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Innovative automation solutions for the automotive industry

The automotive industry is the most important industrial sector in Germany. After years of internationalization and global boom, the industry keeps facing new challenges. Increased environmental awareness and calls for more sustainability necessitate rethinking, which is reflected in concepts for smart mobility, among other things. This is accompanied by technological change that confronts automobile manufacturers and suppliers with high cost pressure as well as constantly increasing productivity and quality demands.

PC- and EtherCAT-based automation technology from Beckhoff provides the automotive industry with solutions for optimizing all production processes. Integrating all control functions on a central PC platform ensures efficient interaction between all components as well as maximum productivity. Frictional losses or latency times, which occur when different systems communicate, are avoided. At the same time, PC-based control enables you to benefit from cost advantages by eliminating hardware and reducing installation and maintenance work. A wide range of interfaces and support for all common fieldbus systems and software protocols guarantee consistent horizontal and vertical communication, starting with the networking of individual machines in the field right up to networking at the IT level and into the cloud. EtherCAT’s high level of compatibility ensure simple integration of many different devices – even from third-party suppliers – into the control system. This gives you maximum flexibility in your machine design.

A head start in automotive production with PC-based control

Integrated and efficicent: PC-based control for car manufacturing

PC-based control technology from Beckhoff is ideally suited to the complete automation of many complex processes in automotive production: from press control and welding in car body manufacturing to the production of batteries and engines for electric vehicles. Rapid cycle times and a high degree of scalability ensure that you are ideally prepared for the electric vehicle revolution with PC-based control. Flexibility and openness, in both software and hardware, facilitate simple functional extensions, changes and retrofits – major advantages given shortened product life cycles and increased variant diversity. With many years of experience in body construction and tire production, along with process, assembly and material handling technology, you can rely on our in-depth technical expertise. As a close partner of global automotive manufacturers, machine builders and automotive suppliers, we also actively promote the standardization of machine communication in working groups such as the VDMA Battery Production Department.

Intelligent control solutions optimize battery production

PC-based control enables end-to-end automation of all processes in battery production: from electrode production to cell assembly through to cell finishing. Rapid cycle times and optimum synchronization of control functions in TwinCAT software guarantee maximum process efficiency.

Beckhoff technology is suitable for controlling all process steps in battery production:

  • An ultra-compact Industrial PC from the C60xx series makes it possible to control all the drive technology and regulate the rollers for calendering electrode film, while at the same time acting as an edge device for intelligent data analysis in the cloud.
  • The powerful AX8000 multi-axis servo system and the AMP8000 distributed servo drive system, which saves installation space in the control cabinet, implement all motion tasks.
  • The quality of the electrode film can be monitored via TwinCAT Vision. Because image processing is integrated into the control, derived functions or commands can be executed in real time.
  • With the intelligent transport system XPlanar, the process steps for cell assembly can be realized efficiently. Cells are individually transported to the processing stations by hovering movers – individual process steps can be flexibly controlled, redundantly designed, or skipped.
  • A broad portfolio of high-precision measurement terminals is available for testing the cells. Real-time communication with sensor technology and actuators takes place via EtherCAT.
    Data and processes are visualized on a Beckhoff Control Panel directly on the machine via the TwinCAT HMI.
  • Process technology requirements can be realized directly via the central control platform and integrated into real-time applications. An extended range of EtherCAT Terminals with intrinsically safe interfaces, control panels, panel and embedded PCs, and bus couplers is available for use in hazardous areas.

Machine and plant concepts without control cabinet for automotive production

Automation solutions that reduce the machine footprint as well as cabling and maintenance requirements are becoming increasingly important in automotive production. We offer various technologies and products that support you in the implementation of control cabinet-free machine and plant concepts:

  • MX-System: The pluggable system solution bundles all technological innovations of automation technology in an IP67-capable modular system, which can be mounted directly on the machine. Control cabinets can be reduced to a minimum or even substituted with the holistic, modular and plug-in approach.
  • EtherCAT P: The One Cable Automation for the field level combines communication and power on one standard Ethernet cable and thus reduces wiring and installation requirements.
  • Distributed servo drive systems: The servomotors of the AMP8000 and AMI8100 series enable the implementation of modular machine concepts. Direct integration of the servo amplifier into the motor saves space in the control cabinet and enables maximum flexibility in machine design.
  • One Cable Display Link: The CP-Link 4 one cable solution combines communication and power for connecting panels and panel PCs over distances of up to 100 m.

