Contactless power transmission is opening up new automation prospects

Product Manager Klaus Leuchs demonstrates FreeCon Contactless supplying power over an air gap of up to 5 millimetres

To transmit high levels of power as part of a maintenance-free solution, Weidmüller has optimised the proven inductive resonance coupling technology so that even powerful motors can be reliably supplied via an air gap.

The development of intelligent power transmission solutions is just one of the key steps along the road to the smart factory. In conventional methods, the supply is connected manually by means of a mechanical plug-in contact. But products such as these require a great deal of maintenance and need to be replaced often - causing frequent production downtimes. These weak points are alien to contactless power transmission, since it far exceeds the flexibility and lifecycle offered by conventional plug-in connections.

“Contactless power transmission is something we’re all familiar with. Take electric toothbrushes, for example. This transmission method means that the brushes are operated independent of a plug-in connection that’s subject to wear,” explains Product Manager Klaus Leuchs, providing a comparison. “Industrial applications benefit enormously from this level of flexibility. As a result, we have made the well-known inductive resonance coupling technology fit for tough industrial environments - and are opening up a wide range of applications for the first time ever by providing high power density with maximum efficiency.”

When we use an electric toothbrush, the contactless induction charge helps to really get our creative juices flowing as we clean our teeth lost in thought. But in the industrial segment, Weidmüller’s optimised technology opens up countless opportunities for high-performance automation.

High power density with maximum efficiency

The FreeCon Contactless system from Weidmüller transmits up to 240 watts via an air gap. It’s a completely wear-free and especially efficient solution.

The high power transmission means the range of industrial applications extends from robotics and rotating systems to driverless transport systems. Even high-vibration applications don’t pose any problem, since the system boasts a transmission distance of up to five millimetres, which is one-of-a-kind in its performance class.

The arbitrary approximation options also contribute to the flexible range of potential applications. The connection is established as soon as two modules are positioned opposite one another - and even remains stable in the event of rotational movements. This allows for completely new structures in industrial system construction and significantly helps to optimise production processes.

Last but not least, FreeCon Contactless scores top marks since all of these performance parameters could be implemented in the most compact design yet, which measures just 100 x 100 x 47 mm. The IP 65 system can thus be deployed in virtually any industrial environment in an especially space-saving manner.

But just how did Weidmüller manage to combine such a high level of power with such a compact format? “Our recipe for success is based on innovative thermal management, which enabled our developers to achieve an efficiency level of more than 90 per cent and thus to effectively reduce heat development,” reveals Mr Leuchs. “Under these conditions, we were able to implement the compact design we were aiming for.”

FreeCon Contactless supports production automation by means of secure, contactless power transmission - which is tailored to industrial requirements and suitable for integration in a control programme

Intelligence for contact points in the field

FreeCon Contactless was developed in close collaboration with leading manufacturers from Germany’s automotive industry. One suggestion made in this partnership approach resulted in a fantastic feature: since the system is controlled by means of a PLC, the secondary side can be switched on or off using the primary side. The result is therefore a switchable device suitable for integration in a higher-level control programme.

Its plug-and-play capability means that FreeCon Contactless is just as easy to use as a plug-in connector and can therefore even be retrofitted for existing systems without any problems.

Connections which, up until now, were made manually can be automatically established in a flash - opening up new prospects on the road to the smart factory.