General Industries

Virtual cord puts cordless screwdrivers on a leash

December 19, 2022

A so-called virtual cord from Desoutter ensures component-related traceability during assembly with cordless tools without hindering the flexibility of the employees.

This is because the innovative solution monitors the position of the tool in the room. The radius of action of the individual screwdrivers can be easily and individually defined and is a further step on the way to Industry 4.0.

Cordless assembly tools combine maximum flexibility, efficiency and ergonomics. Their only shortcoming so far: If you are not careful, they develop a mind of their own and “move” to another place in the assembly line - with the risk of incorrect screw connections at another station. Users must therefore ensure that the screw connections for which a specific tool is set are always carried out on the correct component. "In the past, this was done automatically because the cord length of an electric screwdriver is finite”, explains Michel Loosen, Product Manager at Desoutter GmbH in Maintal. “This restriction does not apply to cordless tools. The temptation to help out with a tool at the station next door is easy, although the screwing parameters may not be suitable for the tasks there. That is why we were looking for a way to limit the range of applications for WLAN tools in a meaningful way”.

Desoutter has now developed a so-called "virtual cord" with which the radius of action of the tools or the employees can be individually defined. This radio-supported function means that the screwdrivers connected to it can only be operated within certain, narrowly defined coordinates. “These coordinates are set for each assembly line in such a way that the tools can no longer be switched on at the neighbouring station”, emphasises Loosen. The new solution is based on the Connect control unit from Desoutter, which monitors the position of the tool in the room and thus ensures component-related traceability. Assembly errors and quality problems can be minimised in this way, the high level of flexibility of the cordless screwdriver is preserved.

Simple installation

The virtual cable is simple to set up. Only two things are required for this: a so-called tracking base, which is connected directly to the control unit, and a tracker attached to the tool. Communication between the tracking base and the tracker takes place by radio using ultra-wideband technology (UWB), which uses the frequency range from 3.5 to 6.5 GHz and does not interfere with other radio networks. The desired work area is determined and learned very easily; in principle, only the start button on the tool has to be pressed. Alternatively, the desired minimum and maximum radii for freedom of movement can be stored in the Connect control unit or programmed using Desoutter's CVI Config software. The resolution of the system is approximately 30 cm.

With a tracking base, up to eight tools can be linked and monitored within one work area or up to eight work areas with one tool each. In turn, up to eight tracking bases can be controlled via each Connect. One acts as the primary base; the other seven can be installed within a radius of 20 m and managed in slave mode. They also synchronise with the primary base via radio, so no additional cords are required.

Upgrade at any time

The virtual cord can be extended to any number of tools from Desoutter's current product portfolio and upgraded at any time. The compact tracker is easy to attach to the top of the Desoutter cordless tool so that it does not interfere with handling. No additional battery is required for its operation, since it is supplied with voltage by the tool.

“Our solution is characterised by the fact that we do not need any external intelligence or hardware, but only the transmitter and receiver units. The rest is done by the Connect control unit”, is how Michael Loosen describes the special feature of the new system. “In addition, learning the radii using the start button is particularly easy, we even received a patent for it”. And an interesting side benefit for some users: It reduces the risk of battery tools being lost on larger assembly lines in the factory.

In the meantime, the virtual cord has already been able to prove itself in practice in various field tests with some automotive manufacturers and suppliers. Meanwhile, Desoutter is already planning the next step: In the future, the virtual cord will also be available for "square rooms" and moving objects, where the space allowed follows the speed of the production line. These features can then also be easily retrofitted.

With the virtual cord from Desoutter, the radius of action of cordless tools can be individually defined. All that is required is a so-called tracking base, which is connected directly to the Connect control unit, and a tracker attached to the tool. (Image: Desoutter)

The compact tracker is easy to attach to the top of the Desoutter cordless tool so that it does not interfere with handling. (Image: Desoutter)

No additional power supply is required to operate the tracker, since the tool also supplies it. (Image: Desoutter)

Up to eight of the so-called tracking bases can be coupled directly to the Connect control unit, and each base can in turn monitor up to eight tools or work areas. (Image: Desoutter)