Beckhoff technology highlights for the automotive industry

On the basis of the scalable and open Beckhoff PC platform, you can develop efficient and cost-attractive control solutions.
On the basis of the scalable and open Beckhoff PC platform, you can develop efficient and cost-attractive control solutions.

Scalable and modular: customized automation from Beckhoff

An average car consists of around 10,000 individual parts. Accordingly, numerous production steps and machines are required in car manufacturing, involving diverse and complex control tasks. At the same time, even shorter product life cycles necessitate increased production flexibility. This is precisely where Beckhoff's PC-based control technology offers a decisive competitive advantage: scalable and flexible solutions with high performance and high precision.

With our automation toolkit, individual control solutions can be configured for a wide range of applications and requirements. High-performance industrial PCs, multi-touch panels, very fast I/O components, EtherCAT as an open and real-time capable fieldbus, versatile, dynamic servo drive technology and the automation software TwinCAT form the basis for sequential control, visualization, motion control, safety and measurement technology and condition monitoring. All components are individually scalable in terms of performance and design so that the control platform can be tailored precisely to the respective application. The use of industry and IT standards and components for cloud communication and big data make the PC-based control platform ideal for end-to-end networking and the implementation of Industrie 4.0 concepts.

EtherCAT combines the fieldbus communication for I/Os, the secure communication for TwinSAFE and of course the drive communication in one system.
EtherCAT combines the fieldbus communication for I/Os, the secure communication for TwinSAFE and of course the drive communication in one system.
EtherCAT G is an advanced version of the EtherCAT success principle with technologically available speeds of 1 GBit/s and 10 GBit/s. The EtherCAT protocol itself remains unchanged.
EtherCAT G is an advanced version of the EtherCAT success principle with technologically available speeds of 1 GBit/s and 10 GBit/s. The EtherCAT protocol itself remains unchanged.

Fast, open and ideally suited as a fieldbus for the automotive industry: EtherCAT – the high-speed fieldbus

The EtherCAT technology was launched by Beckhoff in 2003 and made available as an open automation technology standard. With outstanding performance, flexible choice of topology, comprehensive diagnostics and simple configuration, EtherCAT is ideally suited for use in production plants. Beckhoff supplies the largest number of EtherCAT-compatible automation modules for both I/Os and drive technology.

The world's largest car manufacturers are members of the EtherCAT Technology Group (ETG) and use cycle times well below 1 ms in many of their applications. Short cycle times enable highly precise and dynamic processes and thus increase the efficiency of production machines. A large number of EtherCAT-compatible sensors and actuators are available on the market, which guarantees a high level of investment security. Other fieldbus systems such as CANopen, IO-Link and PROFINET can also be integrated as communication layers in the control solution via EtherCAT. Future Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) implementations will be realized on the basis of the EtherCAT automation protocol (EAP). Beckhoff developed the EtherCAT P technology in order to reduce the installation effort. The single-cable solution combines communication and power in one cable, which reduces the cabling effort and minimizes sources of error.

For high-performance machines and highly complex applications, Beckhoff has introduced EtherCAT G to the market. As an advanced version of the successful EtherCAT principle, it offers speeds ranging from 1 GBit/s to 10 GBit/s, which makes it possible to increase the current EtherCAT transmission rate of 100 Mbit/s by a factor of 100. Both performance stages represent system-compliant enhancements of the EtherCAT technology – the well-known "on-the-fly" function principle remains unchanged. And thanks to the branch concept of EtherCAT G, 100 Mbit/s EtherCAT segments can be integrated into the network to reduce throughput times in large networks by processing segments in parallel.

