Volatile markets: Adapted connectivity makes automation devices more flexible

Author: Guido Selhorst, Head of Corporate Market Communications, HARTING Stiftung & Co. KG

75 years of the HARTING Technology Group: During this period there have been many innovative developments and solutions in the automation market.

Even though HARTING has been working in partnership with SEW-EURODRIVE for less than 75 years, there have been numerous successful joint projects over the past few decades.

The SEW group of companies – with headquarters in Bruchsal, Baden and with more than 18,000 employees worldwide – is one of the global market leaders in the field of drive technology and drive automation. They offer a wide variety of competent products, solutions and services.

Dr. Hans Krattenmacher, Geschäftsführe Innovation Mechatronik SEW-EURODRIVE GmbH & Co. KG

From individual drives to complete drive systems, SEW-EURODRIVE provides complete user-specific solutions by taking advantage of a comprehensive modular system of electromechanical components, electronic speed control systems and computer-aided calculation programs. 17 production plants and 81 drive technology centers in 52 countries ensure a global presence, the best service and rapid availability. The company generated sales of over 3.3 billion euros in the 2019/2020 financial year.

HARTING has evolved into a global technology company within the last 75 years.

The technology group is the global market leader in electrical and electronic connection technology. The company's business units offer a wide range of tailor-made solutions for industrial applications. The product portfolio includes connectors, device connectivity, network components and assembled system cables. All solutions focus on providing clear benefits to the application. HARTING products connect and network devices, machines and facilities – providing data, signals and power. This creates solutions for markets in automation technology, energy, traffic engineering, mechanical engineering and medical technology applications. HARTING also produces electromagnetic components for the automotive industry, charging technology and cables for electric vehicles, and solutions for housing technology and shop systems.

The recipe for success: HARTING has always adapted itself to different market requirements and has repeatedly "reinvented" itself over the decades. For example, the division originally founded to develop music and cigarette vending machines in the 1950s has developed into today's business unit handling the installation of entire shop and cash register systems in food retailing. The same goes for the continual development of actuators. Originally, magnets developed by HARTING were used in textile machines, but later they also found their way into automobiles. A high level of innovation, uncompromising quality, well-defined customer orientation, international orientation and social responsibility have all been decisive factors in the company's success story. Our future is being shaped as the driver and motor of Industry 4.0.

At the end of the 1990s, automobile production was a major driver for a trend that continues to this day. It was quickly apparent that machine availability was strongly associated with the speed of service calls. The Han® 10E connector – as a solution for making standard drives pluggable – brought the necessary effect and led to a significant improvement.

Now, drives could be replaced simply by fitters – without any additional service from an electrician. This brings a clear cost advantage: the resources of the technicians were saved and such replacements only required a fraction of the previous time. The Han® 10E has thus become the standard used for motor connectors. With the corresponding housing solution, Han-Drive® emerged as the standard for plug-in drives.

And SEW-EURODRIVE played a major role in developing this solution.

After all, many of their motors were installed in the corresponding applications of the automobile manufacturers. Whether in conveyor technology, in assembly or even in painting applications, drives from SEW-EURODRIVE can be found everywhere.
This flexibility was beneficial in the next technical step with the decentralized drive technology. It was quickly apparent that, when there are many drives of the same type in a long facility topology, a single supply line for power would be advantageous. A pluggable (and thus versatile) line topology was just as necessary as an intelligent control for the decentralized drives.

SEW-EURODRIVE MOVIMOT® solutions with extendable cabling intrastructure

At SEW-EURODRIVE, this solution was called MOVIMOT® and later also MOVIPRO®. The switchgear has moved from the former central cabinet to the decentralized units on or near the motor. An initiative called DESINA, from the VDW, has pushed this concept forward significantly, even if from today's perspective the technology was too early and its positioning in the machine tool sector did not encounter the necessary success. However, the idea was driven forward strongly in other applications and industries, which is why decentralized technology is an absolute standard nowadays.

