Transformation of industry

©, © Pilz GmbH & Co. KG, Ostfildern

Everyone is talking about sus­tain­ability. Together with digi­ti­sa­tion, the two are cur­rently leading to an exten­sive trans­for­ma­tion of industry. Safe automa­tion plays a key role in ensuring that this is suc­cessful.

Respon­sible use of resources has been on the agenda of a number of indus­tries and com­pa­nies for years. This results not only from the legal require­ments and guide­lines on a national and Euro­pean level that impose exten­sive reporting oblig­a­tions, but also from the require­ments that result from increased envi­ron­mental aware­ness on the part of cus­tomers and busi­ness part­ners. At the same time, digi­ti­sa­tion and net­working in industry are increas­ingly real­ising their poten­tial and also receiving an addi­tional boost from Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence.

Crises such as the coro­n­avirus pan­demic or com­po­nent short­ages, as well as polit­ical crises and the recent wars, have addi­tion­ally accel­er­ated the ongoing changes in digi­ti­sa­tion and sus­tain­ability. Industry is under­going a process of major trans­for­ma­tion. Cer­tain indus­tries are affected more strongly by this change than others because they will play a key role in tack­ling the tasks ahead.

Key hydrogen industry needs safety

Hydrogen has a high energy den­sity and is thus con­sid­ered the energy car­rier of the future. Green hydrogen is gen­er­ated by split­ting water mol­e­cules into hydrogen and oxygen using elec­tric cur­rents that are gen­er­ated using renew­able energy. With this boom, the require­ments for func­tional safety and Indus­trial Secu­rity are also increasing.

Because hydrogen – like all fuels – har­bours poten­tial haz­ards. That is why safe automa­tion plays a key role there. © / Pilz GmbH & Co. KG, Ost­fildern

Safe pro­duc­tion, han­dling and use require suit­able safety sys­tems. © / Pilz GmbH & Co. KG, Ost­fildern

Because hydrogen – like all fuels – har­bours poten­tial haz­ards. It is easily inflam­mable and highly explo­sive, even if just a small amount mixes with air – igni­tion is pos­sible with an air con­tent of only four per­cent. It is there­fore impor­tant that air and hydrogen are not allowed to meet and that the risk of igni­tion due to sparks or heat is pre­vented. Safe pro­duc­tion, han­dling and use require suit­able safety sys­tems.

Think of safety as a function

Safety-related con­sid­er­a­tions in the hydrogen industry focus on aspects such as gas tight­ness and robust­ness of shut-off devices or the pres­sure resis­tance and tight­ness of pipes, sen­sors or valves. Accord­ingly, the classic solu­tions to safety tasks fre­quently involve mate­rial prop­er­ties and mechan­ical solu­tions: The more robust the shut-off valves are, for example, the safer they are to use. Ulti­mately, the highest process pres­sures are required for hydrogen fuelling of vehi­cles or trains, in some cases up to 700 bar.

“There are advan­tages to not lim­iting safety solely to a static status check. Tested and avail­able safety prin­ci­ples from the automa­tion industry and func­tional safety can also be applied to the hydrogen industry. The solu­tions help to always con­sider safety as an inte­gral func­tion of the plant, machinery and the cor­re­la­tions in the process,” explains Armin Glaser, Vice Pres­i­dent Strategy and Coop­er­a­tion at Pilz.

Safe automa­tion solu­tions can thus take on addi­tional tasks in addi­tion to the classic safety func­tions, such as dynamic pres­sure and tem­per­a­ture mon­i­toring or safe adher­ence to the load limits of down­stream struc­tures. Error states are detected in the mil­lisecond range and lead to a defined safety response. Automa­tion also guar­an­tees safe data exchange and the visu­al­i­sa­tion of oper­ating con­di­tions and diag­nostic mes­sages, where applic­able. A modern con­trol system, com­prising hard­ware, firmware and the engi­neering tool, can supply all status and diag­nostic data that is dis­played and can be eval­u­ated via field­buses or indus­trial Eth­ernet for other devices, locally or remotely.

“Pilz is making progress toward inte­grating the knowl­edge gained over years regarding appli­ca­tions and solu­tions for func­tional safety in other indus­tries as well – vir­tu­ally a know-how transfer.”

