The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is disrupting the manufacturing industry by eliminating the rigid structure of production facilities and replacing it with flexible, networked production facilities.

What does this mean for machine builders?

Find out in this blog post, where I share my answers to a few questions about how Belden helped German-based machine builder Erhardt + Abt take advantage of the IIoT by creating an intelligent robot system.

Intelligent robot systems can carry out very simple or very complex operations – they can be part of any process performed by a machine.

1. What is an intelligent robot system and how can it be connected to the IIoT?

Intelligent robot systems are automated systems that are equipped with sensors and/or actuators to automatically recognize environmental changes.

They can carry out very simple or very complex operations. Essentially, they can be part of any process performed by a machine.

Intelligent robot systems are a great example of the IIoT in action within manufacturing. These robots can operate autonomously, with no manual interaction from humans needed. And, they don’t have to sit idly waiting to complete the same action over and over. Once they’ve completed one action, they can move on to the next. This can bring essential benefits to the machine building industry.

2. Why was an intelligent robot system the right solution for this machine builder’s end customer?

Machine builder Erhardt + Abt needed to build machines for an end customer in the textile industry. This textile manufacturer needed to enhance the quality, efficiency and flexibility of their production process. To make this possible, they wanted a robot system that could move to any part of the manufacturing plant, or to other locations, without requiring any modifications.

For a robot system like this to run smoothly, many control signals are necessary. The customer needed the appropriate I/O modules (including fieldbus and sensor connections) to develop an intelligent robot system. That’s where Belden came in.

The project’s system integrator,, brought Belden in to build an integrated, flexible and ruggedized industrial connectivity solution for Erhardt + Abt’s textile machinery manufacturer.

Intelligent robot systems are a great example of IIoT in manufacturing in action. These robots can operate autonomously, with no manual interaction from humans needed

3. What are some of the current trends and challenges machine builders face today?

The biggest trend for machine builders right now is the demand for intelligent processes. More and more machine builders are taking advantage of the IIoT and its bringing them huge cost- and time-saving benefits.

Just like with Erhardt + Abt, machine builders’ biggest needs right now include:

  • Help with space limitations. The machine building sector is up against major space constraints. In this example application, a single LioN-R module met the manufacturer’s requirements, including reduced space needs.
  • Increased flexibility and adaptability. Installing intelligent robot systems gives manufacturers the flexibility to decide how to use any combination of input and output channels. Flexibly manufacturing concepts, like this robot cell, make it easier for engineers to fix operation and production problems and adapt to fast-changing operating conditions.
  • Ability to withstand harsh environments. Daily environmental surroundings in manufacturing facilities involve vibrations, dust and other conditions that test the ruggedness of products. This robot cell complies with the IP67 protection class to ensure reliable operation in these conditions.
  • Lower cost. Intelligent robot system applications can help reduce the amount of wiring needed, which lowers a manufacturer’s overall installation and maintenance costs.

New call-to-action4. What kind of products should machine builders look for to help their customers take advantage of the IIoT?

It’s important to remember that if you don’t use the right products to build your intelligent robot system, you may not see the same benefits that other machine builders see.

To operate successfully, a robot system needs a flexible, efficient communications network with the following specifications:

  • Reliable signal acquisition and output with maximum availability. Quick and reliable signal transmission via PROFINET, EtherNet/IP and EtherCAT, even in the face of extreme dust, vibrations and short circuiting is essential.
  • Robust modules. This includes:
    • Zinc die-cast housing should fully encapsulate the robot cell to ensure it is resistant to dust and vibrations.
    • Compliance with IP67 protection class requirements for water resistance, with the ability to work for at least thirty minutes while under 15cm to 1m of water.
    • Ability to withstand a temperature range of -10°C to +60°C.
  • Modules with galvanic isolation and high IP protection class rating. Modules should include galvanic isolation, meaning unwanted current is prohibited from flowing between two units sharing a ground connector.
  • Use of standardized cabling. You’ll need standardized actuator and sensor connecting cables equipped with ready-to-use connectors and with 7/8-inch power supply lines and matching data cables.

Overall, partnerships like this one with and Erhardt + Abt are a great example of the benefits the IIoT is bringing to the machine building industry. If addressed appropriately, the enhanced quality, efficiency and flexibility can enable companies to infuse creative solutions into their production processes and outperform the competition.

To learn more about Belden’s work with and Erhardt + Abt to build an intelligent robot system for a textile machinery manufacturer, you can review the full Application Note.

You can also learn more about enabling applications for the IIoT by downloading our white paper “The Road to Plug-And-Produce,” below.

What trends and challenges are you seeing in machine building? How are you addressing them? I look forward to hearing from you.

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