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Electricity and Control September 2019In this issue of Electricity + Control we look at the new XPlanar drive system from Beckhoff Automation which opens up valuable potential for streamlining production machine and plant design. With planar movers that float freely over floors of planar tiles, the system allows for movers to be positioned precisely, dynamically and with exceptional flexibility. This advanced flexibility makes XPlanar particularly interesting for the food and beverage industry as well as other sectors with additional requirements relating to hygiene, zero emissions or low noise.

Smart condition monitoring can make all the difference in preventing unplanned shutdowns. This is what motivated Muntons – one of the largest malted barley producers in the UK – to install a smart condition monitoring system from Mitsubishi Europe to protect critical components of its production process plant. The system provides advance warning of any problems on the equipment so that maintenance can be scheduled as required. It also enables maintenance efficiencies and fewer shutdown periods, supporting increased uptime and productivity.

With regard to control systems and automation, Omron Industrial Automation offers some pointers to manufacturers considering using artificial intelligence and cloud or edge computing to increase the overall equipment effectiveness in their plants. The essential first step, Omron suggests, is for the manufacturer to identify the problem it needs or wants to solve – then to start collecting and cleaning the relevant data – before even thinking about introducing AI.

Looking at smart sensors Instrotech presents expert insight into the use of ultrasonic sensors in challenging applications to achieve reliable, accurate measurements. Ultrasonic sensors are ideal for measuring the height and level of liquids and solids, the location or size of an object, and for detecting the presence of people or objects.

Energy efficiency and energy management are becoming increasingly critical for industry as electricity supply tariffs continue to escalate, the national utility remains vulnerable, and with the added cost and compliance burden presented by South Africa’s new Carbon Tax Act, effective from 1 June 2019.

Arthur Tassell, Editor of Modern Mining – a sister publication of Electricity + Control – reports on the increasing use of hybrid power solutions, combining solar energy and conventional diesel or HFO gensets, to reduce power costs for mines in Africa.

At a smaller but nonetheless significant scale, the microgrid installed at Siemens South Africa’s headquarters in Midrand just over a year ago is delivering substantial energy savings. The distributed energy system, which integrates a 1 MW PV-solar plant with 140 kWh battery storage, has enabled the company to reduce its monthly energy consumption from the national grid by 50%, on average, with further savings potential identified in plant optimisation and increased use of stored energy. Similar systems could be replicated and adapted to provide cleaner, more reliable and more efficient power to businesses, office parks, manufacturing plants, institutions and even small communities that may not have access to the national grid.

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Leigh Darroll
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