Is this the era for self-maintaining machines? Researchers, through a German initiative have come closer to the principle of a machine that has the ability to maintain itself.
The EU-Funded iMAIN Project
The iMAIN project – a research project supported by the European Union, is aimed at developing a novel decision support system for predictive maintenance, providing real-time online monitoring of unparalleled quality. Part of the project’s objective is having a solution that will provide extended capabilities to existing state-of-the-art maintenance procedures designed:
- to increase the system lifetime of the manufacturing equipment or machinery by at least 30%
- to enhance energy efficiency by at least 20%
- to reduce maintenance cost by at least 40%
- ensure availability of the whole process by at least 30%
Machines With Built-In Intelligence
By developing industrial machinery that has built-in intelligence that is based on smart self-monitoring functions, routine maintenance processes are expected to boost machine productivity throughout its cycle.
Keeping Metal Forming Machines Operational For A Long Time
Various industries have a range of metal forming machines that have to remain operational for a long time, even after enduring and withstanding considerable forces. The exerted pressure on cold forming parts for washing machines, refrigerators and automobiles can easily amount to thousands of metric tons.
Machine Failure Caused By Lack Of Maintenance
Maintenance operation of any machine is often repeated hundreds of thousands of times throughout the complete life cycle of the machine. Without it, the machine fails. Any failure in the machine can cause significant damage. And in many scenarios, failure of a machine that is integrated in a number of production processes and steps can result in an entire production process grinding to a halt.
Failures on the machine may be resolved by maintenance repairs, which could take up to a month or more depending on the extent of damage. And this abrupt and unscheduled breakdown is what is causing numerous manufacturing firms a tremendous loss in revenues – in tens of millions of dollars.
Predicting Machine Failures
That’s why it’s important to have the capability to predict any or all failures every machine will have on certain specific schedules. With such capability, the machine will automatically alert itself for the required maintenance which could be anything from changing belts, drives or chains, to replacement of bolts, screws or large steel washers. The machine’s maintenance cycle should be coordinated with the production schedule.
Researchers are optimistic that what they are developing would give machines the capability of discovering problems and predicting failures. The information-based predictive system researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute of Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU in Chemnitz developed is designed to have the capability to determine when a specific component or the entire machine or equipment is likely to fail.
Virtual And Real Sensors
This technological feature is made possible with the use of virtual sensors which receive information from computer-simulated models of the machine and from real sensors which provide the data on the strain happening on individual components. Researchers used mathematical calculations and a few real sensors which allowed them to simulate strain scenarios for the whole machine in real time. It in turn becomes the basis for an entirely new approach to predictive maintenance, according to Fraunhofer IWU’s Markus Wabner.
The traditional way of carrying out plant maintenance is based on a fixed schedule or an ad-hoc basis in response to failures. Some manufacturers have already equipped their machines or equipment with real sensors. However, the resulting solutions based on the sensing devices are not ideal – they:
- are complicated to implement
- require their own error monitoring system
- are expensive
- measure strain and stress only at the point where sensors are installed
Virtual Sensors Provide Complete Picture
In the new technology under development, using virtual sensors is the only cost-effective and possible way to get a complete picture of the effects of the forces acting on the material. The more data collected collect, the easier it is to know when to implement preventive measures. The algorithms developed enable machines to learn from experience and identify the right time for replacing components or determine if the maximum stress loading has already been reached. The breaking point of the equipment is calculated by comparing data from a simulated model with real data collected.
The iMAIN Project which was launched in 2012 has brought together manufacturers, computer scientists, engineers and industrial users in a collective and collaborative effort to develop advanced technologies and innovative procedures to maintain industrial machines.
Would you obtain a self-maintaining machine in the near future?
Cement Industry Exploring CO2 Pollution Reduction Strategies
Cement plays a critical role in almost all infrastructure and construction. As a result, cement making represents a massive global industry that contributes significantly to CO2 pollution. Producing cement accounts for 7 to 8 percent of annual CO2 emissions worldwide. Confronted by this large carbon footprint, the cement industry is turning to carbon-capturing techniques and renewable energy sources to reduce emissions.
One approach to carbon capture involves trapping CO2 within the cement material itself. Researchers have experimented with mineralized CO2 and mixing it into the cement and other aggregates when making concrete.
An alternative method injects CO2 into the wet mix during pouring. As the final product cures, the gas remains trapped inside the solid material. CarbonCure and Solidia already have used these methods at construction sites and in the manufacturing of precast concrete blocks.
Cement represents 80% of the CO2 emissions attributed to concrete usage. Material scientists have reduced cement needs through the use of substitutes, like iron slag and coal ash. Limestone calcined clay offers another binding agent that offers the benefit of lower production expenses.
In the U.K., the Energy Safety Research Institute from Swansea University has installed a green hydrogen power generator at a Heidelberg Cement facility. When using power from renewable sources, the unit splits hydrogen and oxygen atoms from water molecules. The separated hydrogen provides a clean-burning fuel to power cement processing. This reduces reliance on fossil fuels and cuts CO2 emissions. Additionally, hydrogen fuel trucks could replace diesel trucks currently used to transport cement.
Advances in concrete technologies have the potential to preserve the use of a versatile building material while addressing pollution. How effective do you think carbon capture and renewable fuels will be at decarbonizing the cement industry?
