Off-the-shelf products help Danfoss with new test strategy
Christhian Cardona clicks a grey plastic box the size of a shoe box lid into a fixture in front of him. He closes the fixture and initiates a test procedure by touching a screen.
A blue status bar gradually extends across the bottom of the screen until it reaches 100 pct.
"Now it's done" says Christhian Cardona, as a smiley and a thumbs-up appear on the screen. He puts a sticker on the module, which has now been tested and approved and is ready for packaging.
We are visiting the manufacturing company Danfoss in Nordborg, Als, where Christhian Cardona, as process development engineer, has been responsible for moving the company off a burning platform for the testing of joysticks, monitors and controllers of the Danfoss MC088 family. The MC088 controller - like the grey plastic box, which was just tested - is the brain of the control systems manufactured by Danfoss for use in excavators, tractors and other off-highway vehicles.
The new test system is provided by CIM.AS and has just showered the MC088 controller ports with different I/O test signals. A short stroll away, you find the old test setup - a prototype with a plethora of cables sticking out of it - which had to be moved to Denmark when Danfoss closed a department in Sweden.
The move paused testing
The move proved itself a challenge:
"A certain amount of know-how was lost with the Swedish staff and some of the equipment, such as the fixtures, was up to 30 years old. It was almost impossible to keep track of the hardware as there were cables and soldering all over the place and this also applied to the code which was also very complex. We realised that there was a significant risk that the prototype would not start again after the move," says Christhian Cardona.
In September 2015, the search for a supplier of a new test platform started and, after the screening of several possible suppliers, CIM.AS was chosen.
"We were looking for a solution in which both software and hardware were standardised, and, in addition, we would very much like to receive support immediately. Overall, CIM offered a very good solution and we could work with them on solving the problem with the protocols" he says.
Christhian Cardona highlights the construction of the new test platform with standard components from CIM.AS’ collaborative partners, 6TL Engineering, Microsoft and National Instruments, including LabView and TestStand.
"We were aware that they were not the cheapest supplier. However, compared to the competition, the big difference was that CIM offered a highly standardised solution instead of developing their own hardware and software in-house. This means that, over time, the cost decreases because, for example, we can order a new hardware component from 6TL based on a part number instead of having to pay to have the item manufactured once more" says Christhian Cardona.
Off-the-shelf products reduces Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
To Danfoss, the use of standard components also means that the test solution may be more painlessly transferred to other locations where the company is represented, such as the United States and Asia.
At CIM.AS, being competitive on the price in the long run, albeit not necessarily at first glance, is a very conscious strategy. This is done by basing everything from test platforms, instrumentation and fixtures to sequencer software and frameworks on thoroughly tested off-the-shelf products.
"The cost of acquiring a test system based on off-the-shelf products may be higher. However, our 20-year experience in the test industry indicates that overall cost over the lifetime of the system decreases because running and maintenance costs are less" says Anders Meister, Sales Director at CIM.AS.
In connection with the Danfoss project, CIM.AS established an office in Nordborg in order to place support near the centre of events. This has been crucial to successfully replacing the old prototype with the new test solution.
In future, CIM.AS will also be ready to assist with support and any training of new-hires.
"The testing of controllers and joysticks continues at Danfoss and with the collaboration with CIM, we seem to have also found a good solution for the future" says Christhian Cardona.