The presence of electronic and electromechanical components in machinery, and therefore in industrial processes, has been rising for some time now in manifold sectors and its growth goes on hand in hand with 4.0 systems. To comply with the trend, it is necessary to create a new generation of skilled professionals
Not only transports: the manufacturing industry in general is concerned by the increasingly massive presence of motors and drives that exploit electric energy instead of the more conventional hydraulic and pneumatic systems.
Besides, it is common opinion that the higher electrification of manufacturing activities or of the building sector might lead – as calculated by Bloomberg NEF in a recent report – to the 60% decrease of greenhouse-effect gases by the half of the century.
Certainly, as highlighted by Enel and Turin Polytechnics in a research presented last December, the secret resides in the will and capability of the various stakeholders of giving birth to an integrated strategy.
What, in other words, the energy provider and the University identify with the expression, the triangle of electricity, at whose vertices we can find renewables, electrification of final consumptions and efficiency of digitalized networks.
Expectations are high: the study estimates that within the next biennium the above-mentioned renewables can represent almost half of total provisioning sources (48%) while from now to 2050 the consumption electrification should reach percentages by 42, 41 and 53% respectively in the ambits of general industry, mobility and residential.
Irrespective of the future possible scenarios, the irremissible matter is that skills are needed to manage them.
And they are not the manifold innovative skills that have been a topical theme since the dawn of Industry 4.0.
The dear old electrotechnics is instead at stake, implemented and refined by a degree in electronic engineering that is in itself synonym of certain employment.
This is the belief – and we will see it hereunder – of the secretary of ANIE Automation and ANIE Energy Marco Vecchio, who however started from other reflections for his interview with Electric Motor Engineering.
Different requirements in the various sectors
«We monitor», Vecchio stated, «the electrification process in mechanics and mechatronics, that is to say how products of this kind converge then into chains like machine manufacturing.
It is an indicator of the trends that enliven the transition from hydraulics to electrical-electromechanical.
From 2013 to 2019, the percentage of electromechanical and electronic components increased by 7% yearly versus the value of machines themselves, also due to the contribution of drives and motors.
For some applications, electromechanics assures more efficiency than hydraulics but this does not mean it is the absolute best option.
It depends on application sectors and fields. In the future, electro-hydraulics grants more energy efficiency and durability, as well as controllability inside a supply chain.
However, it is more correct to say that if in some cases electromechanics is winning, hydraulics and hydraulics-pneumatics is the winner elsewhere».
For instance, «where remarkable performances are imposed – I think of machinery and packaging with their requisites of motion control that mandatorily need a significant contribution by electronics» then «we can affirm the automation injection has quintupled in the around last ten years».
On the contrary, traditional mechanics is still the privileged choice for more basic operations and fields, such as woodworking and textile.
Concerning environmental impacts and consumptions, Marco opportunely preferred making some distinctions.
«There is efficiency enhancement, he pointed out, «and this implies a lower energy demand, although basically electric motors have some of the highest consumptions, no matter what their application field is, from white goods to automotive».
A matter of class
Their subdivision into categories by requirements, the assignment of a precise energy class also to drives and inverters, is one of the aspects at which associations like ANIE have worked in collaboration with institutions. This has resulted in a regulation on eco-drives that will come into force since next July (2021/341).
«In cascade», the number one of ANIE Automation and ANIE Energy added, «we expect regulations about pumps and other parts and on their efficiency, to be read according to a vision of systemic approach and not just for the single component».
Regarding renewables and the European New Green Deal, Vecchio is cautious: «What is contained in the national recovery and resiliency Plan about the green source theme is important.
Nevertheless, the problem is that to concretize the goal of the national Climate-energy Plan, the installation of renewables should increase by six times yearly from now onwards.
We unceasingly dialogue with institutions also in this field, in the attempt of overcoming the hindrances of the well-known NIMBY effect».
The shift to green in its turn needs competences. Therefore, developing them becomes fundamental for the Country system, as well as for the players engaged in various capacities in the energy sector.
An investigation about employment carried out in 2020 revealed that among the 121 students who in 2018 graduated in Electric Engineering at Milan Polytechnics the employment rate was by 96% one year after the degree; in 90% of cases within six months and prevailingly (70%) with permanent contracts.
Commenting the statistics, Vecchio had specified that «electrotechnics should be among the primary choices for a young graduate who approaches University», while «data coming from Italian Universities and associated companies highlight that finding human resources on the market with these skills is instead very difficult».
After some time, the opinion has not changed.
«We are dealing with an important energy and industrial evolution», Vecchio stated, «and we need professionals who can manage it. Digital is strategic and very topical; the so-called soft skills are essential, but if it is true that complexities rise, it is as true that we need people who can face all-round complexities and be problem solving. New professionalisms are precious, provided that we do not forget the tradition of electrotechnics, which has its own specialties, problems and peculiarities. To put it in a joke», he ended, «the knowledge of digital technologies is indispensable but also the acquaintance with a transformer».
(by Roberto Carminati)