The Stäubli CombiTac connectors are suited for longstanding operations. In certain customer applications, they are expected to mate up to 100’000 cycles or resist to shock and vibrations. These requirements ask for the highest quality in materials, elaborate design, low contact resistance and extensive technical as well as application testing.
Dorothée meets Benjamin Hagen, Manager of the Test Department at Stäubli Electrical Connectors’ Headquarters.
Dorothée: Benjamin, thanks for taking a short moment to introduce us to the competence of technical and application testing at Stäubli Electrical Connectors. How did you get this job in the first place?
Benjamin: As I completed my Diploma thesis at the Institute of Electrical Power Systems and High Voltage Engineering (IEEH) at TU Dresden, I focused researching on thermal loads of electrical contacts under short circuit conditions, which led me to Stäubli Electrical Connecters, formerly Multi-Contact, one of the leading specialists in this field. After a couple of years in Research & Development I found a new challenge and took over the company’s own Test Department.
How would you describe the work of the Test Department at Stäubli Electrical Connectors?
Our product and solution portfolio ranges from smallest components to high-performance connectors for a vast range of industry applications. Therefore, we have designed and developed specialized testing procedures for more than 35 years with a wide range of own, calibrated test facilities in-house, which are regularly inspected by external bodies. Our testing procedures evaluate the products and components beyond the required standards. We push the products being tested to failure, while simultaneously determining the absolute safety limit of the application requirements. The comprehensive tests simulate extreme ambient conditions as well as the mechanical and electrical load that the products will have to withstand when in use.
What kind of tests do you carry out for the products of CombiTac world?
In industrial or medical applications repeatedly numerous mating processes without negative impact on the performance are required to ensure reliable, safe, and long-lasting operation. The regular and frequent connection and disconnection of battery packs in e-vehicles or AGVs are also part of the everyday routine in these applications. Therefore, the mating process is one aspect to be examined in endurance tests.
We have two test devices to perform fully automated mating cycles horizontally and vertically. Information about the strain and wear on the individual CombiTac modules is recorded visually with photos, logged as data, and analyzed. The current load of our mating cycle device is provided by 5 generators that can be combined up to 400 A. We can run a maximum mating cycle speed of 15 m/min. As the CombiTac connectors are available as panel mount or with housings, also the steady usage of the coupler hoods must verifiably withstand the load, which we also test. Here, we have a Stäubli robot executing the repetitive tasks of the housing opening.
The measured data during these testing procedures is recorded and each measuring device logs every detail of the processes. All information and test results will be gathered in a Test Protocol. The documentation and traceability ensure, that the test procedures can be reproduced at any time.
That’s very impressive. The mating cycles are a typical must-have functionality of the CombiTac system. What else is being examined?
There are also tests for creepage and clearance distances as well as the resistance to very high and extremely low temperatures, where we also check the properties of each module of the CombiTac system for temperature rise and derating. Furthermore, we carry out the tests for mechanical impact, retention in insert along resistance against shock and vibration.
After completion of all the structured testing procedures, our engineering staff creates detailed reports, known as conformity verification reports (CVR). These reports document that the statutory and contractually agreed requirements have been met according to international and internal standards as well as according the requirements from customer-specific applications.
Stäubli, as an international company, is acting globally. How does this affect your work at the Test Department?
As we have distributed production sites around the globe, we have established test labs in the U.S., Asia, and Europe. In the close surroundings across the Swiss borders, we have a very intense exchange with colleagues in France and Germany. For example, in Weil/Germany, the customer-specific cable assembly for the CombiTac configurations is being tested according to the customer applications before delivery. Shock and vibration tests are usually carried out in Hesingue, France.
Thank you, Benjamin, for these interesting insights.
Vertical test equipment
Simulation of the automatic mating cycle load for CombiTac uniq
Simulation test of manual mating cycles with a robot arm