Ridder Drive Systems manufactures motor drive systems for discontinuous use, intended for the Agri sector. Typical uses are shades in greenhouses (glass/foil), opening and closing windows in greenhouses (glass/foil), opening, and closing ventilation hatches in stable (livestock) and height adjustment chicken feeders.
SmartDrive is a system containing 2 products:
- A Motor Module with display, UI and control electronics and a custom position sensor module.
- A User Interface Module to give the end user remote manual control.
The main advantage of the SmartDrive system is that it makes the system safer (IEC60730 compliant) than the previous mechanical solution. Besides that, it simplifies and accelerates the installation in greenhouse constructions (reduction of at least 75%). Thanks to its display, buttons and GUI on the engine cover, the greenhouse builder is guided through the installation process in a matter of minutes. Once a single system is installed, the settings can be transferred to similar setups via a Bluetooth connection with a smartphone app saving time to program all the SmartDrive’s.
The User Interface Module delivers remote manual control of the Motor Module and the connectivity to external climate computers and future addons to the system.
Zign Innovations was contracted by Ridder to take full responsibility of the development of the device, from ideation phase to mass manufacturing. The project included full scope of the system, excluding the smartphone app and mechanical design.
- Clarification and conceptual design
- System design
- Mass Manufacturing
Clarification and conceptual design
With some scoping meetings we helped the customer to define the requirements of the products and drafted a first high level architecture of the system and products implementation. This was done in close cooperation with the customer to be able to understand their market better and to explore different implementation options.
During the scoping phase we also investigated different options to develop the absolute position sensor that fits this application and constraints. Standard position sensors were too expensive or did not support enough unique positions to fit this application.
During the System design phase, the system architecture has been made based on the requirements. Main challenges of the project are:
- Fail safe design (IEC60730)
- Meeting target price based on existing mechanical solution
- Ease of installation and configuration (no manual)
- Fit all (most) existing drive systems
To make the system “fail safe” it had to be assured that the motor does stop at the predefined location. If not, a dangerous situation can occur (e.g., falling glass). The hardware and software are made redundant challenged with several FMEA (Failure Mode Effect Analysis) to validate all user– and design-cases.
Safety was the most essential requirement in the development of this product. That is why the heart of the system exists of two independent processors (ARM Cortex) per product. One serves as an application processor (M4) and one as a safety processor (M0+).
The position sensor is a complicated product that always gives the correct position, even when the system is not powered, and the position has manually changed. Because of this, the position sensor was a challenging part to design and implement.
User Interface module
This module adds extra interfaces to the system and a remote manual control of the Motor Module, which also needed redundancy in the drive control. Here we also used two micro controllers (ARM Cortex M0+) with both different developed software to prevent generating the same error.
Between the Motor module and the User Interface Module a robust communication interface was needed. The interface between both modules was specifically designed and implemented by Zign Innovations for this application.
During the implementation phase, while the customer was working on the user interface of both products, the decision was made to validate the designs by means of demonstrators which we made, to validate the design in the field, getting end-customer feedback as soon as possible during development.
As in most of our projects, the importance of seamless collaboration with multiple partners in this project was paramount for success. Together with Ridder and partners for app development, mechanical design and tooling (e.g. molds), we brought this project from idea to mass manufacturing.
In the industrialization phase, we played an active role in the certification process. This started with support in selecting an appropriate notified body. Before the actual certification we were in close contact with the notified body to explain the context and application of the product. Also we identified the required evidence for testing and certification. For the certification itself we created product setups including software to speed up the certification and we were present during certification tests to prevent problems/delays during testing.
Besides certification one of the tasks is to prepare the product for mass production with a target production volume per year defined by Ridder. This includes the final DFM (Design for Manufacturing), final DFA (Design for Assembly) and final DFT (Design for Test) for the electronics and mechanical components, where all designs are being analyzed and optimized for manufacturability, assembly, and testing.
Test equipment development
Furthermore, all test engineering for electronics (FCT) was done by Zign Innovations, based on our in-house testing environment. The final production files of the SmartDrive system have been delivered successfully and are being used for mass production.
After successful completion of the Industrialization phase, we ensured a smooth transfer to regular mass manufacturing. We are currently a proud supplier to Ridder for these products!