Wireless sensors replace cables and save tonnes of copper
A research project is currently being undertaken by the Volvo Group which involves replacing the cables in trucks with wireless sensors. The result will be a dramatic reduction in the amount of copper and plastic used. Every year the company should be able to dispense with around 5,000km of cabling, which is the equivalent of 18 tonnes of copper and 33 tonnes of plastic.
Modern trucks use a variety of hundreds of meters of different types of cable. The cables are made of plastic and copper and are used, for example, to supply electricity and data to supply power and data to various sensors which ensure that components of the truck function properly, including the gearbox, the lights, the switches and the air conditioning system. The Volvo Group is now taking part in an EU research project to replace certain cables in trucks with wireless sensors.
“We believe that wireless sensors have a great deal of future potential. One important consideration is that we may no longer need to use large amounts of copper and plastic, which is good for the environment,” said Dhasarathy Parthasarathy, Development Engineer, Volvo Group.
Depending on the size of the truck, a reduction in cable length of between 40 and 70m has initially been identified. Given an annual production of 100,000 trucks, this amounts to around 5,000km of cabling. In terms of weight, that means 18 tonnes of copper and 33 tonnes of plastic. As well as eliminating the need for large amounts of copper and plastic, the wireless sensors could bring significant benefits for the production department and the service workshops, particularly in terms of the time they can save.
“The savings could amount to a large number of hours, sometimes even days. In the factory, the cables are awkward to handle and time-consuming to fit in the right place. The wireless sensors are much simpler to install. The cables are also sensitive to dirt and rust and prone to faults. By replacing the cables with wireless sensors, it is possible to prevent all the potential cabling faults. When trucks come into the workshop for repairs, identifying faults in long cables that are difficult to access is very time-consuming. In the future, our customers could get their trucks back from the workshop more quickly,” said Jonas Hagerskans, Development Engineer, Volvo Group.
The system may also bring benefits for both the development and assembly of trucks in factories. Design engineers and assembly line operators will not need to take into account where all the cables run. Instead, they can put the wireless sensors in locations that would not have been possible otherwise.
The project is part of DEWI, Dependable Embedded Wireless Infrastructure, which is an EU centre for competence and research. DEWI is made up of 58 partners from all over Europe, one of which is the Volvo Group. The project will come to an end in 2017, but the work within the Volvo Group in this area will continue.. “We really believe in this technology and we will go on developing it. In this project, we have focused on replacing a small part of the large amount of cables in the truck. In the future, we hope to be able to replace more,” said Dhasarathy Parthasarathy.