Factory automation, or industrial automation, is the connecting up of factory equipment to improve the efficiency and reliability of process control systems. This in turn leads to lower costs, improved quality, increased flexibility and less environmental impact. Semiconductors are a key enabler for Smart Industry applications. With over 5 years of experience in the design and manufacture of products for factory automation and industrial applications, ST can help build the factories of tomorrow with solutions that aid developers in addressing design challenges.

Condition Monitoring and Predictive Maintenance at a glance

Condition-based Monitoring (CbM) and Predictive Maintenance (PM) are two maintenance strategies which aim at optimizing equipment efficiency and reducing service timing and costs during equipment lifecycle.

Condition Monitoring (CM) is the monitoring of several parameters such as equipment vibration and temperature to identify potential issues such as misalignments or bearing failures. Condition monitoring tools can for instance map equipment degradation when a vibration analysis shows a change in the harmonic frequency of rotating equipment components. Frequency analyses can be based both on vibrometer and microphone data.

Continuous Condition Monitoring techniques can be applied on several pieces of equipment such as compressors, pumps, spindles and motors and can also be implemented to identify partial discharge on machine or vacuum leaks. Predictive Maintenance is based on Condition Monitoring, abnormality detection and classification algorithms, and integrates predictive models which can estimate the remaining machine runtime left, according to detected abnormalities. This approach uses a wide range of tools, such as statistical analyses and Machine Learning to predict the state of the equipment.

From Condition Monitoring to Predictive Maintenance: the role of Edge Processing

From designing smart sensor nodes and configuring embedded software running in sensor nodes and the gateway, to developing software to be integrated in the Cloud or company Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, Predictive Maintenance requires a variety of skills and competencies. Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence algorithms can be implemented to ensure technical abnormalities are detected early and equipment uptime is maximized.

Smart sensor nodes are key enablers of predictive analysis. They gather and log pre-processed, secure data to be displayed in visualization tools and used in other processing algorithms. Smart sensor nodes can also process data and detect anomalies by reducing computational latency. For example, smart sensor nodes can detect a small rise or a sudden increase in temperature indicating a probable device issue and future reliability problems.

Gateways are either implemented to collect and process data from several smart sensor nodes or to act as a connectivity bridge to enable secure connection to the cloud using ethernet, Wi-Fi, cellular or LPWAN technologies.

Edge processing combines and distributes processing power among smart sensor nodes and gateways with the aim of sending the right data at the right time to enterprise-level systems where more advanced analyses can be performed. Processing at the Edge can also use Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms to enhance smart sensor node and gateway mission profiles and to broaden the scope of anomaly detection and classification.

ST’s portfolio for Condition Monitoring and Predictive Maintenance in Industry 4.0

Condition Monitoring and Predictive Maintenance are value-added yet challenging applications in Industry 4.0. ST has therefore deployed advanced ICs and an ecosystem of evaluation tools, software, documentation and online dashboards for remote monitoring, which are continuously updated to be in keeping with industrial needs.

Microcontrollers and microprocessors

STM32 Arm® Cortex® M4/M33/M7-based microcontrollers and STM32 Arm® Cortex®-A7® microprocessor series with floating points capabilities can process sensor data at the edge. The STM32Cube.AI toolchain allows users to implement Neural Networks and Machine Learning for a deep learning approach.

Sensors and Inertial Measurements Units (IMU)

ST also offers high-performance, cost-competitive sensors and Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) with a 10-year supply guarantee (longevity program), including accelerometers and ultra-sound analog microphones enabling vibration analysis from simple Pass/Fail monitoring to high-accuracy, frequency-based data analysis. Our portfolio also includes a wide range of environmental sensors for temperature, humidity and pressure sensing and advanced MEMS sensors containing digital functions optimized to run Machine Learning algorithms that allow the data processing to be shared between the IMU and the host processor.

Wired and wireless communication solutions

A range of wired and wireless communication solutions complement our offer: IO-Link-compatible devices for industrial wired connectivity, and a portfolio of wireless technology such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) SoCs and network processors, as well as LPWAN SoCs and transceivers supporting LoRa, Sigfox and license-free ISM and SRD frequency bands.

Predictive Maintenance is a key challenge for the industry and the necessary skills to implement these techniques may not be easy to find or acquire. We have therefore brought together an ecosystem of trusted Authorized Partners to support our customers in the tailored design and implementation of their solution. To find out more, visit our Partner page and our Tools and Software section on st.com.

In today’s world, where manufacturing schedules and resources are often changed on the fly, it is important to ensure optimal planning and flexibility. To help reduce flow times and increase responsiveness, each machine inside a factory, as well as all its sensors and actuators, must be connected in real time to the factory process control and even to the larger supply chain and the cloud.