Han® Q 4/2 connector series

In spite of increasing energy demand, drives and decentralized units became smaller and smaller. This trend toward miniaturization is also clearly evident in automation. That is why it became necessary to also find a new solution here.

New interface standards (with the Han® Q 8/0 and Han® Q 4/2) were then developed. These were also incorporated into the DESINA standard and found their way into various solutions at SEW-EURODRIVE. With the Han® Q 4/2, a decentralized subscriber could now be supplied with sufficient energy. It can even conduct bidirectional energy flows in a touch-safe manner. The Han® Q 8/0 ensured the direct supply of the drive from the decentralized converter.

Therefore, this was soon available as a shielded solution in order to take the EMC issue into account. Automation devices such as decentralized drive units, however, must also confront the solutions for the central structure on the market. The efficient and flexible integration of the interface into the device has a special task here. In order to be able to automate the manufacturing processes as much as possible, a PCB adaptation was made that reduces the manual efforts to a minimum.  

But miniaturization also had an impact on the design of the electronics within the device. With the har-flex® THR, a solution was designed for the new MOVI-C® modular electronics system that meets the requirements for robustness as well as the requirement for using less space in the device. The necessary modularity of the interface could be implemented very flexibly with the new solution because of the modular design of the new converter series.

SEW-EURODRIVE MOVI-C® device family

The requirements for safety and robustness could not be achieved using the existing SMD contacts. Therefore, a mutual search for alternatives was carried out – and the perfect connection technology was found by integrating THR technology. Thus, it was then possible to install an option plug-in slot that enabled you to quickly adapt to customer needs.

We have to make our devices more modular and flexible so that we can respond more quickly to the needs of customers. Markets are moving forwards in different directions, especially in Asia and the USA. This forces us to build devices in a more modular way so that we can respond to the various individual requirements.

Dr. Hans Krattenmacher, Managing Director and Head of Electronics Development at SEW-EURODRIVE GmbH Co. KG
SEW-EURODRIVE drives

With the use of more electronics and ever smaller, more compact devices, the level of complexity that is being brought into the field is constantly increasing. In the future, intelligent systems will be needed that make this complexity manageable. Regardless of whether there is centralized monitoring using Ethernet-based bus systems or a clear on-site display – safe operations depend on the ability to make clear decisions of action. Predictive maintenance, requirements for functional safety and integrated energy management are just a few of the examples.

The increasing demand associated with digitization to optimally evaluate sensor data, the need to achieve more flexibility when using devices with modular systems, and the capability to adapt to increasingly compact electronics integration: all these aspects are the challenges that SEW-EURODRIVE and HARTING have continually met successfully in recent years. This is what has enabled us to successfully bring optimal solutions to the market.

SEW-EURODRIVE GmbH & Co. KG interview with Dr. Hans Krattenmacher, Managing Director and Head of Electronics Development

“Help first, then ask!” – Dr. Hans Krattenmacher, Managing Director and Head of Electronics Development at SEW-EURODRIVE GmbH Co. KG believes this motto goes right to the heart of the perfect customer-supplier relationship. The manufacturer of drive technology has found such a partner in the HARTING Technology Group: “This is very important in our industry! Reliability and availability are the key here, because production systems have to work,” explains Krattenmacher. The company, founded in 1931 and headquartered in Bruchsal, Baden-Württemberg, has relied on the East Westphalian connector specialist for many years. Dr. Hans Krattenmacher, who initially worked as a product engineer in the development department, came into contact with the connectivity portfolio right at the beginning of his career at SEW-EURODRIVE and recalls: "The HARTING connectors that we installed in our products featured quick pluggability and excellent quality. Later, as a department manager in decentralized technology, I always appreciated the features and characteristics of these connectivity solutions, because they were the direct interface to our customers. Yet, SEW-EURODRIVE and HARTING have even more in common than their dedication to quality, innovation and customer understanding. Both companies have been family-owned since their foundation and represent similar values. Above all, they rely on the mutual reliability on a strong partner. "This is the only way we can keep our promise to our own customers," says Krattenmacher. "I use HARTING products because I know they will not let me down!"