Sensing products to boost welding productivity
When working in harsh environments and in heavy duty applications like welding, it is important to take a multi-angle approach to designing the application. When you are working with existing sensor installations, it is important to consider all the reasons for the sensor’s failure before determining a winning solution. While blind trial and error will eventually lead to improvements in sensor life, Balluff has developed with our customers a strong best-practice approach for applying sensors in automated welding.
1. Select the Right Sensor
When selecting the right sensor, you have to take into account multiple aspects of the application: how the sensor is being used, what environment is it being exposed to, and why the current installation has continuously failed.
Common questions to consider are:
• Will the sensor signal be affected by the weld noise?
• Is the sensor failing due to heat from the environment?
• Is there excessive weld slag accumulation on the sensor?
• Does a different sensor technology make more sense?
• Can I detect this part from a different angle or location?
• Is there a better mounting solution for the sensor?
Balluff offers many combinations of sensor technologies for use in the welding environment, and the best technology may require some testing before it can be determined.
2. Protect the Sensor
When determining how much protection is needed for the sensor, you still have to consider these typical questions: what is the sensor being exposed to and why is the current installation failing.
Other common questions to consider are:
• What available space do I have?
• Is there physical contact damage to the existing sensor?
• Can I change the tooling in any way?
Balluff offers one of the widest varieties of accessories specifically designed for applying sensors in the welding environment.
The best accessory for your specific application may require adaptation of the tooling for implementation.
3. Connect with Protection
Protecting the connection between the controller and the sensor can be as much of a pain point as keeping the sensor alive. Whether the sensor cable fails from weld slag buildup or from physical damage from contact with a part, the cable can be the lynchpin to a successful weld-sensing application.
Questions to consider when looking at connectivity options:
• Is the cable collecting slag or melting from contact with slag?
• Is the connector not meeting the proper bend radius and being damaged?
• What temperatures and environments will the cable be exposed to?
Balluff offers the strongest options of sensor connectors for your welding applications. These products have been tested in real-world customer applications and extended the life of an application more than 50 times in some instances.
4. Learn with Continuous Improvement
There are some things worth doing over and over, but replacing a proximity sensor every shift is not one of them. By learning from our failures and analyzing them we can increase our productivity, improve our quality, and reduce headaches for operators, technicians, and even managers. So when a sensor fails, it is best to document the failure and then begin to make a plan to improve the application.
Some questions to consider at a failed sensor application include the following:
• What caused the eventual end of the sensor? Heat? Slag? Impact?
• What else is damaging the sensor? Is the cable failing?
• Where else do we have a similar installation or application?
While we understand that time is tight and downtime costs money, there isn’t always the luxury to analyze for yourself what is going on in the facility: you are just trying to keep it running. Balluff offers many opportunities for training or service where we can help you improve the skill set of the technicians or bring in extra labor to implement improvements.
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