Real-time communication down to the lowest level of sensors and actuators is then a key enabler of the Industry 4.0 concept.

ST offers a broad range of interface ICs enabling wired connectivity for the most widely adopted standards – including CAN, RS-232, and RS-485 – and fieldbuses including IO-Link – Master and Device. We also provide wireless connectivity solutions for Bluetooth, Sub-GHz, LoRa, NFC, RFID as well as STM32 32-bit microcontrollers providing software support and all the necessary peripherals – including UART, CAN and Ethernet.

Industrial Robots

Robots and manipulators are key to help increase productivity and relieve humans from heavy, repetitive or dangerous tasks. Locally – within a factory – and connected globally, they are the centerpiece of the 4th industrial revolution or Industry 4.0.

An industrial multi-axis manipulator is a complex mechanical, electric and electronic system becoming over the years more and more sophisticated with as many as 18 different electric motors and a large array of sensors and machine-to-machine (M2M) communication means.

Safety first – for the humans interacting with them – followed by reliability and a very long lifetime are the key challenges in designing an industrial robot and thus large use of redundancy mechanisms – either hardware or software – and predictive maintenance strategies must be implemented to ensure productive and cost-effective solutions.

We have a wide range of motor control solutions including discrete Power MOSFETs and IGBTs and intelligent power modules (IPMs), STM32 32-bit microcontrollers, a wide range of MEMS inertial and environmental sensors, power supply and conversion ICs as well as wired and wireless connectivity solutions to help design efficient and reliable manipulators and robotic devices.

Industrial Safety

A safer factory automation environment in terms of human-machine interaction is a key differentiator in the smart industry. Safety infrastructures for machine operators are critical, in particular when they concern electrical equipment, robots and heavy loads.

IEC 61508 (Functional safety of electrical/ electronic/ programmable electronic safety-related systems) is a reference standard for safety in all types of industries. Based on best practices to define a safety lifecycle, this standard is designed to discover and identify both hardware and software design errors in order to determine the impact of failures in terms of functional safety.

To further assess risks, additional standards based on IEC 61508 are in continuous development. This includes IEC 61511 and IEC 62061 regarding the safety of industrial processes and machinery, respectively, as well as the IEC 61800-5-2 standard for electrical-power drive systems.

Considering all the possible errors in low- or medium- complex systems, design reviews, checklists, safety regulations, software integrity, Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) testings and hardware checks are an important factor to ensure security in factories.

To facilitate and accelerate development and certification processes for safety-critical services and functions, ST offers a wide range of hardware and software solutions. This includes a comprehensive set of certified software libraries and documentation for manufacturers to achieve functional safety standard certifications. We developed the X-CUBE-STL design package to meet the IEC 61508 Safety Integrity Level (SIL2 / SIL3) standards with STM32 MCUs.

Industrial Sensors

Industrial sensors are a key part of factory automation and Industry 4.0. Motion, environmental and vibration sensors are used to monitor the health of equipment, from linear or angular positioning, tilt sensing, leveling, shock or fall detection.

Dedicated industrial motion sensors based on micromachined sensing (MEMS) elements are suitable for Industry 4.0 applications with a wide mechanical frequency sensing bandwidth, high reliability, stable measurements and accurate operation up to 105°C.

An industrial sensor system is often powered by a 24V DC source, which is very different from a sensor in a consumer system that is powered by a 3V or 5V source. As a result, industrial sensor systems require additional power management to effectively drive the sensors. These use digital outputs such as IO-Link direct to a microcontroller or even to the wireless transceiver. The analog data output is usually conditioned by an op-amp and linked to the analog-to-digital converter (ADC) in a microcontroller.

This is a simple headline

Programmable logic controllers (PLC) gather and process data from sensors and control actuators. They could be defined as highly integrated industrial computers, with real-time capabilities, an isolated power supply, analog and digital inputs and outputs (I/O), communication interfaces for fieldbus or real-time Ethernet links to connect various sensors and actuators.

Designed to be robust, multi-application and configurable, programmable logic controllers must be well protected against electrostatic discharge (ESD) and electromagnetic interference (EMI). They are often separated into several different modules: the PLC control unit containing the main processing unit and the various modules with the distributed functions and interfaces.

Reliability, long-term availability, safety and security are challenges for any PLC design and we have an extensive offer of STM32 32-bit microcontrollers, EEPROM, protection devices, transceivers for fieldbus and IO-Link connectivity, intelligent power switches and drivers for outputs.

We also help designers of programmable logic controllers with a large ecosystem of hardware and software evaluation and development tools.

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