Digitisation in vehicle electrics - state-of-the-artExpert contribution from Dr. Peter Geigle
For years, the term Industry 4.0 has been used to describe a trend that has been associated with the terms IoT (Internet of Things) or Ubiquitous Computing. Put simply, functions or processes are linked to one another. Mostly with the Internet to analyse using suitable algorithms or AI units (Artificial Intelligence) and thereby improve processes and functions. The associated risks, such as data protection and external access, are of course there and should be protected accordingly.
In practice, however, different manufacturers often provide their products with an Ethernet socket and the constitute Industry 4.0. But that is usually not enough. We understand Industry 4.0 or digitisation rather as an improvement in the use of products, which must also have an (economic) added value for the customer. Today's technologies enable a bouquet of possibilities and functions that often no longer allow a reasonable overview and often create more complexity. It is questionable whether an improvement will actually be produced.
In the last 20 years, a technological step has been taken in the field of mobile machines that is far ahead in terms of function compared to the automotive world. In the field of automation, for example, in the agricultural sector, there are vehicles that not only drive, but also harvest, clean, sort and pack. A small factory on wheels. The number of controls and the functions they contain is constantly increasing. The actual driving is almost in the background. The issue of steer and drive-by-wire has long been a part of the series. To be fair, we should keep in mind here that the development processes in the automotive sector are significantly more complex and secure than in this area. Nevertheless, this leading edge is there.
We at Wölfle have been equipping vehicles with electrical and electronic systems for decades and have been introducing systems in the construction machinery market for more than 10 years that correspond to today's PLd systems according to EN 13849-1.
What does Industry 4.0 mean for Wölfle?
We have seen the clear trend and the advantage of networked functions for years. The more complex a machine becomes, the more difficult it is to operate and maintain it safely on the one hand, and the transparency of the processes and their improvement on the other.
Example using a simple process: Fertilising a field
Farmers use field sprayers to apply liquid fertilizers or protective agents to the field. In the past, the spray medium in the tank of a field sprayer was made ready for use and relatively easily pumped from the tank to the spray nozzles with a pump. Often the pump was still connected to the mechanical cardan shaft. The spray arms were unfolded manually. The syringes had no electrics or electronics.
Nowadays these are highly complex attachments that use the harvest results to calculate and apply the amount of fertilizer per m² for each section of the field. In addition to the precise map data, they also need the exact position, driving speed, wind direction and speed, height to the ground, soil moisture, etc.
One can imagine that this is only possible with powerful control units and sensible networking, including to the Internet.
Conclusion: All processes are improved through efficiency and cost increases, legal requirements, raw material and environmental protection aspects. Nowadays this can only be achieved with complex controls.
Consequences of Industry 4.0 for manufacturers and customers
Due to the complexity of the processes, the following problems arise:
Complex functions require a more complex machine. Operation and development are significantly more difficult.
Most of the time, the complexity lies in the control system and in the software. Due to the increase in the number of components, the software scope and the functional options, there are a number of possible combinations that can no longer be fully tested. The frequency of errors increases.
The repair and maintenance of such machines, as well as the operation, which is much more difficult, often requires extensive training. In service in particular, the demands placed on customer service will increase significantly.
The share of classic mechanical engineering is decreasing and electronics are constantly increasing. As a result, manufacturers also have to go through a process of change that is a major challenge for many companies, which are often mechanical.
How can Wölfle support this
The key to success lies in the manufacturer's concentration on his specific process. For example the nozzles of the field sprayer and their properties. The perfect spray mist results from its geometry, the pressure curve in the system and its control.
At Wölfle, we can take care of the rest or parts thereof, if required:
One of the most important tasks of Industry 4.0 are powerful control devices that have various communication interfaces.
Perfectly coordinated bus protocols that allow complete diagnosis and programming in the vehicle, if desired via the Internet.
Intelligent electrical distributions that can monitor currents and signals and, in the event of a fault, quickly provide information on where something is going wrong.
Software platforms that have the necessary standardisation to ensure high availability even in complex projects.
The expertise from 48 years in this area and the full range of services from connectors to software
The success factors are clear. As a system developer for complex controls and their environment, we can digitise your machine from a single source. The focus is on an economical solution for each area. This can be used in a modular and scalable manner on different machines and can be assembled from various parts like from the construction kit. At the beginning of every project there is a needs analysis, from which an individual concept with a feasibility assessment and budget arises, which is then discussed together.
The aim is to find the ideal measure from the extensive service portfolio in order to use the functions of digitisation to a meaningful extent.
Digitisation in vehicle electricsExpert contribution from Dr. Peter Geigle