A Safe Take-Off – Rittal Blue e+ chillers used in aircraft manufacturing

Aircraft manufacturing. Before a brand-new A320 can be put to work ferrying holiday­makers to sunnier climes, the aircraft has to pass some serious testing at Airbus. However, it isn’t just the aircraft that needs overheating protection to make sure it runs like a dream – the testing hardware needs proper protection, too. Airbus uses Blue e+ cooling units from Rittal to keep its testing facilities in top condition.

The two Airbus workers sit on stools in the cockpit of the Airbus A320, as the pilot seats have yet to be installed. Through the cockpit windows they see not clouds, but 4 monitors displaying the “ground test instructions” they need to work through.

However, the first tests start much earlier. As soon as the fuselage sections of a new aircraft have been assembled, the cables are laid there – and tested. All along the various assembly stations, all newly installed components and systems are immediately tested to ensure they are fully functional. Depending on the configuration of the aircraft in question, the full set of tests for an A320 can take around 400 hours to complete. The majority of these are carried out in Jacobs’ department. Fuelling, taxiing, take-off and landing together with various flight manoeuvres are all simulated on the final assembly line. “Our engineers could fly the aircraft, even though they’re not pilots,” the Head of Ground Testing points out. All functions that are essential to flight safety on the Airbus must be 100 per cent reliable. Only when an A320 has passed all these tests with flying colours can it be sent for delivery and take off from the runway at the Airbus plant in Finkenwerder on its maiden flight.

Simulating Operation

The tasks carried out on the final assembly line include the complete fit-out of the cabin. “Once again, we check everything – from the headphone sockets and in-flight entertainment screens on each individual passenger seat right through to the coffee machine in the galley,” says Jacobs. Testing all the onboard functions requires high-performance hardware that is connected up to the sensors and actuators of the aircraft and used to run complex simulation programs. A total of three computers are needed for the simulations. Each computer is equipped with additional hardware that links up to the components in the aircraft. Lengths of cable as thick as a human arm reach from enclosures containing the simulation computers to the insides of the aircraft. This makes it possible to simulate parameters such as engine speed and the signals from the speed measurement devices. The computers also capture output signals, primarily voltages and volume resistance.

Left: An ice-cold marathon – Cooling units in the Blue e+ range run continuously and stop hardware from overheating. Right: Digital view – No stunning aerial vista for the engineers: Monitors are mounted in front of the cockpit to display the ground test instructions.

Airbus developed the simulation computers, which are installed in a Rittal enclosure on the test bench, in-house. The hardware generates a lot of heat when in use and therefore needs to be cooled – the voltage transformers in particular, which are needed for the connection to the components in the aircraft, can get very hot. “In the past, before we started using active cooling systems for the computers, they often crashed during the summer,” Jacobs recalls. Given how tightly and carefully coordinated the production schedule is at Airbus, that simply could not continue. The enclosures were fitted out with active climate control systems in 2006 to avoid precisely such downtime. Today, there are 28 of these test stations in the Airbus plant, all similarly configured. What’s more, all are fitted with Blue e+ cooling units from Rittal to protect the sensitive hardware from overheating. The reliability of the Blue e+ units is particularly important to Airbus. “If the cooling systems for the simulation computers were to fail, we wouldn’t be able to conduct our tests,” Jacobs points out. The test bench is in use at least five days a week in double-shift operation. “We switch on the cooling units in the morning and they run with absolute reliability,” he says. The cooling systems at the test benches are monitored and, should a unit still somehow fail, a warning light comes on to alert staff.

Guaranteed Energy Efficiency

The idea to upgrade to the energy-efficient Blue e+ cooling units came about while working on energy management for the ISO-14001 certification. Rittal Support gave Airbus crucial assistance during this process, as Jacobs explains: “Thanks to the energy efficiency calculator, we were able to work out in advance how much energy we would save by upgrading to the new cooling technology.”

Well-timed maintenance is crucial to ensuring the cooling units run reliably and efficiently. The main causes of failures are critical component statuses and external influencing factors. Networking the units with the IoT interface ensures the condition of all cooling units is reported to overarching systems. Maintenance teams can then promptly plan the necessary measures and carry out the work at the most appropriate time. These benefits can be taken to the next level in the future by linking up to Rittal’s Smart Service Portal. The networking between the devices and continuous status monitoring ensure critical operating statuses can be identified early on.

