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To help industrial companies meet the challenges of our time, such as the transformation to Industry 4.0 and CO2-neutral production, Cologne-based motion plastics specialist igus is focusing on three types of intelligence at HANNOVER MESSE 2024: artificial intelligence, plastics intelligence and Cologne intelligence. The exhibits include smart sensor technology for the maintenance of tomorrow and AI-supported low-cost robotics that are designed to be easy to operate. igus will also be presenting an AI-based app that shows design engineers the optimization potential of their application with lubrication-free motion plastics in a matter of seconds.

AI-based app identifies optimization potential in seconds

Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, digital twins - innovative technologies are increasingly revolutionizing the way industrial companies manufacture their products and optimize processes. Artificial intelligence simplifies the work of design engineers right from the selection of suitable components. This will be demonstrated by igus at HANNOVER MESSE 2024 with igusGO. The AI-based app reveals in a matter of seconds how an application can be technically optimized with lubrication-free components from igus. To do this, the designer does not have to pore over catalogs, make phone calls or write emails, but simply take a photo of their application. The app uses AI algorithms to recognize the object and makes suggestions for igus products that increase reliability and reduce costs. In the case of a bucket wheel excavator, for example, this could be heavy-duty bearings made of high-performance plastic.

Joint study by RWTH Aachen University and igus

In this context: A new joint study by scientists from RWTH Aachen University and igus has now quantified for the first time the economic and ecological benefits of lubrication-free polymer bearings. Depending on the application, between 7,000 and 14 million euros could be saved on lubricant purchasing costs per year. At the same time, switching to polymer bearings from igus offers potential CO2 savings. The study participant Heineken Brasil, for example, saves CO2 equivalents of 180 kilograms per year. If all Heineken branches were to switch to polymer bearings, the company could save CO2 equivalents of 28,814 kilograms. A small adjustment screw with a big effect. "The potential for optimization through the use of our motion plastics can be discovered much more easily and quickly with the help of igusGO. We launch numerous innovations on the market every year, 227 in 2023 alone. Our AI app now makes it possible to navigate through our ever-growing product cosmos with maximum efficiency and transparency," says Tobias Vogel, Managing Director Bearings and Linear Technology at igus. More than 580 different applications are already in the app's brain. And there are more every day: from coffee machines and crane systems to airplanes.

Plastics intelligence supports predictive maintenance

The plastics from igus themselves are now also intelligent. On show at HANNOVER MESSE 2024 are igus smart plastics, i.e. energy chain systems, cables, linear guides and plain, articulated and rotary table bearings equipped with intelligent sensors. They not only enable real-time condition monitoring, but can also be connected to various networks and IoT systems and thus integrated into a predictive maintenance concept to avoid expensive production downtime due to unplanned plant shutdowns. With the help of sensors, evaluation modules and software, a dynamic service life calculation can be realized and optimal maintenance times for the products can be defined - which also offers an advantage in terms of sustainability. This is because products are not replaced unnecessarily early, but only when they have reached the end of their product life cycle.

Digital supervisor keeps an eye on everything thanks to AI

But that's not all: igus is continuously developing its smart plastics services to respond to current challenges such as the shortage of skilled workers. The "superwise" digital service, for example, enables companies to keep an eye on their own applications at all times via a central dashboard - and with less manpower than ever before. In this way, the intelligent linking of application, product and sensor data and the optional use of the Internet of Things creates comprehensive "plastics intelligence". The customer automatically receives timely maintenance recommendations, offers, warnings or suggestions for improvement. If companies do not have time to keep an eye on their applications themselves, igus takes on this responsibility. Employees then report proactively when something needs to be done. Michael Blass, Managing Director of e-chain systems at igus: "The superwise service combines the modern sensor technology of smart plastics with an all-round digital service. In times of multiple crises, it is digital innovations like these that are more decisive than ever for the competitiveness of companies. It is important to us that small and medium-sized companies without in-depth expertise and with low budgets can also benefit from trends such as predictive maintenance."

Low-cost robots to conquer companies of all sizes

In addition to all of the above, igus is also presenting innovations in the field of low-cost automation in Hanover. Above all, Cologne intelligence is at work here. All robots at igus are "made in Cologne" - from injection molding and PCB assembly to programming. This also includes the ReBeL Cobot, which is available in the fully equipped plug-and-play version for just 4,970 euros. For users looking for an even more compact solution, igus has developed the ReBeL KID. Visitors to the preview at HANNOVER MESSE 2024 were already able to see an Education AGV, an open source solution and autonomous learning platform consisting of an automated guided vehicle system (AGV) that can be combined with cobots such as the ReBeL or the ReBeL KID. Customers can combine compatible low-cost accessories from more than 100 manufacturers, such as grippers or vision systems, via the RBTX online marketplace using the plug-and-play principle - supported by online tools and 3D models. RBTX is designed to enable companies of all sizes to get started with automation at low cost. Artificial intelligence is also playing an increasingly important role here. AI can help to develop an automation solution more quickly and easily, for example with AI-based simulations. The customer saves the purchase of a robot and the integration effort and can test their application first.

Amazon's Alexa can also control igus robots

igus also offers products with AI-based voice and gesture control. Amazon's Alexa can be connected directly to the igus robots or gesture control can be integrated via ROS 2. This will make it easy to define robot movements in the future. Such AI-supported, intuitive operability combined with a low price should pave the way for low-cost robotics to enter the mass market. igus currently uses AI primarily to monitor robots and integrate vision sensors quickly and easily. However, the robotics team is also researching resilient programming using speech or gestures. Simple robot programming for everyone that is not just limited to the robot, but also implements the entire application. "Interested parties are always surprised at what igus high-performance plastics can achieve - whether in terms of freedom from lubrication, CO2 reduction or automation," emphasizes Tobias Vogel. "By combining our innovative products with digital services and new technologies, we want to show that our lubrication-free motion plastics can improve a wide range of applications and make them more sustainable and Industry 4.0-capable," says Michael Blass.