How working together can reduce time to market and lower total system costs
01 April 2014
There is a new kind of relationship between parts suppliers and OEMs, says Alex Geddes, Honeywell Sensing and Control, one where working in partnership carries through from initial design to final delivery.
In the past, most parts suppliers only designed and developed the various parts and components that were needed for their OEM customers. In today’s competitive markets, that is not enough. Parts manufacturers need to do more. If possible, a vendor should partner with its OEM customers- working with them from the initial design process to final delivery.
For example, Honeywell Sensing and Control is able to provide a competitive advantage for OEM customers by providing not just the sensor, but a complete sensor interface – helping to slash production cycle time. In addition, by working closely with design engineers, the company can provide a plug and play assembly that will integrate into customers’ designs without requiring additional engineering or fine-tuning. Providing application and engineering support reduces customer design time and can eliminate the need to hire additional engineering staff for specific projects or to contract with outside engineering experts.
Working closely with a single vendor who can supply a range of component variants, i.e. different types and sizes of sensor packaging, inputs and outputs, power supplies, makes the procurement and design process much more efficient. Working with a variety of different suppliers - each with their own ordering/supply protocols - can be complicated. Often, OEMs need to get a specific component from one supplier before they can then specify the associated components and parts from another. By having a single source, customers can be confident that various components will work together and not require additional testing, re-engineering and re-certification.
Using a single supplier also reduces failure points. It can provide a tested and warranted sub-assembly which can eliminate many of the engineering tasks and work required to integrate components from various suppliers. In addition, using a single supplier and single part number for purchasing, manufacturing and tracking greatly simplifies the product qualification and manufacturing process.
In the case of Honeywell, its applications team works closely with OEM designers. When an opportunity is identified it is initially reviewed by the team to establish if the product line can handle the modification as a minor configuration or change to a standard product, maybe a special calibration or adding a cable and connector, or if this requires additional support from the company’s global design resources.
Initially a customer may have multi-sensors/multi-sources that, typically, would be located throughout a system with the potential for error due to differing environmental conditions within the enclosure. Optimising the solution to a single package can ensure tighter correlation between devices and can lead to savings in space and installation time. A single integrated, warranted may reduce the need to manage multiple part numbers for a given function.
Different sensor functions in a single package, for example, may combine barometric pressure with temperature and humidity measurement. This produces a weatherstation building block or multiple sensors with the same function for redundancy, such as the input pressure control of a gas burner in HVAC applications containing multiple pressure sensors closely matched. Additionally control or communications electronics can be added to minimise the design engineering requirement at the system integrator, mounting all required functionality within custom housings to fit seamlessly into a customer’s system.
Here are some examples of how one sensor package can meet different challenges:
The HumidIcon - combining temperature and humidity sensing benefits
The company has developed a HumidIcon module that combines two sensor functions into a single package, providing a smaller size and eliminating the need for designing-in the components required for processing the signals between the two sensors. All the additional intelligence is already included in the module package. Applications are numerous, but with common system components.
The integration of humidity and temperature sensing with heating Is key to helping patients with sleep apnia - controlling the temperature of a heater pan with closely integrated heating and temperature measurement is vital. The HumidIcon sensor controls the moisture content in the air supply, as well as the temperature.
In commercial and domestic buildings’ HVAC systems where controlling the temperature and humidity of large systems for individual room comfort is important, the HumidIcon maintains the desired room temperature and humidity.
Another use is to extend the life of perishable goods in storage or transit, both in low power mobile applications and in fixed installation storage, the HumidIcon can play a critical role in monitoring the environment for humidity and temperature.
The company develops custom sensor modules that facilitate the implementation and interaction of the sensor into the OEM's product. The team – experts in the various sensor parameters and requirements – remove the burden of integration and re-design to meet the OEM's established technical requirements. This can include special, non-standard electrical termination in a sensor, such as adding wiring or connectors to existing leads, for example.
The implementation of a differential pressure and airflow sensor into a single package helps to minimise the overall assembly size and greatly eases the development of a redundant flow sensing product. This technology has been use for medical respiratory devices where the flexibility to combine sensors, and potentially add humidity to the package, can improve overall reliability and patient comfort.
In some medical applications it is necessary to measure the pressure in a flow tube indirectly as force, as a direct measurement would lead to a need for a disposable sensor as the tube may be carrying blood, contamination risk, or aggressive cleaning fluids which would attack a silicon sensor.
In general, when using force sensors to indirectly measure pressure, locating the sensor accurately and reliably is critical to the performance of the system. Any mis-alignment of the sensor and the flow tube can lead to unacceptable errors. This may require the design of custom packaging to improve the repeatability of the alignment within the customer’s system, thereby improving the assembly process at the OEM. The application team can provide support for re-packaging of devices to improve location and provide a plug and play solution.
In other medical applications, where multiple pressure sensors are required, the application team can support the development of manifold solutions or multi-sensor solutions reducing complexity. Additional electronics can be added to produce the required control functionality, easing system design.
For one medical pump device manufacturer, Honeywell worked with the OEM’s design engineering team to develop a new, easier-to-use interface, as well as creating packaging for a special encapsulated force sensor. Combining Zephyr and Trustability sensor technologies into one package, connections and leak paths are minimised with the added benefits of reducing space and design costs. The customer could have opted for packaging the basic sensing elements, provide their own amplification and ADC if greater resolution was required.
In order to reduce costs and improve product design efficiency, OEM manufacturers should look for sensor suppliers that do more than just provide a component.
A design collaboration – where the component supplier is able to provide technical expertise to the OEM’s design engineers as well as to develop and supply customised modules that provide a wide range of performance, size and I/O options – has evolved as the new best practice for medical and industrial device development and manufacturing.
Figure 1: TruStability sensors can be used in medical applications.
Figure 2: HumidIcon sensors combine digital output-type relative humidity and temperature sensing.