Current megatrends such as Industrial IoT including Predictive Maintenance or Industry 4.0 and the even more general concept of the digitalization of technology requires an increasing amount of data to be acquired preferably by inexpensive sensor concepts without major changes to future and also existing machinery. In order to foster the digitalization process a series of new sensors is being developed, most of them being designed for special purposes and requiring an adaptation of the system in order to be integrated mechanically and – what is in most cases even more complicated – and into the control system. The question is how to support industry in bringing those machine elements into application. Hence, the industry’s requirements for the next generation of machine elements and their implementation need to be clearly defined. Even the most accurate sensors will not be used if they do not meet the requirements of the user. Therefore, the first analysis deals with the user requirements on machine elements with sensory functions and whether current solutions meet those requirements.
Literature describes different classes of next generation machine elements, out of which the so-called machine elements with sensory effects are in the focus of this presentation. Sensory effects occur in tribological working surface pairs, the effects can be measured on a component level for a series of different machine elements. However, their influence can not be exploited on system level without specific design measures and without a deep understanding of the uncertainties associated to these sensory effects. Hence, the presentation shall shed light on sample machine elements with sensory effects, their system integration and a sensitivity assessment of the uncertainties involved.
One example to be discussed is the sensory usage of standard rolling bearings, where customer requirements on sensory functions are quite well understood since the bearing can provide information on its loading conditions, the viscosity of the lubricant, bearing failures and potentially its remaining useful life. At the same time, the sensory usage must not harm the regular functions and characteristics of the bearing, hence it is important to assess the sensory rolling bearing against commercially available competitor products, most of them requiring additional build space to the attached sensor modules. The rolling bearing also offers a broad variety of disturbances, which are discussed to explain the scientific challenges to be solved. An outlook will be given on other classes of machine elements offering similar effects as a point of future research topic supporting the digitalization process.

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