CarbonCure’s vision is to make its carbon dioxide removal technology standard for all concrete production across the globe. By realizing the full potential of CarbonCure’s portfolio of technologies, the goal of saving 500 megatonnes of embodied carbon emissions every year could be met—which would be equivalent to taking 100 million cars off the road.
In order to shrink the carbon footprint of buildings, embodied carbon in new buildings must be reduced. Embodied carbon, or the carbon emitted from the manufacturing of building materials and construction, will account for nearly 50% of carbon emissions from new construction over the next 3 decades. In any given building, concrete can contribute a minimum of 50% of the embodied carbon footprint.
ABOUT Solidia Technologies Inc.
Solidia Technologies has developed a technology platform that enables production of next-generation building and construction materials with outstanding physical properties, lower life-cycle costs and low environmental footprint. Solidia’s “Low Temperature Solidification (LTS)” technology accelerates the natural bonding process of CO2 with minerals to form solids, ensuring that it happens in hours rather than years.
In the building materials industry, this enables the production of stronger and more durable products ranging from facades to floor and roof tiles to decorative countertops. Solidia Technologies is also working to develop materials that can replace concrete. Preliminary findings show that the strength and properties of these materials far exceed those of traditional concrete. The sequestration of CO2 in the production process provides the additional benefit of creating a carbon neutral concrete replacement.
ABOUT Energy Safety Research Institute
ESRI is housed on Swansea University’s new world class Bay Campus. ESRI provides an exceptional environment for delivering cutting edge research across energy and energy safety related disciplines with a focus on the following areas:
- Inter-conversion of waste energy and resources – the conversion of excess and wasted energy via a range of energy vectors transformations (heat-to-electricity and electricity-to-hydrogen) providing enhancing flexibility of demand and supply.
- Green hydrocarbon – reducing the environmental impact of hydrocarbon energy sources through enhanced production, reduced resource usage, and ensuring low environmental impact of production.
- Carbon dioxide – defining solutions to the efficient separation, the conversion to useful feedstock, and the safe long-term sequestration of CO2.
- The next generation of energy distribution – creating an internet of energy to allow for local generation and global sharing that enables everyone to have the potential to be a player in a one world energy scheme.
New Type Of Steel Offers High Strength, Ductility, And A Lower Price
Usually, higher strength steels provide less ductility, and vice-versa. Materials scientists and engineers continuously look at methods for getting the most of these two qualities within a single alloy. Researchers in China and Taiwan may have gotten closer, as they’ve developed a new metal manufacturing technique that’s said to yield steel that’s both strong and ductile, and also considerably less expensive than many industrial steels used today.
Image Source: Wikimedia
Strong, Ductile, Lower Cost Breakthrough Steel
The new technique has been referred to as deformed and partitioned (D&P). While the researchers have not revealed many specifics of D&P, the process yields a material that can be defined as a “breakthrough steel”, containing 10 percent manganese, 2 percent aluminum, 0.47 percent carbon, and 0.7 percent vanadium. Cold rolling and embedding of metastable austenite grains are also used in the technique, which creates, what researchers call, a highly dislocated martensite matrix. The matrix allows the steel to retain ductility even as strengthening qualities are incorporated.
Image Source: UPI
Five Times Cheaper Than Aerospace And Defense Alloys
Apart from the dual physical advantages to the new steel, the production process is cheaper than that used to create steel grades that are commonly used in aerospace, defense, and other critical applications. The research team claims that their steel costs one fifth the price of production for aerospace and mil-spec steel, while offering the same characteristics of those alloys.
How Will It Impact Industry?
The study detailing the development of the super steel was published in Science on August 24th, 2017. How the technique and the resulting steel will impact the many industries that use comparable alloys is yet to be known.
What do you think of this development? Comment and let us know.
Desktop Laser Engraving Device Scales Down Industrial Capabilities
Laser engraving is used for many different medical and manufacturing applications. The equipment needed for the capability is typically heavy, complex, and far from portable. There is a company that wants to change that by making laser engravers more compact and accessible, and potentially making the technology as popular as 3D printing.
Image Source: New Atlas
Portable Laser Cutting And Engraving
Cubiio is a small, lightweight, and easily portable laser engraving and cutting tool. It has been designed to function as a desktop technology that can be easily incorporated into just about any maker studio. It’s run using software as basic as the average tablet or smartphone app. Users simply select a design to cut or engrave, place Cubiio over the work piece, and hit start. It’s no more complex than that.
Funded With Enthusiasm
Designed for hobbyists, Cubiio allows for customization of all manner of objects. The unit is comprised of a semiconductor laser source and two current-driven mirrors that direct the position of the laser according to digital commands. The device has recently gained enthusiastic backing and interest after being posted on Kickstarter and exceeding its funding goal in just days. It is now available for preorder and is expected to be available by the end of 2017.
Image Source: Digital Trends
Laser Machining For The Masses
With its creators stating that they had to rethink the design from scratch, Cubiio could be the first of many products that bring laser machining to the masses as a creative tool. It may even follow the rise of 3D printing as a technology used for small, entrepreneurial products, creative household projects, and general novelty. The technology could even serve as an asset to manufacturers who have considered adding laser engraving to their miscellaneous capabilities but have chosen not to make an investment in larger, industrial scale equipment.
What are your thoughts on the Cubiio and desktop versions of industrial technology? Comment and tell us what you think.