Electric actuators enhancing IIoT applications

As the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) gains momentum, the enhanced internetworking of physical devices is yielding cyber-physical systems with improved process state visualization, higher-level modelling and simulation capabilities, improved process control, and higher efficiency.

Electric valve actuators play a key role in these systems: On the one hand, they make remote process operation possible by opening and closing valves. On the other hand, powerful electronics allow electric actuators to act as information hubs for both process-related data, for example valve position feedback, and actuator-related data, based on advanced self-diagnostics. For instance, intelligent algorithms monitor actuator characteristics to indicate when maintenance should be carried out. Asset management based on device-specific data boosts plant reliability and reduces unexpected downtime.

While AUMA actuators can be embedded into cyber-physical systems using, for example, 4–20 mA signals or conventional fieldbus, advanced Industrial Ethernet-based communication standards are especially suitable. AUMA currently supports the Industrial Ethernet standard Modbus TCP/IP and Profinet.

AUMA actuators with Profinet interface provide an unprecedented connectivity and are real-time capable. Wherever they are located, even in the most remote locations, they can be easily integrated into Internet networks, using either existing Ethernet cabling or wireless LAN, without needing extra gateways. All information is directly available on the IT network and can be used for process visualization, statistics, advanced modelling, or simulation to improve process performance. AUMA actuators are fully Profinet V2.3 compatible, with device descriptions (GSD files) available.

As an application example, several hundred AUMA actuators have been successfully integrated into a real-time sewer network control system for the city of Vienna, Austria. After heavy rain, the scheme has cut combined sewer overflow by more than 50% and so reduces water pollution. Online rainfall forecasting and real-time simulation help to optimize capacity management of holdup reservoirs spread across the 220 km2 of Vienna’s catchment area.

The intelligent AUMA actuators provide status information on which shut-off and control valves are open and which are closed. Following the results of the real-time simulation model, the actuators are centrally controlled to optimize the combined sewer flow.

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