Compressed air energy monitoring, from sensor to the cloud

SICK Pty Ltd
Saturday, 01 April, 2023

Compressed air energy monitoring, from sensor to the cloud

For decades, SICK has been implementing sustainable and energy-saving measures in production, logistics and other energy-relevant areas at all its sites.

One of the most recent examples of this is the FTMg (Flow Thermal Meter for gases), which SICK used as a foundation to design a graduated solution concept for compressed air monitoring.

FTMg: flow measurement in pneumatic systems

The FTMg is a multifunctional flow sensor for non-corrosive gases that also measures temperature and process pressure. Used in pneumatic systems, it measures the consumption of compressed air and outputs it in kWh, and also monitors the process pressure. It can detect additional consumption points caused by leaks in the pneumatic network, thereby preventing unnecessary energy costs thanks to targeted maintenance. The data provided by the sensor can also be used to create measures for reducing energy consumption in accordance with ISO 50001. Some specific examples are start-up and shutdown management of processes and machines, compressor control or peak load management. This means that the sensor can make an important contribution to designing production processes that are not only sustainable and conserve resources, but are also efficient when it comes to energy and costs. This is highlighted by the applications in various SICK plants and projects with its pilot customers.

Intelligent sensor, integration into your system or holistic solution?

The FTMg flow sensor for real-time energy measurement is one of several sensor solutions for pneumatic systems in the SICK product range. This sensor provides a scalable solution for compressed air monitoring with three possible expansion stages: The stand-alone FTMg including web server, one or more FTMg devices with an IIoT gateway, eg, the TDC-E from SICK for data pre-processing and integration into customer-specific MES, cloud or energy management systems, and the Monitoring Box as a complete solution for FTMg flow sensors including monitoring app, dashboard with alarm function, integration, and corresponding software and cloud services. An important aspect here is that the solutions are ‘alive’, meaning SICK is there to provide users with assistance.

Big incentives for taking advantage of energy and compressed air monitoring

In many companies, systematic energy management is increasingly taking centre stage. Companies want to record their energy consumption in a transparent manner so as to reduce their energy costs. Compressed air monitoring is more and more the focus of interest, as compressed air, along with electrical energy, is one of the most frequently used types of energy in industrial settings. And it is definitely one of the most expensive. The objective of monitoring compressed air consumption is ensuring cost-effective and sustainable use of this type of energy through efficient machine operation and the application of flawless pneumatic components.

Another reason for companies to address this issue is ISO 50001: Energy management systems — Requirements with guidance for use. This standard not only helps set up such management systems, but is also the basis for its certification. In turn, this is a prerequisite in Germany for the partial exemption of energy-intensive companies from the EEG surcharge and for the exemption of production companies from electricity and energy tax. It also helps companies obtain subsidies for investment in software and hardware for measurement and control technology as well as sensor technology, among other things, which are implemented due to the establishment or application of an energy or environmental management system.

Diverse interest groups for compressed air monitoring

A wide range of business sectors have an interest in monitoring energy and compressed air. Production engineers, for example, want to compare the compressed air consumption of components and different types of systems. The parties responsible for production are interested in preventing machine failures and downtime with dynamic leak tests during operation as well as in how high possible compressed air consumption is outside production periods. For example, they want to identify peak loads in order to be able to adjust the compressor control. A clear dashboard that they can use to see all flow sensors and their status is also of great value to them.

Maintenance managers are concerned with identifying the main consumers of compressed air, receiving notifications early on when certain limit values are exceeded, finding possible leaks quickly and, of course, planning timely maintenance work on the energy supply. The interests of energy and environmental officers are already clear from their job titles, from monitoring right up to certification of the company in accordance with ISO 50001. Cost calculators and controllers want to have a cost overview of systems, processes, and products that is as detailed as possible so as to be able to calculate manufacturing costs more accurately and stay competitive. And owners, managing directors or Executive Board members naturally always want to be informed about possible potential for savings.

Initial implementations in-house and with pilot customers

The motivation for implementing a systematic energy and compressed air monitoring system is therefore driven by an internal mix of heterogeneous parties. This also applies to the initial systems that SICK has implemented in several of its own plants. At the Freiburg-Hochdorf site, the FTMg monitors the compressed air supply of an automatic assembly plant using a TDC-E device as a gateway. It ensures continuous operation of the system and creates transparency in compressed air consumption and costs. At the Reute plant, FTMg units are used for data acquisition on a CNC machine as well as in a production line for printed circuit boards. Thanks to its multifunctional nature, the sensor is not only suitable for compressed air monitoring — in addition to the current flow rate in the volume and mass flow, it can also measure and provide live values for energy in kWh as well as pressure and temperature, for example for the Monitoring Box. At the company headquarters in Waldkirch, the FTMg, integrated into the plant-wide energy monitoring system by means of the TDC-E IoT gateway, is proving its worth in continuous operation in climate cabinets for safety laser scanners.

The first pilot customers are also taking advantage of the various expansion stages of the compressed air monitoring system with the FTMg. The complete solution with the monitoring app has been met with particular interest, for example at BOCK in Postbauer-Heng, Bavaria. As a manufacturer of high-quality components for office chairs, lounge furniture and the automotive industry, BOCK supplies major brands of these sectors directly or indirectly from its international locations. After a detailed analysis of the requirements and technical consultation from SICK, an energy management system for the compressed air system in a hall was planned, developed, and installed together with BOCK. Additional value comes from the fact that operating costs from compressed air can be evaluated more precisely.

“SICK provided us with a customized solution that covers everything: Standardized hardware, software developed specifically for us, and future-proof and securely encrypted connectivity all the way into the cloud,” reports Christian Bock, Technical Managing Director of Engineering/Processes at BOCK.

Video: FTMg from SICK: Flow sensor with leak detection | SICK AG

To find out more about how the compact plug-and-plan FTMg sensor works, view this video.

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