Festo Moves into the Future with Controlled Pneumatics

In controlled pneumatics, Festo Inc. combines proportional technology, sensors and control algorithms to form a control loop. These are mechatronic pneumatic systems with innovative valve and communication technology. It enables digital influence in conjunction with closed-loop control based on a sensor variable. This technology creates new areas of application, especially for pressure and flow control that push the limits of pneumatics and enable simpler, more reliable, faster, more precise and more efficient solutions.

Conventional standard pneumatics, on the other hand, are used specifically for simple applications such as point-to-point movements. It is above all the simplicity of standard pneumatics that makes it the ideal solution in many cases.

Digitized Pneumatics

A prime example of a controlled pneumatics product is the Festo Motion Terminal VTEM, which Festo is using to digitize pneumatics. This automation platform uses piezo technology and Motion Apps that can replace over 50 individual components within a pneumatic control circuit.

Festo Motion Terminal VTEM 1

When applied to tire production, there is a potential for savings in the loading processes in the curing presses. With the Motion App “Selectable pressure level”, the Festo Motion Terminal allows the green tire blank (raw tire without tread) to be gently fed into the press. The smaller the fluctuations of the handling system during loading, the more the feeding-in speed can be increased. The process for each tire is thus accelerated by several seconds. This doesn’t sound like much at first, but with roughly 1.8 billion car tires produced each year, this can result in considerable sums for each tire manufacturer.

Controlled pneumatics also reduces the impact forces, and thus, significantly increases the service life of the components used.

Less Pressure = Less Energy

In practice, not only loading operations are accelerated, they also require less energy because pressure can be reduced; so compressed air consumption is also decreased. In addition, calculations reveal compressed air savings of nearly 33 percent when comparing the movement of the horizontally installed pneumatic cylinder DSBC with standard pneumatics. It also saves nearly 75 percent when the same cylinder is installed vertically. Energy savings of roughly 60 percent are achieved during these loading and unloading operations just for controlling the vertical and horizontal cylinders.

Predictive Maintenance

The Motion App “Leakage diagnostics” is also used since it simplifies maintenance and automatically monitors leakages. Malfunctions can thus be detected and pinpointed to a specific actuator using diagnostic cycles and defined threshold values. This results in a reliable basis for predictive maintenance.

Furthermore, the Festo Motion Terminal can close off the faulty air duct, thus avoiding the supply of more and more compressed air if there is a leak. The innovative automation platform thereby prevents unnecessary air consumption.

Piezo Technology Prevents Wear

When, on the other hand, wafers need to be transported and stored in the semiconductor industry, the N2 purge system from Festo prevents oxygen from oxidizing the wafers. The cost-efficient flow controller therefore continuously supplies the atmosphere around the wafer with inert nitrogen. The flow controller, also known as the mass flow controller MFC, is based on piezo technology and integrated sensor technology.

N2 Purge System

The design of the piezo valve reduces the risk of contamination of the gas flow caused by particle abrasion over the entire service life. The peak value is around a particle size of 0.1µm per switching cycle. Conventional solutions generate five times the particle content. The piezo technology used prevents wear caused by friction, thus considerably increasing the service life of the valve. In comparison to conventional solutions, this results in significant savings in operation and maintenance.

Piezo valve integration

Low Intrinsic Energy Consumption Saves Money

Thanks to its design, the directly operated flow controller reduces the risk of leakages. The electrical energy consumption is less than a watt. That is 80 percent less than with conventional solutions in both cases. The closed control loop ensures an accurate, stable and linear behavior of the flow rate, with only minimal hysteresis. The repetition accuracy is +/-0.25 percent of the setpoint value.

With controlled pneumatics, the related digitalization and with piezo technology, Festo is taking compressed air technology to a new technological level that is resource-saving, energy-efficient and sustainable.