Würth Elektronik ICS and Maschinenfabrik Bernard KRONE

The twin success story of two development strategies

Würth Elektronik ICS, a system provider for control as well as signal and power distribution solutions, has worked in partnership with Maschinenfabrik Bernard KRONE for a decade now. Two separate strategies were taken to develop power distributors for KRONE machines, both of which proved successful.

KRONE is a fourth-generation family-owned company based in Spelle in northwest Germany. The renowned specialist for forage harvesters has been one of the leading manufacturers of agricultural machinery in Europe for decades. The company’s technology flagships include twohigh-performance mower conditioners, the BiG M self-propelled harvester and the BiG X forage harvester, which are constantly being updated and improved.

KRONE was in the process of redesigning the driver’s cab for the two self-propelled harvesters when Würth Elektronik ICS came offering its services. A concept for a compact power supply unit with electronic control functions that could replace two central electrical units and reduce the high amount of cabling piqued the interest of the agricultural machinery manufacturer. The basic idea behind the concept was to develop a central electrical unit that offers the same base circuit boards for both series of vehicle. The individual requirements for each model line would be met by fitting the PCBs with components and, above all else, using the electronic CAN control system.

From custom solution to standard product

The first approach taken by Würth Elektronik ICS involved the use of an electronic CAN controller from its standard portfolio: the ICCS 64P CAN Controller. This can be connected to the circuit board by plug & play and enables consumers and functions to be connected to the communication network in the vehicle. However, the 64-pin controller could not meet all of the many requirements of the agricultural equipment manufacturer. In spite of this, the solution showed a lot of promise. As luck would have it, Würth Elektronik ICS was carrying out an R&D project to develop a new version of the CAN controller with 88 pins. The company was able to make use of crucial information and the list of requirements received from KRONE during the further development process, especially in relation to software development.

Today, the new ICCS 88P CAN Controller, which is now part of the Würth Elektronik ICS’s standard product catalogue, is standard equipment on every central electrical unit of the BiG M and BiG X series. It is used to monitor fuses, control relays and link binary and analogue sensors via the CAN bus. The controller features a 16-bit microprocessor with sufficient computing power to complete even more complex tasks. The module also has 28 low-side outputs to actuate multiple low-power loads, making it possible to record and process binary switching information, analogue voltages, currents and signal frequencies. Along with that, four pulse width modulation (PWM) outputs are used to control proportional valves or function as digital outputs.

By using the ICCS 88P CAN Controller, it was possible to meet a number of light control requirements, several of which were mandated by law. ‘The central electrical unit developed by Würth Elektronik ICS, which features an integrated control module for our high-performance mower conditioners and forage harvesters, was a critical component when it came to modernising these models. It has sped up production, improved our diagnostics capabilities and ultimately helped us save a lot of money,’ reports Jörg Rohrbach, a development engineer at KRONE.

The central electrical unit from Würth Elektronik ICS for KRONE’s BiG M and BiG X series.

Image source: KRONE/Würth Elektronik ICS

The central electrical unit equipped with the ICCS 88P CAN Controller.

Image source: KRONE/Würth Elektronik ICS

Standard product tailored to meet customer needs

A different approach proved to work best for another project that KRONE and Würth Elektronik ICS worked together on. The REDline Power Boxes from Würth Elektronik ICS is a line of power distributors available in standard housings with configurable circuit boards. It was this standard solution that really caught KRONE’s eye. Increasing the amount of electronics in towed machines came with the need to power additional consumer loads and provide fuse protection for them. A heavy-duty solution encased in a dust-proof and splash-proof housing (IP64) like the REDline Power Box Medium was the perfect solution to meet this challenge.

The box offers the possibility to place the power supply, fuses and controls for optional functions at decentralised locations in the vehicle in a way that helped save space. The functions can be implemented close to the consumer, which not only reduces the size of the PCB but also the complexity of the wiring harness. The circuit board inside the box, custom designed for KRONE, contains 11 fuses, a fuse tester and a relay. Because of the enhanced vibration requirements of agricultural equipment, the assembly was implemented using press-fit technology. The REDline Power Box Medium has been the standard solution for towed machines at KRONE ever since the company first began using it.

The REDline Power Box Medium houses the decentralised power supply, fuse protection and controls for KRONE’s towed machines.

Image source: KRONE/Würth Elektronik ICS

A successful partnership

The companies both benefited from the partnership. Würth Elektronik ICS obtained important information from KRONE on the requirements regarding the 88-pin CAN controller, while KRONE was able to modernise a range of agricultural machines within a short period of time by using the power distributors from Würth Elektronik ICS. At the end of the day, it was a true win-win situation.