classic | mobile


SA Instrumentation & Control Buyers' Guide


From the editor's desk: Smart sensors, contactless energy transfer and a memorable event
October 2017, News

If analytics are the ‘brains’ behind Industrie 4.0 then smart sensors are the heart and lungs. They are the lifeblood of a modern smart factory; the dataflow that keeps it operating at optimal efficiency. But what differentiates a smart sensor from the common or garden variety? Well, it’s the ability that current solid state technology has given us to integrate multiple devices of different functionality onto the same substrate or wafer.

This technique of combined technologies brings multiple benefits. For instance, a mix of analog and digital circuitry allows the sensing functionality, data processing, diagnostic information, as well as configuration capabilities to coexist on a single device. Not only that, but the communication functionality can also be integrated, and this could even be a wireless transmitter if that is what the situation requires.

Having all this functionality built into the device at the substrate level gives smart sensors the power to adapt their behaviour to changing conditions. Self calibration is an example. All sensors experience some degree of drift over time due to the ageing effect on components. Smart sensors are able to self compensate for this on a continuous basis, which gives more accurate data over the lifetime of the device, and in fact, extends the lifetime of the device as well.

Self calibration aside, it is the adaptive nature of smart sensors that gives manufacturers the ability to respond to the emerging trend of customised orders. The power of the Internet gives consumers the ability to order products in a variety of colours, finishes and styles, while expecting delivery times comparable to ordering from stock. The only way for manufacturers to respond is by producing in lot sizes of one. To do this efficiently requires them to reconfigure production lines quickly, which places an extra burden on the sensors as they must be able to self-adapt to this environment of continuously changing parameters.

Specialist sensor supplier SICK Automation has taken up the challenge. The company vision is to equip future machines with a generation of sensors that can be automatically parameterised by the machine controller. When the customer order arrives, the machine is configured quickly and without intervention to produce a personalised one-off piece at the cost of a mass produced item. See ‘Smart sensors for smart factories’ for more.

Contactless energy transfer untangles a mess

Non-contact energy transfer enables the supply of energy through an air gap, which eliminates the need for supply cables to the device receiving the power. This type of inductive power transfer, now quite common in rechargeable consumer products like electric toothbrushes, is used in industrial applications to power sensors and automated guided vehicles.

In the AGV application, the big advantage is that those cumbersome drag chain systems, traditionally used to carry the power cables to the vehicle, are no longer necessary. Instead, a powered inductive loop (or series of loops) is installed along the path of the AGV which is equipped with pick-up plates that are energised in the magnetic field. The current generated is then rectified on the vehicle and converted back to an AC voltage of the amplitude and frequency required by the vehicle’s drive motors.

SEW-Eurodrive has perfected such a system under the brand name Movitrans and we feature an interesting local application story in this issue. Sasol Wax has installed a Movitrans system to power the pallet transfer trolleys that transport the wax to the exit conveyors, and ultimately the pallet wrapping machines. Getting rid of the existing messy drag chain system provided many benefits in this situation. See ‘Contactless energy transfer system at Sasol Wax’ for details.

SAIMC expands its horizons

In closure this month, congratulations to the organisers of the SAIMC gala dinner held this time at Montecasino. It was a slickly arranged affair and the dancing afterwards proved the perfect foil to an evening of automation technology and awards. For those of you who could not be there, you can read more about it on ‘SAIMC expands its horizons’.

Steven Meyer

Editor: SA Instrumentation & Control

Supplied By: Technews Publishing
Tel: +27 11 543 5800
Fax: +27 11 787 8052
Share via email     Share via LinkedIn   Print this page

Further reading:

  • From the Editor's desk: HVDC power grids and the world’s largest artificial sun
    November 2017, Technews Publishing, News
    During the nineteenth century, the second industrial revolution saw electricity replace steam as the main source of power in industry. The resulting ‘electrification’ of society changed almost every aspect ...
  • Banner Engineering poised for growth
    November 2017, News
    Banner Engineering will break ground on a research and development building at the company’s global headquarters in Minneapolis, allowing it to create 225 new high-tech jobs and accelerate product development ...
  • Mitsubishi Electric and Bimba Manufacturing to develop electric motion solutions
    November 2017, News
    Mitsubishi Electric Automation and Bimba Manufacturing have announced a collaboration that will combine Mitsubishi Electric’s innovative industrial automation technology with Bimba’s industry-leading ...
  • ABB robot conducts Andrea Bocelli and Lucca Symphony Orchestra
    November 2017, ABB South Africa, News
    YuMi, the world’s first truly collaborative dual-arm robot, made its début at the opera on 12 September by conducting Italian tenor, Andrea Bocelli, and the Lucca Philharmonic Orchestra at the Teatro ...
  • SKF introduces maintenance service packages
    November 2017, SKF South Africa, News
    SKF has created two new service packages that address the rapidly changing needs of customers facing skills shortages, the challenges of global competition and market volatility, and the need to implement ...
  • Official opening of BMG World
    November 2017, Bearing Man Group t/a BMG, News
    BMG marked the official opening of the recently upgraded ‘BMG World’ distribution and engineering facility in Johannesburg, by hosting a two-day expo in September for suppliers, customers, the press and ...
  • Schneider Electric signs Electrilabs as service centre for APC
    November 2017, Schneider Electric South Africa, News
    Schneider Electric South Africa has announced that it has signed Electrilabs as a service centre partner for APC by Schneider Electric, for its single-phase uninterruptible power supplies (UPS). The ...
  • RS Components marks 80 years of business operations
    November 2017, RS Components SA, News
    RS Components recently celebrated 80 years since opening its first business operations in London. Founded as Radiospares, in 1937, the company started as a supplier of parts to the burgeoning radio market, ...
  • SICK Automation relocates to accommodate its expanding footprint
    November 2017, SICK Automation Southern Africa, News
    SICK Automation Southern Africa has relocated and is operating from Lanseria Corporate Estate, number 24 Eagle Lane – effective 4 September 2017. The new premises, five times larger than the original ...
  • GHM Group acquires measuring technology expert Valco
    November 2017, GHM Messtechnik SA, News
    The GHM Group has acquired Valco, an Italian measuring technology producer for level, flow and temperature sensors for machine and process automation. “I am very pleased to welcome Valco to the GHM Group,” ...
  • Rockwell Automation releases Machinery Safebook 5
    November 2017, Rockwell Automation, News
    Rockwell Automation has released the latest version of its popular ‘Machinery Safebook’ publication, a guide to safety-related control systems for machinery. Machinery Safebook 5 expands on previous ...
  • SMC sees early success with pneumatic panel offering
    November 2017, SMC Pneumatics South Africa, News
    In an effort to innovate and provide total engineering solutions while meeting demand, SMC recently expanded its local production offering to include the design and build of electro/pneumatic control ...

Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd
1st Floor, Stabilitas House
265 Kent Ave, Randburg, 2194
South Africa
Publications by Technews
Dataweek Electronics & Communications Technology
Electronic Buyers Guide (EBG)

Hi-Tech Security Solutions
Hi-Tech Security Business Directory

Motion Control in Southern Africa
Motion Control Buyers’ Guide (MCBG)

South African Instrumentation & Control
South African Instrumentation & Control Buyers’ Guide (IBG)
Terms & conditions of use, including privacy policy
PAIA Manual


    classic | mobile

Copyright © Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd. All rights reserved.