Pepperl+Fuchs is introducing a special upgrade to its absolute position encoding system WCS. Photoelectric position encoding systems like the WCS are used for precise position feedback of shuttle cars and conveyor vehicles. The latest version, called WCS Outdoor, is optimized for automation in outdoor environments like ports, offshore installations, ships, or waste incineration plants.
“When Pepperl+Fuchs launched the original WCS back in 1989, it was the world’s first absolute positioning system. Over the decades, we always aligned this solution with our customers' requirements. The new ruggedized version shows how automation technology has taken root in harsh outdoor environments, as well. Nowadays, precise positioning tasks are a fixture in such environments, and the requirements for equipment are significantly higher than in typical indoor applications,” explains Product Manager Armin Hornberger.
To meet these tough demands, the WCS Outdoor is enclosed in an IP69 protective housing, which is designed to withstand aggressive substances like salt water, saline air, acids, or alkalis. It offers excellent shock resistance, making the system nearly invulnerable to possible damage from typical outdoor obstacles like falling branches or hail.
Even in snowfall and at temperatures down to -40 °C, the WCS Outdoor operates smoothly due to its integrated heating. In daily operation, the protective housing does not cause any constraints, as the display and status indicator LEDs are clearly visible through the translucent housing material.
When it comes to installation, WCS Outdoor offers the advantages that users of the standard version are already accustomed to. The system encompasses just two components: the read head, including a protective hood, and a code rail with openings that allow noncontact and wear-free vehicle position encoding. Even when the track profile has curves, uphill and downhill slopes, or lane changes, the WCS provides reliable positioning information.
The system’s read head offers RS-485 or SSI connection to a corresponding gateway module. This module then transfers the signal into the needed protocol type (EtherNet/IP, PROFINET, EtherCAT …) opening up maximum flexibility for use with different control systems. Because connection points are located at three different positions of the WCS Outdoor housing, users enjoy additional flexibility and can easily adapt to space-restricted installations.
Because the WCS outdoor version is compatible with earlier conventional systems, it is also a great fit for users planning to upgrade an existing installation, says Hornberger: “WCS Outdoor is downward compatible, so the code rails and additional accessories from the standard WCS can be used with the ruggedized version. Running this very robust outdoor version also makes sense for challenging indoor environments like in galvanizing plants or similar chemical engineering applications. In any case, WCS Outdoor stands for uncompromising process safety and easy handling.”