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Modern automotive manufacturing is becoming hugely complex. In order to win and retain customers, car makers must offer a wide range of models, features and options at the highest quality yet remain cost competitive. This means not only does the manufacturing plant need to be extremely smart, but it needs to be reliable, with minimum downtime.

In this article, we’ll outline SENSORswitch technology which plays a role in ensuring reliable production line operation and uptime for manufacturers.

Industrial automation is now quite the commonplace in factories for all kinds of production processes. It helps improve productivity by automating a variety of tasks and reduce costs, hence improving efficiency. In addition, the use of machines and robotics to replace humans performing those tasks can also improve accuracy.

However, the production of modern cars presents additional layers of complexity for the manufacturing environment due to the many intricate subsystems, components and sophisticated electrical and electronics systems. On top of this, processes such as casting and welding are also involved, which mean that there are machines that must operate in harsh environments.

 

In all of these processes, capacitive and optical sensor technology can be a critical factor in ensuring maximum efficiency of the highly complex, automated and high-speed production lines. This is where CAPTRON sensors provide two key

aspects of differentiation: reliability and durability.

Reliability is important to maintain switch operation and hence keep production flow going, resulting in downtime being minimized or even avoided. Durability is important to ensure that the switches can operate at extreme temperatures or in the presence of harsh liquids and vapors, making sure that switch failure cannot interrupt production.

CAPTRON capacitive SENSORswitches feature robust, 100% waterproof and oil-proof design with IP 69K protection to withstand tough environments and the most adverse weather conditions.  They are shock resistant, and have been tested to withs

tand lighter flames and severe blows. They are proven to be durable, having been in operation in the automotive and transportation industry since 1994 and having more than 100 million operation cycles.  This means the switches will just keep running.

 

Several automotive manufacturers are using CAPTRON technology to bring this reliability to their production lines.

One example is at BMW's Dingolfing plant, which has deployed a lightweight collaborative robot to relieve production operators from monotonous and physically demanding work. Production line staff now work hand in hand with the LBR iiwa robot from KUKA to lift and attach heavy plate edges for the front axle transmission, in very tight spaces and without protective fences. For this human-robot collaboration, KUKA Systems designed an extremely space-saving system with suspended mounting that could be integrated into the existing production line without having to be redesigned for it.

In addition to BMW, other manufacturers and suppliers such as Audi, Porsche and VW, as well as Bosch, Brose and Schaeffler have been using and use a variety of CAPTRON sensors.

For example, many use the CHT3 series switches that operate with touch control, which means no mechanical pressure is required; they can also provide feedback using visual and acoustic signals through 16 LEDs and a beeper. Available in different shapes, installation depths and plug-in connections the SENSORswitches are suitable for a wide range of uses. Depending on the application, the switches can be chosen for flush installation, with fiber-glass-reinforced polycarbonate cover ring or with a protective collar to prevent accidental actuation or dirt for application areas in plant and mechanical engineering.

With similar characteristics, the CHT9 series is specifically designed for adhesive mounting on single glass and other surfaces like metal. It is also equipped with an optical, and optional acoustical and tactile feedback via vibration. Options include the CHT9-Y with robust die-cast aluminium housing for high design requirements, and the CHT9-Q, also in aluminium housing but for foot control. All the touch buttons do not require operation force.

In order to deal with the versatility required in automotive manufacturing plants to address vehicle diversity, the CANEO series10 is a new generation of products that is a game-changer in terms of robustness, customizability and communication technology. With its integration of new technology such as sensor-fusion and improved algorithms, these capacitive switches offer full programmability over IO-Link to freely configure all function parameters such switch sensitivity, actuation types, minimum actuation time and fluorescent color. The series10 also offers 16 million fluorescent colors and customized symbols to enable a high level of individuality.

Finally, the series41 offers an additional variant for automotive manufacturing where further information needs to be displayed, such as process time remaining process time, part amount, or other short texts. This series includes an option with a seven-segment display.

In summary, the range of capacitive SENSORswitches available from CAPTRON for automotive manufacturing support improved uptime by providing reliability and durability, with their hundreds of millions of operation cycles, plus fire, water and shock-resistance. Combined with their IO communications link and multiple display options, they provide a level of flexibility that enables manufacturers to customize their plants according to the needs of model variants, as well as quickly adapt their lines to changing needs without having to spend on expensive re-equipping of their productions lines.

Ultimately, this helps with keeping the production line going under all conditions, and also enables manufacturers to maintain their competitive edge.

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