Global trends of population growth, the consequent infrastructure replacement and expansion, and the basic need to feed people, combined with ever-increasing environmental concerns and continued emissions regulations, point to increased demands on the off-highway market in the near future. Combining technologies, creating partnerships, and investing in core research are all key to meeting these demands.
Embedding sensors in hydraulic cylinders is a perfect example of combining technologies. Sensor integration can improve off-highway equipment by increasing speed, control, operator comfort, and safety; producing higher yields; decreasing wear and damage to the machine; and increasing vehicle and operator productivity while also reducing operating costs.
The integration of linear position sensors and hydraulic cylinders for off-highway markets was pioneered by MTS Sensors; OEMs have been embedding the MTS MH Series sensors into hydraulics cylinders for more than a decade. These “smart cylinders” are key building blocks for the system solution desired by OEMs because they provide accurate and repeatable measurements with a variety of signal output formats.
This innovative technology allows for closed-loop automated functions such as GPS steering, or harvester height control. It also optimizes hydraulic system components, eliminating the costly and complex internal hydraulic cushioning machining process. Because the position of the cylinder is known at all times, acceleration and deceleration can be controlled, size of the hydraulic components decreased, and energy required to perform functions optimized. Continued integration of technologies such as sensors in agricultural, marine, construction, mining, and recreational machines is essential to the growth of the industry.
Another powerful way to meet the increasing demands on the off-highway industry is to create partnerships. MTS Sensors continually improves its MH Series sensor by working closely with its partners in the industry. Our Integration Partner program brings together the position-sensing technology and expertise of MTS Sensors with leading hydraulic cylinder manufacturers worldwide, enabling cost- and performance-optimized smart cylinder designs.
MTS Sensors and the system integrator partners then work with OEMs to develop new control applications on their machines. The well-developed partnership with expertise in position sensing, hydraulics design, and control systems, results in a faster development cycle with a cost-optimized system solution. Through close cooperation, component design and assembly can be further refined to eliminate unnecessary manufacturing costs.
Continued success in the off-highway market also requires investment in core research. By investing in a company’s core technology, continuous improvement can yield higher quality products that have the potential to generate new opportunities.
As an example, MTS has been able to expand into different applications by meeting higher temperature ranges, more stringent shock and vibration limits, or overcoming equipment assembly hurdles with innovative implementation of the MTS MH Series sensor. MTS has also invested in automated assembly equipment, achieving a high-volume, high-quality manufacturing capability at a lower cost. The result has been increased acceptance of the new product in the marketplace and an additional product improvement from which to innovate for the future.
Companies that can deliver on the product challenges of the past and invest in research and partnerships, have the potential to build the foundation necessary for exceeding the challenges of the future.
Luka Korzeniowski, Technical Marketing Manager, Mobile Hydraulics Industry, Sensors Division, MTS Systems Corp., wrote this article for SAE Off-Highway Engineering.