The senior managers at Airbus were also impressed by how user-friendly the cooling units are. All parameters can be adjusted easily, using the two buttons on the control panel, and the display depicts status and error messages in clear language. “The quality is right and the customer service we get from Rittal is excellent,” Jacobs concludes. Based on this positive experience, the test benches at the Airbus sites in the USA and China, which are configured in exactly the same way, are also being retrofitted with the new Blue e+ cooling units.

German Innovation Award For The Rittal VX25 Large Enclosure System

The VX25 large enclosure system from Rittal has won the 2019 German Innovation Award. The German Design Council honoured the innovative large enclosure system on May 28 as the winner in the “Excellence in Business to Business/Machines & Engineering” category.

Fit for Industry 4.0 and award-winning: With the VX25, Rittal has launched the first enclosure system specifically designed to boost productivity in panel building, switchgear manufacturing and in Industry 4.0 value chains.

The Award Recognises User-Centric Innovation

With the German Innovation Award, the German Design Council (set up by Germany’s Parliament, the Bundestag) honours pioneering innovations that are having a lasting impact and offering users added value. Nearly 700 international submissions were received. The winners were chosen by a world-class jury of physicists, patent consultants, computer scientists, financing specialists, product designers, technology historians and marketeers.

“User-centricity represents the key to the evaluation of the innovations submitted. It is the distinguishing feature of the German Innovation Award,” explained Andrej Kupetz, the German Design Council’s General Manager. “It is particularly successful when future users are involved in product and design development at an early stage.”

The Award Winner: Enclosure System For Digital Process Chains

“We are delighted that such a renowned institution as the German Design Council has honoured the innovative power of our own VX25 with this award. Specifically, the main focus of the jury on user centricity coincides precisely with Rittal’s approach to product development. The success of the system, the feedback from our customers and honours such as this award also prove that we are on the right track”, added Dr Thomas Steffen, Managing Director Research and Development at Rittal.

Intensive dialogue with customers was crucial in developing this large enclosure system. Developers and analysts conducted a large-scale scientific usability study that tracked day-to-day operations at panel building and switchgear manufacturing companies. The VX25 ‘ticks’ like enclosure manufacturers think – in functions and processes”, added Dr Steffen.

The VX25 offers the highest possible quality and consistency of data, reduced complexity and savings in time, as well as safe assembly. More than 25 registered property rights demonstrate the high level of innovation involved.

“The launch of the award-winning large enclosure system was a milestone that was then followed with the brand new AX.KX compact and small enclosure series. With the Blue e+ cooling unit range that had previously been presented, our core product portfolio has now been updated and is fit for Industry 4.0. Together with our sister company Eplan, we are thinking deeply about the entire value chain of panel building and switchgear manufacturing and we are supporting our customers with optimisation and digitalisation”, Dr Steffen concluded.

Special Mention: Blue e+ Cooling Units

The Blue e+ cooling unit series was also nominated for the award in the same category as the VX25. It was given a “Special Mention” at the awards ceremony. Blue e+ has been the most efficient commercially available industrial cooling system since 2015. It works with a new combination of heat pipe and compressor. Application data shows average energy savings of 75 percent compared to conventional systems. The lower temperature deviations within the enclosure increase the service life of the components installed. The IoT interface is predestined for a variety of Industry 4.0 applications, up to and including predictive maintenance.

The Organiser: The German Design Council

The German Design Council (Rat für Formgebung) was established on the initiative of the German Bundestag (the German parliament) in 1953 and promoted by the Federation of German Industries (BDI). For 66 years now, the foundation has been pursuing the goal of promoting the competitiveness of German companies. The German Design Council, with its competitions, exhibitions, conferences, seminars and publications, is making a decisive contribution to the dissemination of knowledge about design, innovation and brands. More than 300 German and foreign companies currently belong to the circle of patrons.



For further information on the Rittal VX25 Series Enclosures 
see the Rittal range on our website or call LC Automation
on 01254 685900.