Detecting and measuring with IO-Link

The automobile industry poses the greatest productivity demands, however supplier companies’ quality requirements are no less stringent.

Brose of Coburg submits products and system components to the acid test: in a test system for spindle drives, installed Balluff RFID and position measuring systems help ensure that only perfectly-functioning components leave the factory. Thanks to IO-Link, the systems can be installed quickly and easily without time-consuming wiring and they offer many diagnostic possibilities.

A simple movement in the direction of the bumper is sufficient; the vehicle’s liftgate opens as if by magic: instead of conventional gas pressure springs, two spindle drives release their energy and press the weight of the hatch upwards. 

Anyone who approaches a vehicle with full arms knows how to appreciate such comfort features. An integrated motor shuts the loading door; it compresses the springs and stores the force until the door is next opened. 

The German automobile supplier Brose equips a variety of different manufacturers’ vehicles with electric spindle drives. The company supplies approximately 80 automobile brands and 30 suppliers with mechatronic systems and electric motors. 

Because the reliability of the spindle drives in everyday use is very important, Brose has developed and built a test system for these systems that is oriented toward everyday conditions. Each drive spindle is subjected to a series of defined function and quality tests. For this, an employee clamps the element into a special device: then the system checks whether the spring can be compressed as desired to the specified dimension, whether the piston moves out to the required length under its own power, whether the integrated motor works perfectly, and whether any disturbing vibrations and noises crop up. 

The load, which varies according to the vehicle type and liftgate, simulates a servomotor. “Depending on the vehicle model, the spindle drives possess different geometries, performance and load demands and travel lengths. The test system has to do the conditions justice,” said Alexander Gran, Director of the Equipment Technology, Software Development, and Electrotechnology Department at Brose. 

So the test system recognises which spindle type is being tested and which set of tests must be run, the system is equipped with the BIS-M industrial RFID system: the test equipment provides a special test head for each type, an RFID chip integrated there contains the appropriate information. The corresponding read head reads the data and communicates it to the control level. It thus knows which is the spindle type in question and which tests must be performed. If a component that is not compatible with the chip data is inserted, the system would decline to start and issue an appropriate error message. 

The BIS-M RFID system is suitable for many tasks in modern production facilities. It can read and write data; from these capabilities arise many possibilities for part tracing, for example in production processes. Due to the variety of sizes, cases, and evaluation possibilities, the system can be used flexibly. 
“Balluff’s RFID system is compact, robust, and easy to integrate. An advantage is that we can write to it ourselves and adapt it flexibly to our needs. Thanks to IO-Link technology, it is quick and easy to install, using a master via plug connector and with a simple four-wire standard cable,” emphasised Gran. 

So that the test system can assess whether the stroke lengths correspond to the required values, Balluff’s magnetostrictive position measuring system Micropulse BTL6 Profil PF with IO-LINK is used. 
If a measurement value does not fulfill the requirements, the test object is sorted out with an appropriate error message. Thanks to multi-magnet technology, the contact-free transducers reliably detect the measurement position and ensure absolute and precise results. 
Measurement lengths from 50 to 4570mm can be made, the position measuring systems tolerate a vertical and horizontal offset of the position encoder from the sensor profile of up to 15mm. The components distinguish themselves through their flat shape and their robust, shock-, vibration-, and contamination-proof nature in the IP 67 protection class. 
“As at Brose, there is a preference for using the touchless position encoders where holistic IO-Link concepts simplify the configuration, speed up the installation, and reduce costs for cabling,” said Stefan Horcher, Sales Engineer at Balluff.

Thanks to the intelligent communication interface IO-Link, all measurement values and state data reaches the control level quickly and easily via M12 plug connectors, standard sensor cables, and an IO-Link master. IO-Link is a universally applicable I/O interface below bus systems that is compatible with all fieldbuses. 

As a digital and bidirectional point-to-point connection, IO-Link creates a high-performance communication channel down to the actuator and sensor level. Thanks to IO-Link, the end results are streamlined and productive manufacturing solutions that permit automatic configuration during running operation and transparent diagnostics down to the process level. 
“We have worked closely with and trusted in Balluff for many years. Together we are researching additional fields of application for IO-Link that will make our production processes more efficient and our products more competitive,” noted Gran. 


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