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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

Bench Talk


Bench Talk for Design Engineers | The Official Blog of Mouser Electronics

Perpetual Motion Machines: How the Industrial IoT Can Drive Greater Efficiency in Manufacturing Mark Patrick

What would happen if perpetual motion was a reality? Could it slash our need for energy and hence cut the cost of everyday products and services? More likely is that it would cause the collapse of global commerce. Given this possibility, it’s probably best that perpetual motion remains confined to the pages of sci-fi books.

While there have been many attempts to create perpetual motion machines, if the machine is to be of practical use, there’s a significant obstacle to overcome for anyone designing and building one: As well as keeping itself going perpetually, the machine would need enough energy spare to perform other tasks.

In other words, a perpetual motion machine would have to be capable of over-producing energy by at least 10 percent. Put that way, it’s clear why such machines don’t exist, although that hasn’t stopped people from trying to invent them! But even if any of these machines were genuinely capable of perpetual motion, there’s the added complication that trying to extract usable energy would be challenging and probably cause the motion to stall.

Making Industry More Efficient

So while truly perpetual motion may still be a pipe dream, the notion of making industrial machines more efficient is very much a reality. These are primarily driven by environmental concerns, such as the need to reduce CO2 emissions. The Carbon Trust has released a range of case studies and reports, including one that claimed the energy used by the UK’s microelectronics industry totals 1,300GWh per year. Another suggests that the industry of refurbishing end-of-life components for re-use could be worth up to £5bn.

Environmental awareness is a key focus area for The International Energy Agency (IEA). In association with the Institute for Industrial Productivity (IIP), the IEA has put together a policy pathway for energy management programmes in industry. The IIP also keeps a record of technologies and management systems that industry can use to be more energy-efficient.

These initiatives are looking long-term and at the big picture, covering all industries. But individual manufacturers—however big their operations are—can do things on a local scale to operate more efficiently.

How Manufacturers Can Improve Efficiency

This idea of finding better ways of doing things has been the foundation of industrial improvement for centuries, although today’s innovators have access to far more information to support their work than their predecessors ever did. Modern manufacturing creates vast amounts of data, much of which, until recently, would not have been feasible to collect or considered to be of minimal value.

However, the advent of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) means this data can be used to improve processes, such as the way we operate machines, plan maintenance, identify the causes of problems and pinpoint supply chain weaknesses.

The IIoT: Making it happen

To collect this data, we need sensors, including for pressure, temperature, moisture and flow. You can now even get accurate 9-axis motion sensors that are small enough to be used almost anywhere. These sensors form the so-called “nodes” in the IIoT, connected to small and powerful microcontrollers (MCUs). These will use a variety of communications infrastructure—typically wireless technologies such as Bluetooth, ZigBee, or Wi-Fi—to send the data to cloud-based services for analysis. This is where the IIoT feeds into the world of Big Data, where disparate information gets analysed in search of patterns, trends, and links. The outcomes of this can help improve industrial efficiency.

For manufacturers wanting to benefit from the IIoT, a good place to begin is to assess how to implement wireless connectivity around your production lines. Working with a Software as a Service (SaaS) provider that offers cloud-based data-analysis tools will help you understand what data to collect. Next, explore how you can add the appropriate sensors: Many manufacturers offer evaluation and development kits, which you can use to try out the various sensor and communication technologies that make up the IIoT.

Start Achieving Real Industrial Efficiencies

So while perpetual motion may never be achievable, real efficiencies in manufacturing are thanks to the power of the IIoT. And with a variety of technology options available to test, develop and roll out, now is the ideal moment to begin your IIoT journey.

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Part of Mouser's EMEA team in Europe, Mark joined Mouser Electronics in July 2014 having previously held senior marketing roles at RS Components. Prior to RS, Mark spent 8 years at Texas Instruments in Applications Support and Technical Sales roles and holds a first class Honours Degree in Electronic Engineering from Coventry University.

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