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One example of the industry’s dilemma is new drive concepts in the automotive industry. “Automotive developers are increasingly focusing on 48 V on-board power supply systems, as they can be used to operate the increasing number of electrical consumers while reducing cable cross-sections, component dimensions and weight,” explains Bechem , one of the project partners. Purely electrically operated vehicles use voltages of 400 V and more. Electric drives in the high-voltage range nevertheless generate considerably stronger alternating fields than do conventional vehicles. “The power controllers that control motor power can give rise to ‘parasitic’ stray currents,” adds Bechem. This can result in discharge craters, punctiform welds, melt marks or burning grease. In short: there is a risk of failures and material damage.

A new lubricant concept based on conductive additives is expected to help. It is hoped that the project with the slightly cumbersome name “Increasing production efficiency through online measurement of electrical properties of conductive lubricants” will result in findings specifically for Industry 4.0. For this purpose, a roller bearing is fitted with a sensor system that can, among other things, measure the conductivity of the greases used, their temperature and lubricant wear during the ongoing production process. The idea is to facilitate real-time monitoring to increase production efficiency. The project is being funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

By the way: according to its own data, the world’s most modern grease factory is also located in Germany. The Mönchengladbach-based SME Rhenus Lub has invested a total of around two million euros to make the factory fit for Industry 4.0. This was used to digitize the entire production system, including bottling.