Automation IIoT Reliability & Maintenance Center SCADA

Get Ready for Pneumatics 4.0

EP Editorial Staff | February 20, 2019

The fourth industrial revolution, known as Industry 4.0, continues to introduce more innovations in HMI/SCADA, asset management, manufacturing execution, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) for many industries.

According to Alan McCay, CFPS, of Motion Industries, Birmingham, AL (, Pneumatics 4.0 represents another wave in smart manufacturing. He points to several improvements in system control and efficiency this wave brings.


Highly accurate sensors and actuators produce data that flows through IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) gateways to a platform layer where software manages and connects data to applications and services. Pneumatic valves and actuators connected to sensors have additional levels of control that reduce energy consumption. Adding sensors to pneumatic systems generates data related to speed, force, air consumption, and cycle time. Technicians can use the data to identify potential component failures or improve the system’s efficiency. For example, a smart pneumatics monitor can analyze sensor signals and generate status information about the number of cycles of a pneumatic control valve, wear status of a pneumatic cylinder, or condition of a shock absorber. This status information, being routed through the smart pneumatics monitor and not the machine PLC, can reduce machine downtime and operation cost.


Integration of programmable logic controllers (PLCs) into pneumatic systems has already improved maintenance and productivity. Rather than use hard-wired mechanical relays for the control of pneumatic systems or cam-operated logic controllers, pneumatic systems, along with PLCs, rely on digital signals for precise control. When compared to electro-mechanical relays, PLCs have fewer hardware failures.

PLCs serve as central processors for manufacturing and deliver real-time control. One PLC can read from many different input types and can work in harsh environments. An operator can program a PLC with complex logic that provides the execution of precise steps. Because PLCs combine programmable memory for storing instructions with a processor that can implement logic, sequencing, counting, and timing, the devices do not require external networks.

Gateways can simultaneously send data to the cloud and PLCs. At one level, PLC data works with the sensor and actuator data to control the manufacturing process. Integrating the data from PLCs and sensors provides the information needed to analyze processes and provide more efficient diagnostics and process control. At another level, sensor data can be used independently of the PLC to provide machine-health data. EP

Quick Reminders

Connecting pneumatic systems to digital technologies such as Ethernet/IP, DeviceNet, or Profibus, allows users to replace individual wiring with serial communication. Some manufacturers have also taken advantage of wireless technology for communication between valve manifolds and wireless sensors.

Advanced diagnostics and predictive maintenance yield energy savings and reduce downtime. Engaging a pneumatic specialist—in-house or a third party—can be the first step toward such savings and push your plant’s efficiency to the next level.

Alan McCay, CFPS, has spent 24 years in various roles supporting Motion Industries’ Fluid Power efforts. For more information, visit, the Mi Fluid Power Shops video, and MiHow2 videos on Fluid Power.


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