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  Inductive Sensors - A One-For-All Solution
Car makers are turning their backs on the excessive oversupply of application-specific sensors. The additional benefits created are often too insignificant to justify the high costs of implementing special sensor solution. The trend is clear: the all-...

Inductive Sensors -
A One-For-All Solution?

Car makers are turning their backs on the excessive oversupply of application-specific sensors. The additional benefits created are often too insignificant to justify the high costs of implementing special sensor solution.

The trend is clear: the all-in-one sensor is needed!

 

The first reaction of technicians and engineers to inductive sensors is often identical. With a bored expression this issue is often considered old hat. And why should one show interest in a technology whose potentials are fully exhausted? Furthermore, there is no real need to distinguish between the various suppliers, because they offer identical sensors with identical functions and technology. The truly decisive factor is the price. In the following, we would like to find out whether these statements actually reflect the present situation.

 

Since 1965, when the inductive sensing principle was introduced, the company TURCK has been developing and producing inductive sensors with the aim to replace wear-intensive mechanical switches. The advantages of the non-contact and wear-free operating principle must always be seen in correlation with the disadvantages inherent to inductive sensing, for instance, the limited operating distance, electromagnetic susceptibility and dependence on the target material.

 

In order to overcome these difficulties, the various sensor manufacturers developed application-specific sensors, providing, for instance, temperature resistance, weld-field immunity or especially high switching distances. The number of inductive sensors on the market grew continuously so that sensor selection developed into a complex issue.

Even though the traditional proximity sensor was capable of establishing an industrial standard, it was accompanied by the development of a multitude of special versions.

Specific advantages, however, always imply general disadvantages!

 

The Cologne FORD works actually employed more than 400 different sensors from various manufacturers. Ralf Castenholz is team coach of the service and work planning department in the car body assembly section of the Cologne FORD plant and knows perfectly well that such a mass of sensors in a single workshop can cause considerable costs. ”We maintain extensive inventories of standard devices, which do not include all the special sensor types. These are the truly critical components. We cannot keep those on stock because they are much too expensive. However, we had to make provisions by maintaining reserves in private shelves and drawers. Ultimately, the machine must work and we cannot wait for four weeks until we receive replacements.

It is obvious that the associated costs are enormous. Naturally, a need for a standard and universally applicable sensor has developed”, he comments.

 

Looking for the standard sensor

Which are the demands placed on a new generation of inductive sensors? Sensors are supposed to contribute to reducing the costs of the industrial process, while ensuring high system availability and enhanced productivity. The user wants to work with a standard sensor that is universally applicable in the most diverse fields of application. 

 

TURCK’s uprox® sensor and its further development, the uprox®+ generation, combine novel coil and manufacturing technologies to create a product with many plus points.

All inductive sensors of the new generation operate without a reduction factor (the same operating distance for all metals), are weld-field immune, provide an extended temperature range, highest levels of EMC and user-friendly mounting options. 

 

For the company FORD it is extremely important to keep a good overview of their circle of suppliers, because in fact this is the first step towards process optimization. Until today, various sensor manufacturers supplied the Ford works throughout Europe with proximity switches. From the cost aspect, even this limited selection of manufacturers was too extensive. What Ford needed was a singe-source supplier for inductive sensors.

To ensure more profitable operations and to lower the costs of their processes, a cost-cutting programme (TVM – Team Value Management) was called into life. Under the leadership of FORD Europe’s top management (Hans Schardt and Morgan Jackson) five value management teams were founded, comprising both staff from the purchase and engineering departments and one representative from every European

 

The team under the management of Norbert Jochem from the plant in Saarlouis is exclusively concerned with electrical and electronic components and was given clear instructions by Hans Schardt to start implementing the cost-cutting measures immediately.

 

To achieve FORD’s declared 15% savings target, a clear tendency towards standardization of the various component sectors - including proximity switches, energy consumption and general electronics - can be observed. A sole supplier for proximity switches for all European plants was one of the prime targets of the concept. This supplier should be capable of providing a streamlined and easily manageable range of sensor versions to cover all applications.

Not only the purchase department but also the engineers hoped to achieve cost savings in their specific sectors and to simplify work procedures. For Ford that meant to opt for the supplier with the best and most comprehensive solution, comprising all essential factors such as technology, price and process optimization potentials. 

A delegation from TURCK managed to convince the TVM team that the targeted savings of 15 percent can be achieved with the innovative uprox®+ technology.

 

What are the actual benefits of uprox®+ ?

 

Savings are ensured by the service-friendly sensor design. The operating range, within which secure detection is ensured, is extended by the new generation of inductive sensors and is easily and quickly adjusted. The sensors permit partial embedding in metal and recessed mounting so that operational reliability and highest flexibility are guaranteed.

uprox®+ sensors are capable of minimising the number of sensor variants needed, so that material shortages are avoided and device replacements and maintenance are facilitated. All these factors naturally also contribute to cost reductions.

With uprox®+, cost savings can already be achieved in the purchase phase. Since only a limited number of uprox®+ versions is needed to cover the whole range of applications, uprox®+ contributes to efficient sensor standardisation. By reducing the number of conventional sensors and special devices, the average purchase costs can be significantly reduced. Minimised inventory management is a logical consequence of a lean standard programme.

 

“Illegal” sensor inventories” in various drawers and shelves have also become superfluous. Maximum system availability is ensured due to the protective mounting options, high operating distances and excellent EMC properties. With uprox®+ the times are past when mechanical damage and destruction of sensors caused downtimes.  However, should a sensor fail, an exchange is no longer a costly matter: standstill times are drastically reduced based on the high accessibility of spare parts and simple sensor adjustments. uprox®+ applies the same high standards to the essential aspect of EMC. The sensors were tested to meet far stricter requirements than legally prescribed and thus provide highest operational reliability.

With uprox
®+, both the system engineer and the end user can distinctly reduce the costs of their industrial processes, while profiting from excellent system performance and availability. All these plus points are extremely valuable, particularly on today’s hard-fought markets. One of the tasks assigned to TURCK was to reduce the list of the 432 Ford sensors to a minimum. The central idea was to cover the entire range of Ford’s applications optimally with an extremely streamlined range of designs. “The task was clear and it took TURCK only a week to edit a new list with only 48 types left! From these 48 devices, 10 were defined as a new standard, capable of covering 80% of all our applications. That is an absolutely convincing result”, concludes Carsten Rosenholz.


The Author:

Silke Kenzer

is Product Specialist for Position and Proximity Sensors

at Hans Turck GmbH & Co. KG, Mülheim/Ruhr

 

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