Armin Glaser, Vice Pres­i­dent Strategy and Coop­er­a­tion

Thanks to this capa­bility and the diag­nostic options, the automa­tion system PSS 4000 and the safe con­fig­urable small con­troller PNOZ­multi 2 are cur­rently the pre­ferred solu­tion of end users like Arcelor­Mittal in Bel­gium in the related area of burner man­age­ment or of machine man­u­fac­turers like Bühler Haas in Aus­tria. And in France, the automa­tion system PSS 4000 from Pilz is already guar­an­teeing safety when releasing hydrogen at public filling sta­tions.

“Pilz is making progress toward inte­grating the knowl­edge gained over years regarding appli­ca­tions and solu­tions for func­tional safety in other indus­tries as well – vir­tu­ally a know-how transfer,” says Armin Glaser with an eye on the future.

Know-how for battery production

Elec­tro­mo­bility is part of the future. Man­u­fac­turing of bat­teries for elec­tric cars is cur­rently dom­i­nated by Asian man­u­fac­turers. According to expert esti­mates, 90 per­cent of machines for bat­tery pro­duc­tion come from the Asia-Pacific region.

“Even though other require­ments or legal spec­i­fi­ca­tions apply in Asia with regard to safety: If the machinery required for bat­tery pro­duc­tion is to be used at Euro­pean man­u­fac­turing sites, for example, then CE marking is required,” explains Jimmy Han, who sup­ports a variety of machine builders and bat­tery pro­ducers in Asia on behalf of Pilz when it comes to the topic of safe automa­tion.

Pilz sup­ports numerous machine man­u­fac­turers and bat­tery pro­ducers in the field of safe automa­tion in bat­tery pro­duc­tion. ©, © Pilz GmbH & Co. KG, Ost­fildern

In other words, func­tional safety is manda­tory. Pilz sup­ports machine builders and oper­a­tors around the world with safety tech­nology for their plant and machinery. Added to this are exten­sive con­sulting and training ser­vices, so that the local machine builders can place their plants on the global market.

Digitisation requires Industrial Security

In addi­tion to classic safety, Han is also noticing an increased interest in Indus­trial Secu­rity: The new man­u­fac­turing sites are highly net­worked and digi­tised. Pro­tec­tion against manip­u­la­tion thus plays an impor­tant role here. “To pre­vent manip­u­la­tion, the oper­a­tors wish to be able to pre­cisely con­trol who has access to the plants,” clar­i­fies Jimmy Han. “Our Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and Access Man­age­ment (I.A.M.) offers Safety and Secu­rity in one system. From user authen­ti­ca­tion to oper­ating mode selec­tion, data and net­work secu­rity to access man­age­ment.” I.A.M. solu­tions from Pilz are already in use in fac­to­ries in Asia and Europe.

Digital railway

In addi­tion to e‑mobility, public trans­port of pas­sen­gers is the second pillar of the tar­geted mobility turn­around. Digi­ti­sa­tion and automa­tion of sig­nalling tech­nology is a basic require­ment for the nec­es­sary capacity increase of the rail infra­struc­ture. “Thanks to open inter­faces and com­mer­cial off-the-shelf solu­tions – meaning stan­dard­ised prod­ucts – Pilz can help to break up pre­vi­ously pro­pri­etary appli­ca­tions,” empha­sises Sebas­tian Lüke, Head of Busi­ness Unit Rail at Pilz.

Safe automa­tion solu­tions from industry also make an impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion on and off the rails. © Paul-Friedrich Thiel/[EyeEm] via Getty Images, ©, © Pilz GmbH & Co. KG, Ost­fildern

The inde­pen­dent Pilz busi­ness unit was founded in 2022 and focuses on the expan­sion of port­fo­lios and appli­ca­tion engi­neering spe­cially tai­lored to the railway. Pilz is already working closely with oper­a­tors, uni­ver­si­ties and other research part­ners, within the Euro­pean research project EULYNX, among others. The inten­tion is to develop and pro­vide uni­form industry stan­dards for new mod­ular inter­locking tech­nology. Major projects, such as the digi­ti­sa­tion of the com­mu­ni­ca­tion infra­struc­ture in Sweden, demon­strate the con­tri­bu­tion that safe automa­tion solu­tions from industry can make on and next to the rails, as well.

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