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IPTE and SMC are collaborating on the development of an innovative testing solution for temperature control in the manufacture of electric vehicles

SMC chillers for temperature control in a testing system for electric vehicles


In search of an innovative solution, IPTE, the Belgian multinational based in Reus, shared with its technological partner, SMC, the challenge of being able to cool parts during tests in a revolutionary system intended for one of its prestigious Tier 1 electric vehicle clients. The result: a robust, reliable, highly efficient solution, adaptable to various sectors and countries. The key to success has been continuous collaboration, customisation and after-sales service.

IPTE, a multinational of Belgian origin with premises in various countries around the world, has an office in Spain, located in Reus (Tarragona), where it primarily acts for international customers. It has two machine manufacturing lines: Assembly, focusing on the assembly of parts, and Testing, where tests are carried out to verify that the parts meet the specifications required by customers.

It is relevant to mention that IPTE Reus stands out as the only headquarters of the multinational that specializes in the design and manufacture of testing machines for electric vehicle components. "We work with turnkey projects. That is, they give us a specification and we do the rest: the electrical and mechanical software design, commissioning and delivery," explains Marc Espolet, Test Engineering Department Manager at IPTE. Lately, we've been closely involved in the electric vehicle sector as the result of its growth and relevance in industry. This specific project is for the electric vehicle, focusing on the creation of machines to test OBCs (Onboard Battery Chargers). "During testing, some parts require quick tests, while others require more extensive and demanding tests that generate heat in the part; we have to cool them. This is where we cooperate with the multinational SMC. Thanks to its chillers, we can conduct tests on the part and cool it at the same time, thereby ensuring its optimal performance," explains Marc Espolet.

Marc Espolet, Test Engineering Department Manager at IPTE
Ricardo Chiabrando, head of the SMC Sales Team for IPTE


By concentrating on the machine, IPTE simulates an environment in which the part behaves as if it were installed inside the vehicle. As from this simulation, a series of tests are performed that include continuity and electrical insulation, among others. Marc E. continues to explain, "For example, all components intended for electric vehicles must undergo high-voltage and internal-insulation tests. These tests involve subjecting the parts to a voltage of 3,000/5,000 volts to ensure adequate insulation; power tests are also carried out." These are personalised projects for each customer, where one part is standard and the rest must be customised. IPTE has identified a market trend towards longer tests that can last from two to four hours. To meet this demand, the company offers a solution that is "fully adjustable and flexible, allowing customers to tailor testing to their own needs."

OBC Burn-in test station machine, by IPTE.


Efficiency and cooperation. SMC Compact Chillers
Against such a backdrop, collaboration with SMC plays a fundamental role. For projects that require longer testing, parts need to be cooled. In this specific case, a machine has been designed capable of testing several parts simultaneously in parallel. This approach is required by the customer, an automotive Tier 1 customer, since they need to verify 100% of the production per load. In the past, the customer would only perform quick tests that would be correct, but later, having fitted the parts in the vehicles, after a certain time they would start to fail. Conclusion: although the parts passed the tests at the time, a specific component would fail over time. With the new machine, parts are subjected to longer stress, allowing potential failures to be detected. This trend towards more extensive testing and the need for cooling sets the market direction. To address this demand, the machine has three chillers by SMC, a partner with which it also collaborated on the design of a control panel that is responsible for controlling the water, measuring pressure, flow, filtering impurities, etc. "The hydraulic part allows us to control the flow, take measurements and empty the circuit once the test is finished," says Marc Espolet.

IPTE, along with SMC, also designed another part of the machine where three essential aspects are carried out, as indicated by the company: "First, it is verified that the part is correctly connected, without leaks or contact problems. Then, the cooling circuit is carried out with several temperature changes, ranging between 2 and 85 degrees, to subject the part to thermal stress. Finally, the circuit is emptied using air to extract the part without spilling liquid. This entire system is designed to operate automatically, while pressure, flow and temperature measurements are taken to ensure precise process control."

In short, SMC chillers play a crucial role in removing excess heat that would be dissipated by the part in a real vehicle. Ultimately, we're simulating a vehicle, but under extreme conditions, to ensure that any possible failure occurs during testing and not once the part is installed in the vehicle. "Ultimately, it's a quality control, however is performed automatically. We're among the first to develop automatic cooling systems without involving humans," explains Marc Espolet.

SMC success guarantee
From IPTE, they highlight that the chillers offered by SMC are very compact: "There are many manufacturers on the market, however, no other offers compact solutions and integrated recovery. That's why we like these solutions, because the chiller itself is capable of managing the flow, the temperature and the recovery as well. In addition, they have pressure control, since they have adjustable motors, which allows us to have greater control over the pressure/flow rate required by the DUT," highlights Marc Espolet. Moreover, he adds: "With SMC we're already working at the pneumatics level, but not hydraulics. We decided to trust them in this sense as well, with SMC we had found a partner who, from the very outset, was interested not only in selling a product, but in offering technical support in testing and development. Approximately 2 or 3 years ago, we began testing with SMC, anticipating a future market demand. During this process, SMC has provided us with a chiller with which to carry out cooling tests, emptying tests, etc. It was something highly experimental. SMC did a great deal on their part and that is appreciated. As I mentioned, not only do they sell a product, but also offer support and collaboration. The support of their technical team was fundamental for the design of the circuitry. This was very gratifying. We also placed great emphasis on reliability, because it's very important that what we do here leaves our premises tested and doesn't cause problems once we've delivered the project; this entails considerable additional costs for us. "The fact of cooperating and uniting experiences has allowed us to achieve technically excellent and also compact solutions."

At SMC, they are also very satisfied with their collaboration with IPTE and its results. "We had great confidence in IPTE and in the market trend," acknowledges Ricardo Chiabrando, head of the Commercial Team at SMC, "We're committed to it and the result is clear. We've accompanied each other along the way and in the field that we know, which is the area of chillers and fluids." So much so that "An engineer who is exclusively dedicated to the development of chillers in our European R&D centre, located in Milton Keynes, England, travelled to provide IPTE with training and ensure the reliability and success of the project" concludes Ricardo Chiabando.

This cooperation and commitment, between both companies, has led to exceptional and highly compact solutions. Both are convinced that this success story will have an international impact given the global nature of their operations. Without a doubt, the market trend is clearly positive and promising.


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