A partnership between cylinder manufacturer Eaton Hydraulics, Eden Prairie, Minn., and sensor producer Balluff Inc., Florence, Ky., helps Eaton provide high-efficiency hydraulic systems.

Under a special agreement, the two companies co-engineer products and share technical and market trend information. In the hydraulics market, suppliers like Eaton are being asked to provide packages that require the integration of complex electronic and hydraulic technologies. Although sensing products from Eaton's Cutler-Hammer operation are used when appropriate, Balluff's products give Eaton access to a broader range of components.

Sensor solution
When Eaton began looking for a more robust sensor for its hydraulic and pneumatic cylinders, it evaluated Balluff's Strokemaster cylinder-position sensor, a high-pressure, inductive proximity switch. Controlling leakage is critical in the hydraulics industry, and Eaton wanted to make sure the switch's performance would measure up to the rest of the cylinder system. As it did impulse testing — including running as much as 11 million cycles — Eaton saw that the Balluff sensor offered superior performance.

Collaborative design
Balluff's ability to collaborate on product design changes enabled Eaton to embed a standard Balluff transducer into their hydraulic cylinder, streamline the production process, and reduce the cost of each transducer installation.

Eaton began to look at ways to manufacture embedded sensor designs more efficiently and with better quality. Eaton inquired whether one of Balluff's Micropulse Z transducer's electronic boards could be rotated, so the entire assembly could be slipped into the cylinder with its fastener in place and the cable connector already attached. Balluff modified the wave-guide connections to make this possible, resulting in a more efficient assembly process.

To further reduce assembly time, Eaton suggested that Balluff do one of the soldering jobs Eaton had been performing. Balluff is now providing completely pre-assembled connector assemblies that Eaton needs only to insert into its product and plug into the boards.