The general advantages of EtherCAT are:

  • high speed
  • simple diagnostics
  • control of up to 65,000 devices
  • EtherCAT allows the transmission of up to 64 kbit per slave
  • perfect synchronization

Beckhoff product highlights for the automotive industry

XTS with NCT in combination with the XPlanar system for highly dynamic product sorting: Products can be picked up from an unsorted and irregular product inflow and then stored in an orderly fashion.
XTS with NCT in combination with the XPlanar system for highly dynamic product sorting: Products can be picked up from an unsorted and irregular product inflow and then stored in an orderly fashion.

Intelligent product transport with XTS and XPlanar

The intelligent transport systems XPlanar and XTS replace rigidly timed product transport and enable new and efficient machine concepts. Offering maximum speed and flexibility, they create a clear advantage in global competition.

The extended planar motor system XPlanar enables maximum flexible 2D product transport by means of free-floating movers. The individually traversable movers move at speeds of up to 2 m/s over planar tiles that can be arranged as desired, allowing the realization of application-oriented geometries. Products pass through various processing stations independently of one another on the XPlanar movers – individual process steps can be flexibly controlled, redundantly designed or skipped. Movers of different sizes enable parallel production of different formats on one system. Thanks to abrasion-free transport, the XPlanar can also be used in cleanroom conditions.

With the XTS linear transport system, products are transported on movers with individual motion profiles along a route consisting of fully integrated motor modules. Due to different geometries of the motor modules, both an open and a closed travel path can be created and the machine footprint can be reduced thanks to individual track layouts. The No Cable Technology (NCT) for the XTS system also enables contactless power and data transmission to the movers.

TwinCAT is the universal automation platform that enables all functions to be implemented in software.
TwinCAT is the universal automation platform that enables all functions to be implemented in software.
TwinCAT integrates all control functions, such as PLC, motion control, robotics, HMI, safety, analytics and vision, on a central platform using a uniform time base.
TwinCAT integrates all control functions, such as PLC, motion control, robotics, HMI, safety, analytics and vision, on a central platform using a uniform time base.

TwinCAT: the universal automation platform for greater efficiency in engineering

The TwinCAT 3 automation software integrates all engineering and runtime processes and features a consistent development environment for implementing all control tasks in the automotive industry. Thanks to TwinCAT’s support for programming in IEC 61131-3 and the integration of C/C++ algorithms and MATLAB®/Simulink®, you can pick the programming method that works best for yor application.

The TwinCAT interfaces to Machine Learning algorithms allow the use of AI methods in the traditional control environment. The use of Microsoft Visual Studio® as the standard programming workbench supports different version management systems and simplifies team-based programming. For high-volume production applications, TwinCAT features open interfaces for integrating commercial IT systems into the machine program generation process. Ready-made software modules, e.g., for dancer roll control, cam plate function, energy monitoring or QR code recognition, simplify engineering and shorten development and commissioning times.

  • Extensive TwinCAT libraries for Motion Control and supplements for various robot kinematics with tested and optimized algorithms save on development time.
  • Commissioning and service processes are accelerated and improved using TwinCAT Scope, a software oscilloscope fully integrated in the TwinCAT system architecture, thus contributing to the improvement of machine quality.
  • With TwinCAT Vision, images can be processed directly in the unified control platform. This allows for the synchronization of all image-derived control functions in real time. Latencies are eliminated, and all image algorithms are executed in real time.
  • The software-based TwinSAFE safety technology simplifies the wiring of complex installations because variants can be mapped in software.
  • The integrated, browser-based visualization solution TwinCAT HMI enables the convenient development and maintenance of visualization objects and user interfaces. The visualization can be displayed either directly on a panel at the machine or platform-independently on an end device.
  • By supporting standardized communication protocols for cloud applications, TwinCAT IoT makes it possible to aggregate data in the cloud or locally at the production site.
  • With the help of TwinCAT Analytics, the collected data can then be analyzed.
  • TwinCAT Cloud Engineering enables the familiar TwinCAT engineering and runtime products to be used directly in the cloud and enables the development of software in large teams independent of location.

