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Smart mechatronics aids sensor production at Sensata Technologies

Geert van der Zalm
By Geert van der Zalm Vice President, Factory Automation, Bosch Rexroth

Mechatronics systems play an essential part in today’s smart, connected manufacturing landscape. A new generation of systems called smart mechatronics has emerged, offering greater intelligence, more efficient operation and a modular “kit” approach to delivering complete systems.

These more advanced systems are also easier to specify, order and deploy. Through smart, well-engineered integration of linear components, electronic motors, controls and sensors, mechatronics provides complete solutions that make it easier for manufacturers to implement complex manufacturing systems.

This kind of production tool was exactly what Sensata Technologies, Attleboro, Mass., was looking for. The company, a global provider of sensors and sensor-based solutions, was setting up a new production line to produce small batches with exact pressing and joining processes.

One of Sensata’s key production steps is pressing a small lid precisely onto the sensor housing. Sensata always strives to make processes simpler and do as much as they can themselves—ideally with standard components and without programming effort. In this instance, they wanted a production line that would cost-effectively produce 1,000 or 10,000 versions of a sensor system in small batches.

To achieve this goal, Sensata chose a new smart mechatronics pressing solution, the Smart Function Kit, part of the Bosch Rexroth Smart MechatroniX product family. The solution includes an electromechanical cylinder, a force sensor, a motor, a regulator, a control system and a software package in a single “plug and produce” kit.

This kit approach is enabled by easy-to-use online tools that simplify ordering and configuring linear components along with accessories that put them in motion.

Following sizing and configurator prompts, all the components for a complete mechatronic solution—a Cartesian robot or a pressing or joining tool—can be specified in a single process. Manufacturers can configure a mechatronics solution from a single supplier, shipped with preprogrammed motion sequences ready for plug-and-produce implementation.

Smart mechatronics incorporate features that enhance manufacturing efficiency and process control while enabling real-time condition monitoring and predictive maintenance. Programming this process can now be done by an operator—no specialized skills required. Software blocks are selected and combined via a drag-and-drop programming style; the process parameters are entered, and the workflow is complete.

Sensata took full advantage of these capabilities instead of coding line by line. The company estimated that this helped reduce engineering time by 95 percent.

In addition, the process data can be shown live, and force displacement curves are recorded each time a lid is placed for quality assurance and analysis. The mechatronic system has already saved Sensata time as well as improved their ability to implement small-batch assembly operations.

Smart mechatronics solutions for handling and transport applications are also being launched. Cartesian single- or multi-axis systems that combine linear motion, controls, drives and software provide a complete package, leveraging the same configuration and system programming tools.

By leveraging innovative system designs and advanced configuration and programming tools, smart mechatronics provides a versatile, powerful platform to advance Industry 4.0 manufacturing goals.

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