Robotics & Automation News

Market trends and business perspectives

Festo says its VTEM automation platform speeds up tyre production

With a global production volume of 1.8 billion car tyres per year, the focus is very much on efficiency and productivity.

This is where the Festo Motion Terminal VTEM comes in: it digitises pneumatics, thereby speeding up processes and reducing costs, for example when transferring the rubber layer to the tyre building machine.

Before the green tyre is produced in the tyre building machine, the incoming rubber plies are imprinted with different patterns so as to prepare the tyre material perfectly for the tyre-building machine.

Small pneumatic cylinders apply the different patterns to the rubber layers via cams. These must be controlled very precisely in a pressure range of 0.05 to 8 bar.

Previously, a proportional valve was used for each individual pressure zone in this application. This design required a lot of installation space and a complex controller.

This process is now simpler and less expensive thanks to the automation platform VTEM because, instead of individual proportional valves, the Festo Motion Terminal requires only half as many valve slices.

With the Festo Motion Terminal, 16 independent pressure zones can be set up. The key here is the digitisation of the pneumatics: the different functions of the VTEM can be set using software apps.

For this particular task in the tyre manufacture process, the Motion App “model-based pressure control” is used.

This compensates for negative influences on the pressure control, such as dead volumes caused by tube lengths, and improves the control precision.

The current pressure can be measured for quality control purposes. The connection via Ethernet-based fieldbus interfaces to controllers of standard manufacturers is a practical feature.

Even the spare parts list is shorter, as just one valve type is required for many different applications. Since one valve slice on the VTEM can control two valve outputs independently of one other, the installation space required is also smaller.

Fast activation of software apps makes it possible to replace over 50 individual components. This is revolutionising pneumatics by increasing flexibility and energy efficiency, and accelerating production processes.

The new type of function integration – combined with software apps – simplifies the entire value chain, since only one piece of hardware is now required.

Machine developers can create a basic machine type and then select the relevant apps to equip it with different functions and features in accordance with customer requirements.

Assigning functions via software has the added benefit of preventing tampering and protecting know-how, since it’s not possible to tell from the outside which functions the valves are executing.

Maintenance is also simplified, as long lists of spare and wearing parts are a thing of the past. Condition monitoring is possible using the integrated pressure sensors on the automation platform.