Smart Pneumatics: Slowing Down End-user Electrification

Published: 28 Sep 2017

The advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) has given rise to the prefix ‘smart’ for a whole variety of consumer products. With IoT also spilling over into the industrial world, the same can be said for industrial components and systems used in production facilities. While pneumatic components have been used in production facilities for a wide variety of applications, they were utilized for their simplicity, reliability, speed, and power, and were not known for being smart. However, with the rise of the Industrial Internet of things (IIoT) and the Industry 4.0 movement, smart pneumatics has assumed greater importance today. For starters, energy efficiency is a hot topic for manufacturers and end users alike, as they strive to reduce energy costs amid a global push to reduce the carbon footprint. To this end, manufacturers have realized that developing smart pneumatic components is necessary, not only to address the current demand for energy-efficient products, but also to remain competitive in the market in the future. While IIoT/Industry 4.0 is still in the nascent stage, it is expected to become more popular over the next 5–10 years, as sensor costs decrease and Ethernet penetration increases. Smart pneumatic products are also effective in slowing down migration toward electric equipment, which is a visible trend in some end-user industries, such as automotive, semiconductors, and packaging. The slower-than-anticipated rate of adoption of IIoT/Industry 4.0 solutions should not deter manufacturers, because demand for smart products could significantly increase in the near future, and not being able to offer smart products could eliminate a manufacturer from the competition altogether. Within the context of the pneumatic equipment market, some products that come under the purview of smart products include pneumatic valves, pneumatic actuators, and pneumatic grippers.

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