexible infrastructure for monitoring industrial plants, equipment, and buildings that don’t require hardwired power or communication connections.
Small and simple sensors can harness energy harvesting to extract energy from the environment and convert it into a ready-to-use power source. These sensors do not require batteries for their operation, since they are powered by heat, light or movement in the environment. Temperature, humidity and motion sensors as well as actuators can be installed almost anywhere today. Sensors can communicate with each other and with a controller or gateway, which can be connected to the cloud, enabling the smart factory concept.
Efficiency in Energy Conversion
In industrial plants, there are many devices that use a power supply or power conversion system. For several years, the trend has been to use almost exclusively switching power supplies, capable of offering high efficiency values, at the expense of a non-negligible RF emission. In some applications linear converters (less efficient but with practically zero electromagnetic emissions) are still preferable. In AC/DC converters it is necessary to introduce a power factor correction stage to improve the quality of the signal and therefore the efficiency of the conversion. Further efficiency gains can now be achieved with the introduction of wide bandgap semiconductors such as silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN). Thanks to their superior physical properties, SiC and GaN devices can replace traditional silicon-based components (MOSFETs and IGBTs) with the advantage of higher power efficiency, higher working voltages, higher peak temperatures, and better dissipation. of heat, as well as lower weight and size.
In industry, robots are used to do repetitive jobs that were previously done by humans. In this area, one of the most recent and exciting innovations is computer vision, particularly stereoscopic vision. Stereoscopic cameras, emulating the typical visual abilities of the human being, allow the robot to perceive not only the environment that surrounds it, but also the depth, or distance, of the different points of the image. This allows for greater precision of movement and precision when grabbing and releasing various types of objects.
The industrial sector is responsible for consuming a high percentage of the energy used worldwide and consequently is also one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Greater responsibility towards the environment is stimulating the search for new solutions capable of reducing energy consumption and making production more efficient and respectful of the environment. IIoT and Industry 4.0 offer several opportunities to support these efforts. The comprehensive use of technology, together with optimized production processes through intelligent and efficient methods and applications, can help improve production processes and reduce energy consumption.
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