How wireless sensors boost the performance of production machines

Production machines are subject to more demanding conditions than ever before, including zero-defect production requirements and the constant need for higher throughput. Fortunately, wireless sensors in machines can help increasing production and reducing faults.

Wireless more cost-effective than wired?

In order to meet high production standards, production machines require the continuous monitoring of their condition and performance. Maintenance and tuning needs are determined in view of a reliable and cost-effective production.

Integrating sensors in machines for monitoring purposes can become quite costly or even unfeasible when done in the conventional wired way. This is especially the case when machine components to be monitored are in motion, in a confined space or just difficult to reach (for instance when sensors need to be retrofitted to operational machinery). The same goes for connected components that are far apart in large or distributed machines.

In each of these cases a wireless sensor solution may well be more cost-effective, when taking into account installation costs. Nonetheless, machine builders may still question the need for wireless power supply and reliable wireless communication.

Dealing with energy autonomy

With wireless sensors comes the need for wireless power supply. If batteries would not be able to meet the requirements, various energy harvesting technologies could come into play. A new filling yarn detector for an air jet weaving machine developed by Flanders Make, the Holst Centre/IMEC and Picanol (see figure), for instance, relies on an energy harvester that generates electricity using the vibrations of the weaving machine. To keep the power consumption as low as possible, state-of-the-art low power electronics were used for the sensor node.


An air jet weaving machine (left), and the built invibrational energy harvesting unit (right)

Dealing with reliable wireless communication

When selecting the right wireless technology, one should consider many different aspects of the application. One of them is how time critical the communication is and which communication latency is allowed. Another one is the range that needs to be covered and which interference is expected in the industrial environment. A large part of the energy consumption may be due to the wireless communication so this needs to be dealt with in the power design of the sensor. In the filling yarn detector, for instance, an auto-sleep function has been implemented such that data is only transmitted to the base station at the moment a filling yarn is being detected.

Learn more about wireless technologies at our masterclass
Interested in learning more about the filling yarn detector and other wireless sensor solutions or about how wireless technology can improve the performance of your product, machine or process? Don’t miss out on our Mechatronics 4.0 masterclass 'Wireless IoT solutions in industrial applications', organized by Sirris, iMinds and Flanders Make. Register here for the event!