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Electrically to more efficiency

Text and photos: Stefan Ziemba

Production that is as economical as possible is increasingly becoming one of the decisive competitive factors for many companies. Of course, this should also be sustainable and, above all, protect and preserve the environment. Switching to more efficient use of energy in drive technology can become a decisive factor in this.

Efficient assembly and handling technology is a key component in many manufacturing companies to effectively counter the growing cost pressure. Various actuators are used for this purpose. Installed in complex production systems, these then carry out linear, rotary or even gripping movements.

Traditionally, companies often use pneumatic actuators. Not least because of the low investment costs, these are still the preferred technology in many purchasing departments. However, the generation and distribution of the necessary compressed air is associated with very high losses. Of course, the energy efficiency of compressed air systems can be further optimized through intensive optimization measures. Nevertheless, technological limits are quickly reached here. In these cases, a so-called substitution scenario can be used: In this case, the pneumatic positioning systems are replaced by electromechanical ones.

Various scientific studies have already provided the following evidence for this: Such substitution is clearly preferable to optimization of compressed air systems in terms of economic and ecological savings in energy consumption. In individual cases, potential savings of up to 90 percent have been demonstrated.
Electric actuators can be easily integrated with programmable controllers. They also require considerably less maintenance. Free programmability is also one of the decisive technical advantages. This means that any number of free positions and speeds can be programmed. Other technical advantages include virtually no noise emissions and freely programmable dynamic speed changes with individually definable acceleration and deceleration cycles. Even the noticeably higher acquisition costs are amortized within a very short time due to the energy savings. The technical advantages, on the other hand, are available immediately.

One of the leading industrial manufacturers of such electric actuators is IAI Industrieroboter, founded in 1976 in Shizuoka, Japan. Specializing in electric actuators, the company has been present in the market since 1995 with its European headquarters in Germany. The specialist in airless automation has more than thirty years of experience in the development and manufacture of such electric actuators.

Above all, the recently introduced new product line of EleCylinder is particularly suitable for the simple changeover, or even entry, to this resource-saving drive technology. With only two end positions, these offer the same scope of performance as the pneumatic actuators. With the integrated controls, however, they can be programmed completely freely, just like all electric actuators. Gentle starting and braking are no longer a problem.

Of course, like all new products from IAI, the actuators in the new EleCylinder series also feature high-resolution, battery-free absolute encoders. This means that all the advantages of this technology are also fully exploited in this new product series: the elimination of reference runs and the use of a home sensor, the elimination of battery maintenance without replacement, and problem-free restarting after an emergency stop, to name just a few advantages. Thanks to the high repeatability of +/- 0.05 mm, these actuators can also be used for very precise positioning.

Together with the new EleCylinder series, IAI has also introduced its new teaching counterpart called "TB-03". In combination with the EleCylinder series, this new teaching pendant can now also communicate wirelessly with these electric actuators. Among other things, this has the advantage for the user that actuators that are already firmly installed behind covers and invisible from the outside can be reprogrammed very easily at any time. In addition, this new teaching counterpart can also be used to program all other IAI electric actuators via a conventional cable connection.

Finally, it must be conceded that it will not always be possible to replace pneumatically driven actuators in all applications in the future. However, where this is technically feasible, such a substitution by electromechanical systems is an obvious option in any case. The sustainable energy efficiency, the significant cost savings over the entire life cycle of the production plant, and the outstanding technical advantages in motion control are the clear arguments for such substitution.

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