Bosch Rexroth makes hydraulic systems fit for Industry 4.0

Dr. Steffen Haack, Member of the Executive Board responsible for the Business Unit Industrial Applications and Coordination Sales of the Bosch Rexroth AG

Even in Industry 4.0 environments, many applications will require high power density, robustness, and a distributed design. Will engineers still be able to take advantage of the benefits of hydraulics in the future?

"Preconceived notions tend to stick around, even if reality has long disproved them. One of these preconceived notions is that hydraulic systems do not fit into modern machine concepts because they are not intelligent. The false conclusion resulting from this assumption: Hydraulics have no place in Industry 4.0. The truth, however, is that, on the contrary, hydraulic systems are already well on their way into the future. They are inherently powerful, and the combination of hydraulics actuators with integrated digital control electronics, which allows for functions to be shifted to the software, makes them smart. Therefore, the hydraulic standard functions are predefined in Rexroth controls, drives and power units. All the user still has to do is define the parameters. The software and intelligent control algorithms developed specifically for hydraulics requirements automatically equalize the non-linearities inherent in fluid technology.

The best example is our Sytronix series. Here, software combines the best from electrical and hydraulic systems. This means that operations previously performed largely by valve controls made of steel and iron are now handled by decentralized intelligence in the electronic control device. It adjusts the rotational speed of the pump drive on demand as the consumer requires power, or it lowers it to almost zero. In many processes, this translates into significant energy savings. As a result, hydraulic systems use up to 80 percent less energy compared to systems operating at a constant speed. In a second step, best-in-class controllers replace valves previously required for motion control. The electric drive positions the hydraulic cylinder solely out of the pump drive's rotational speed. We are talking about hydraulic transmission units here that basically do the same thing as an electromechanical linear drive. They convert the rotational movement of electric drives into a linear movement, but with all of the advantages associated with hydraulics.

This becomes especially evident in the next development step: stand-alone linear axes. These are ready-to-install cylinder assemblies with their own highly integrated fluid loop. The machines therefore no longer require a central hydraulic power unit to drive these axes. The stand-alone axes are plugged in like electric drives, requiring only a power cable as well as a data connection to the machine's control unit. The software tools used to start the machine up are the same as for electric drives. The operator doesn't even need any in-depth knowledge of hydraulics because all he does is parametrize the preprogrammed functions for the machine's requirements.

Decentralized intelligence and open interfaces are decisive conditions for sustainable automation solutions independent from drive physics. In electrics and hydraulics, Rexroth therefore focuses on Multi-Ethernet interfaces that support all common protocols. Modern hydraulics by Rexroth is thus ready for the ideal horizontal and vertical integration and today already fulfills the requirements for automation solutions of the future.”

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