Our large portfolio of EtherCAT Terminals offers maximum functional diversity and allows freely mixed signal compositions.
Our large portfolio of EtherCAT Terminals offers maximum functional diversity and allows freely mixed signal compositions.

Basic function block for automation: the Beckhoff I/O portfolio

With around 1,000 I/Os for more than 100 signal types, Beckhoff offers an extensive modular automation toolkit. You can flexibly assemble the ideal components for your control architecture. An extensive range of I/O housing formats, a variety of channel densities and flexible interfaces ensure that the ideal product is available for every application scenario. In addition to standard functionalities, our I/O portfolio includes products for specialized applications, such as safety technology, explosion protection, measurement technology and the control of small motors via drive technology. Communication and power measurement terminals for charging infrastructure are also available. By combining a wide variety of I/O components, all control tasks can be centrally integrated on one platform.

A large number of EtherCAT-compatible sensors and actuators are available due to EtherCAT’s high level of acceptance on the market. However, our control technology is also open with regard to the integration of other fieldbus systems. Support for common communication protocols, such as CANopen, IO-Link, PROFINET or Modbus, gives you maximum freedom in control design, even when it comes to retrofits or conversions of existing systems. The connection can be established using appropriate fieldbus couplers as well as embedded PCs, depending on the application and control topology. The Beckhoff I/O portfolio’s high level of connectivity, maximum functional diversity and long-term availability offer secure investment protection.

The C60xx series of performance-scalable ultra-compact Industrial PCs combines maximum computing power in a compact format with a wide range of options for installation in the control cabinet. The IP65-protected C7015 (left) is suitable for direct mounting on the machine.
The C60xx series of performance-scalable ultra-compact Industrial PCs combines maximum computing power in a compact format with a wide range of options for installation in the control cabinet. The IP65-protected C7015 (left) is suitable for direct mounting on the machine.

Ultra-compact Industrial PCs for all control applications

The C60xx series of scalable ultra-compact Industrial PCs combines maximum computing power in the most compact format with a wide range of options for installation in the control cabinet. The latest processors − in three different performance classes from the Intel Atom® with one core to the Intel® Core™ i7 with eight cores − offer high performance density and maximum scalability.

  • The compact dimensions of 82 x 82 x 40 mm make the fanless C6015 multi-core PC the ideal control for applications with high performance requirements and minimum installation space.
  • The compact C6017 multi-core computer complements the device family with a variant with further optional interfaces. This makes it ideal for use as an edge device.
  • Due to its high computing power and fanless design, the C6025 is well suited for more demanding applications that also take the aspect of green IT into account.
  • The high-performance C6030 offers advantages such as low space requirements and flexible mounting, even for demanding applications with high performance requirements.

The C7015 IP65 Industrial PC is available for direct integration on the machine. Thanks to a wide range of on-board interfaces, it is ideally suited for implementing modern Industrie 4.0 concepts. Moreover, the integrated EtherCAT P connection offers flexible options for the direct connection of actuators and sensors via EtherCAT P Box modules with IP67 protection.

Robust panels and panel PCs

As the front end of a machine, control panels are the visual and functional business card. With a comprehensive range of high-quality control panels and performance-scalable panel PCs, we offer state-of-the-art ease of use for a wide variety of application scenarios in automotive production – which means that optimized functionality and elegant design are guaranteed. The housings for our control panels and panel PCs are essentially made from solid aluminum and offer IP65 ratings. The meticulous development and integration of electronic parts, displays, touch screens and front laminates ensure high levels of availability and reliability in operation. Advanced multi-touch technology meets tried-and-tested housing technology and perfectly tuned PC hardware. The highly robust control panels and panel PCs from the CPX series also enable the devices to be used in zone 2/22 hazardous areas.

With our in-house production facilities and in-depth housing expertise, customer-specific solutions can also be created without the need for extensive development work. Control panels can be individually designed and engineered, covering everything from visual adaptations, adding customized equipment all the way through to fully customized housing designs.