When flexibility is vital

01 July 2019

To ensure it gets the perfect testing equipment to meet its very specific needs, Hager builds its own test machinery. To do this it needed chose the optimum installation concept for the automated machines.

Hager is a specialist in building automation and electrical installations with production plants on every continent. Product quality is vital so no component will leave a factory without first undergoing a meticulous function test, checking every single detail. To carry this out this successfully, first-class testing facilities are vital to the company and to ensure it has the perfect testing equipment to meet its very specific needs Hager manufactures its own machinery and systems to test its products. The team responsible for producing this equipment is based in Obernai, in Eastern France.
When it comes to choosing the optimum installation concept for the automation of its testing facilities, the challenge facing the Hager team is that no two test machines are the same and new aspects have to be continually considered. 
Different products need to be tested for a wide and ever-changing range of quality characteristics and functions. Specifications where the test facilities are used from the factories around the globe have to be taken into account. Only a few installation areas can be repeated designs. 
The task is not made any easier by the fact that while I/O density is always very high, space is limited. Bringing the machines into circulation quickly is also an important consideration because demand is high for efficient and reliable testing facilities and deadlines for rolling out new products are tightly scheduled. 
In terms of the installation concept, this means that it needs to be particularly flexible – and this is why the team in charge opted for Murrelektronik's modular, decentralised and compact Cube67 modular fieldbus system which puts the I/O into the machine, close to the sensors and actuators, removing the need for busy control cabinets.
The Cube67 system offered Hager the flexibility it needed: any number of different I/O modules can be implemented. Depending on requirements, a component with four or eight ports can be integrated into the installation. In some machines, modules with M12 cordsets are used; frequently however, Hager selects the compact modules with M8 ports. This saves spaces and allows several I/Os to be grouped in a tiny area. The modules are mounted right next to the sensors and actuators – at the heart of the process – for example on pneumatic devices or grippers. This enables the design engineers to connect sensors and actuators with short cables to reduce wiring effort and offering cost savings. 

The second flexibility advantage for Hager is the multifunctional ports. Engineers can decide whether they want to use each port as an input or output – this turn standard modules into customised modules, making it possible to group both sensors and actuators close to a module. Thanks to this multifunctionality, the number of module versions and the total number of modules required can be reduced, which makes this solution cost, space, and installation-friendly. Valves can also be easily controlled on site with the Cube67 valve cluster connections.

One cable technology
Cube67 system modules are connected to the bus nodes using one cable technology. The single cordset transmits both data and energy and runs from one module to the next and systems can be easily designed as needed because of the system’s star-line topology. The one cable technology transmits both data and power to supply the sensors and actuators – so there is no need to run two separate cordsets to the modules, simplifying installation and maintenance. Only half the amount of cabling is needed and significantly less space is required for cabling. This can offer substantial advantages, especially in drag chains where space is often limited. 

The cable is pre-wired and is supplied to Hager in the exact the lengths required. This means that there is no need to wire connectors to the cables.

Machine run-times 
The cost effectiveness of Hager’s test machines hinges on their high availability, so detecting and eliminating errors quickly is essential. The Cube67 system's diagnostics options have helped Hager engineers achieve their speed and available goals, making it easy for maintenance personnel on-site to identify any problem, analyse it and take appropriate quickly. Technicians at the Hager plants are trained by their colleagues in Obernai to do this. And, in the unlikely event that a tougher problem arises, the Obernai team can access the system for more detailed analysis via remote access over the Internet.

The experts at Hager have already successfully switched from PROFIBUS to PROFINET communication technology some years ago. They have since been satisfied with the installation concept. Thanks to the Cube, existing systems are able to adopt new protocols by simply changing the bus module instead of the system. Cube67 makes it possible to simply replace the bus modules, changing the protocol with it. The structure after the bus module can remain unchanged so the team does not need to spend time on documentation and reprogramming, nor for new purchasing process or stock checks. While 80% of the machines and installations are designed for integration in PROFINET systems, 20% are designed for use in Ethernet/IP environments. The same concept applies here –the bus modules can be easily replaced to implement a different protocol – with the existing cabling remaining in place.

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