Insights from industry

Analogue to Digital Automation, How Does Your Practice Measure Up?

In this interview, AZoSensors talks to Michael Guckees about digitalization, a megatrend in digital automation.

What Is the Current Trend in Industrial Automation?

The biggest trend in industrial automation is making the processes digital. Companies are striving to make their production lines and test-stands smarter and further autonomous. The end goal is to have an automatically controlled machine to reduce human error, improve throughput capabilities, and ultimately quicken the operation.

Companies are Switching to Digital Measurements. Why Are They Doing So and What Are the Benefits?

Digital measurements can provide superior quality of the processes and companies want to take advantage of that. A digital smart factory needs fewer employees and can be much more flexible in terms of variable production items and lot sizes, which increases cost efficiency. The mass customization of products is another megatrend; the number of products in a lot decreases while the number of unique production jobs increases. Economically, this is only feasible with digital production equipment and digital measuring chains. For example, HBM’s industrial amplifiers fulfill the requirements that are needed to implement these processes.

What are the Steps in Transitioning from Analog to Digital?

Firstly, investing in smart sensors. Modern digital sensors deliver more than just the measuring signal. Sensors provide feedback to the control systems and users in addition to controlling the machines. They monitor themselves and the underlying processes to also deliver diagnosis data, this is called “health-monitoring.”

Smart worker illustration

What are the Benefits of Digital Processing?

We can create databases with data from the sensor and the diagnostic function and utilize them for further analyses and system updates. This leads to another megatrend: Big Data! Once sufficient data has been compiled, we can use intelligent algorithms to identify failures in products or in the production machines and tools.

The processing time can be controlled and reduced by doing an in-depth analysis, enabling the user to improve production flows. The aim of predictive maintenance is to minimalize machine downtime by scheduling timely service and maintenance.

Which Industries Utilize Digital Measurements?

Digitalized processes are hugely beneficial to Production plants with sequential processes and machines needing uninterrupted observation.

In condition monitoring for electrical power-generators, structural health monitoring for buildings and bridges, and so on, the processes are executed to run quicker, more precisely, and using less manual labor. Highly technically qualified workers are becoming increasingly rare, so machines must become more intelligent and automated to make up for the shortage in man-hours.

Why Do Some Companies Still Use Analog Measurements?

Some businesses still use analog measurements because they are familiar with it. Technicians are skilled in handling analog voltage or current signals and it is easy to integrate. Fieldbuses and digital signals and are trickier to get to grips with at first; to do software-coding for digital plc-controlled production and test-machines operators require training.

Consequently, the initial phase towards going digital appears to be an obstacle, but after seeing the advantages digitalization gives (from minimizing cables and IO-hardware to health monitoring), there is only one solution.

Some companies have implemented digital processes but still use a few analog signals to monitor pertinent machine information, which is a good balance.

How Has HBM Enhanced Measurement Technology?

They manufacture digital sensors and gauging electronics with integrated smart functions for Industry 4.0 applications. HBM’s precise sensors send accurate diagnosis data and present the control systems with information about the health status of the machine. The machine systems will react depending on the collected data.

These “smart functions” can do pre-calculations of the measurement and diagnosis and send it to the machine control and process-data server. This eases the machine control so it can use its maximum processing power to run the plant instead. It also makes the process safer.

Do You Currently Provide Anything that is Already Going in that Direction?

Our portfolio has expanded in industrial force, strain, and torque-sensors additionally in industrial amplifiers that give precise, smart functions, and modern real-time interfaces.

HBM’s highlight is ClipX, it is the latest industrial signal conditioner, offering an exceptional accuracy class of 0,01 as well as modern interfaces and a web interface that additionally gives remote access and control.

We are investing in smaller and more cost-effective sensor and amplifier designs and we will continue to develop measurement technologies with smarter sensors and amplifiers. By decreasing the analog components, the amplifier systems will gradually become further digitalized. HBM are also spending more time and effort in applying intelligent algorithms to make the regulating of parameters for the end user more straightforward.


Do HBM Offer Any Other Services to Help Customers Switch to Digital Measuring?

We have a highly knowledgeable customer service department. HBM offers services on-site; for example, the installation and setup of measurement chains. The development of customized sensors and software for field applications is an additional benefit HBM offer. These systems range from single measurement chains to bigger measurement systems with over 10,000 channels.

Which Areas of Research are HBM Exploring to Further Advance Their Measurement Technology?

We see the future in cloud-based solutions. This means that HBM offers the measurement chain and the data-server for custom-made measurement solutions that span the whole measurement process.

Michael Guckes

About Michael Guckes

Michael Guckes is a product manager at HBM for their industrial amplifiers and software solutions. He graduated as an engineer and has 20 years of experience in factory automation of which 14 years have been with HBM.

This information has been sourced, reviewed, and adapted from materials provided by Hottinger Baldwin Messtechnik GmbH (HBM).

For more information on this source, please visit Hottinger Baldwin Messtechnik GmbH (HBM).

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.


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