How Daimler Used an Industrial Microgrid to Put a Robot on a Diet

Feb. 13, 2017
It’s hard to put industrial robots on a diet. They don’t use a lot of energy anyway, even with heavy lifting. But Daimler has managed to do it – with an industrial microgrid.

It’s hard to put industrial robots on a diet. They don’t use a lot of energy anyway, even with heavy lifting. But Daimler has managed to do it – with an industrial microgrid.

Robots can consume the lion’s share of energy used for auto body construction, and Daimler wanted to reduce their energy costs. The German manufacturer of autos, trucks, vans and buses (of which the Mercedes-Benz line is the most well-known) had already wrung all the wasted energy out of its robots – its new generation robots are about 30 percent more efficient than the previous one, according to the company.

For more energy savings the company had to look beyond the individual manufacturing components and improve the energy efficiency of the entire production system. So they turned to an energy-efficient, industrial microgrid to power a robotic production cell.

Daimler saw direct current (DC) as more efficient than alternating current (AC) and more robust against fluctuations in power supply and in grid quality – common problems that occur with use of renewable energy. But energy supplies are typically provided in AC.

So Daimler set up a prototype DC solar industrial microgrid to power four production robots that work together in a 30 by 30 square foot cell. The robots produce components for the Daimler automobile system.

The cell is supplied with solar power from its own photovoltaic system and and uses several energy storage solutions such as power capacitors and lithium-ion batteries, according to Tobias Brandstetter, spokesman for Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz Cars. If needed, the cell can ‘un-island’ to run on standard utility supplied AC current.

According to Daimler, their newly powered robotic facility is on the cutting edge of power production and distribution: vehicle production is being driven by a smart energy supply system, which in turn fuels a smart industrial microgrid that is symbiotically connected to the larger electric grid.

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The newly powered robotic cell project and others like it, “add up to a program that will likely change the energy supply structure of automobile production as thoroughly as the switch from the classic combustion engine to the intelligently controlled electric drive will change the vehicles themselves,” according to Daimler.

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About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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