With Industry 4.0 fully underway, many companies are scaling up deployments of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), 5G connectivity, sensors, and robotics. It’s with good reason. According to a 2020 Deloitte study, organizations with comprehensive Industry 4.0 strategies significantly outperform their peers with no or disjointed strategies.
Approximately 90% of surveyed organizations with comprehensive Industry 4.0 strategies generated at least 5% annual revenue growth in the most recent year.
Analysts at Mckinsey & Company say it is not uncommon to see 30-50% reductions in machine downtime, 10-30% increases in throughput, 15-30% improvements in labor productivity, and 85% more accurate forecasting with digitally enabled factories.
The limitations of cords and batteries
Many of today’s Industry 4.0 technologies are characterized by complex, expensive, limiting, and sometimes hazardous cabling and connector solutions. For example, Cobots and autonomous mobile robots and vehicles (AMRs & AMVs) are typically powered by high-efficiency batteries or route wires and power cords.
More than 60 percent of industrial IoT (IIoT) setup costs are spent on cabling and installation. Recharge or replacing batteries consistently can quickly raise opportunity costs as well. A device that loses power can cause a chain reaction that impacts productivity for the entire plant. Not to mention, identifying and replacing dead batteries in a manufacturing facility is a logistical nightmare.
There’s also the matter of safety, as damaged lithium-ion batteries pose a considerable fire risk. Damage can occur immediately or over a period of time from physical impact, exposure to certain temperatures, and improper charging.
Unfortunately, the alternative is not much better: wires and exposed sockets are also especially hazardous in industrial environments. Moreover, Industry 4.0 technologies are, by definition, meant to be connected and share data. Therefore, they require adequate power and must be capable of quickly and seamlessly transferring data at all times.
Batteries simply do not provide this capability. It does not make sense to have a battery-operated device tethered to a cable to allow for around-the-clock data transfer.
Automation demands wireless freedom
With the influx of factory automation in recent decades, having a bunch of machines that require considerable amounts of power and data transfer poses a significant problem. Fortunately, wireless power has evolved with magnetic induction to be capable of both contactless power and data transfer, which is ideal for Industry 4.0 technologies that demand autonomy and reliability.
Industrial robots and drones should be able to complete their task autonomously and recharge quickly by themselves. Advanced wireless charging technology drastically simplifies the docking process by allowing for high misalignment so that robots can simply roll up to a wireless charging mat and juice up.
In addition, wireless chargers take up minimal space in a factory environment, enabling robots to even charge “on the go” during different stationary points in their operation, such as loading, queuing, etc. This innovation eliminates the need for human interference, which means staff can stay focused on higher priority tasks or highly complex and costly contact-based charging stations.
Battery Management & Device Safety
Wireless power can further drive efficiencies by enabling greater control over the battery. Battery charging processes can be optimized and monitored to ensure each device is charged at optimum conditions, including voltage, current, and duration.
This prolongs battery life and helps avoid costly replacements. In addition, with wireless charging, robotics users never have to worry about interruptions to their operations due to robots not properly charging or parts failing, so they can achieve better productivity gains without incurring unexpected costs.
Wireless power is also safer because it eliminates pogo pins and other components associated with conventional galvanized connections, which are prone to electrical sparks, corrosion, and other hazards that can cause fires. In addition, many industrial use cases involve dynamic or outdoor environments exposed to water, mud, dust, and chemicals.
Wireless charging technology is now incredibly powerful and capable of working even in the most adverse conditions.
Quickly, Cost-effectively enhancing 5G connectivity
Underpinning smart factories is 5G. This next-generation mobile communications standard offers higher reliability, greater security controls, and reduced latency. All these features are essential for IoT technologies to effectively communicate with each other and act on critical information being generated across the facility.
In addition, 5G services should provide reliable data and power transfer across all kinds of terrains and environments, yet interference due to windows, walls, and other surfaces often restricts or delays 5G deployment.
Instead of spending time and money drilling through building surfaces or running miles of electric cabling, organizations can self-install 5G repeaters with wireless power to increase the effectiveness and reliability of 5G network coverage across the facility.
Wireless power technology has advanced to achieve much higher power levels and can self-calibrate over distance to adapt to different thicknesses of walls, windows, and other surfaces, including non-metallic mediums and highly metallic environments. The same goes for installing smart security cameras, thermostats, or sensors.
These need to be installed on the exterior side of doors, windows, and walls while receiving power from the inside. Wireless power enables organizations to overcome construction limitations or volatile environmental factors to quickly and cost-effectively install connected devices.
Go forth and manufacture with maximum ROI
Adopting Industry 4.0 strategies and technologies is critical for manufacturers to remain competitive and resilient in today’s global economy. Batteries, power cables, and WiFi simply won’t be enough to support the explosion of data and connected devices ushered in by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Therefore, if organizations want to reap the full benefits of their Industry 4.0 investments, advanced wireless power technology is a must.
Fortunately, the wireless power industry has been maturing and increasing penetration with industrial applications, helping to grow the wireless power market to over $180 billion by 2030 with a CAGR of 30%. Now more than ever, wireless power and charging solutions are the key enablers for the successful implementation of Industry 4.0 strategies and the factories of the future.
Image Credit: Oleksandr Pidvalnyi; Pexels; Thank you!