In the Spotlight for the 2nd Time

Stettbacher Signal Processing AG at the 'All About Automation' Fair
After the great success of 2022, the engineering company Stettbacher Signal Processing AG (SSP), which specialises in sophisticated technical customer solutions, will once again be taking part in the 'All About Automation' trade fair next May, this time in Heilbronn. And again SSP will present interesting technical news, especially applications from the fields of stereo vision, artificial intelligence, autonomous driving, measurement and control technology, etc.

Figure 1: SSP's Universal Controller for autonomous vehicles with GPS/RTK, high-precision IMU, odometry, support for UWB and Lidar, Ethernet, WiFi, 4G/LTE, CAN and digital IOs for local communication. 

As the name suggests, 'All About Automation' is aimed at professionals who deal with PLCs, standard drives, control cabinets, standard connectors, cable labeling, top-hat rails, etc. in their daily work. SSP also sees itself as an automation specialist, but has nothing to do with all these topics. The company usually only comes into play when a PLC solution has not met the requirements, is too expensive, or too slow, too inaccurate, too inflexible, too complicated, and so on. In short, whenever the PLC causes more bellyache than accomplishing the task, that's where Stettbacher Signal Processing AG is at home. SSP's solutions are usually based on application-specific developed hardware and software. Everything is optimized in terms of function and price. It is therefore
rather the exception (but not impossible) when this approach is used for single systems, because the development effort often does not pay off. But even for small series of, for example, highly dynamic or highly precise measuring systems, machine controls, etc. - and of course for combinations of these - it is often the only practical or feasible way. In addition, from a certain number of units, it is the significantly cheaper and simpler way. The product is usually more compact, easier to operate, less susceptible to faults and significantly less expensive in production than a PLC solution.

As an example: the autonomous vehicle controller shown in Figure 1 was developed at SSP to replace an original PLC solution. This first vehicle controller was so complex and inflexible in its using, and the cabling was so complicated and error-prone, that the vehicle in question was hardly usable. SSP then developed a compact, integrated single-board solution including software that can autonomously control and monitor the entire functionality of the vehicle. In addition, it has a web interface, wireless network (including WiFi and 4G/LTE), and all the functions necessary for autonomous driving, such as a comprehensive sensor system, pose estimation (with Kalman filter), mapping, path planning, path control, and many useful additional functions, such as user management, cloud connection, etc. The universal controller can be used on almost any vehicle for a wide variety of applications at an extremely attractive price.

Figure 2: Stettbacher's stereo camera in IP69K housing. Front and rear view.

Another recent example concerns SSP's intelligent stereo camera for 3D vision (Figure 2). The camera is equipped with a powerful computer from NVIDIA. This allows, for example, to process neural networks in real-time in order to recognize specific objects in the live image. Similar to human vision with two eyes, the camera is then able to localize the objects detected in the image in three dimensions. This makes the camera an excellent tool for artificial intelligence (AI) applications, such as for creating 3D models of objects and environments, for autonomous driving or in robotics for collision avoidance, or for following specific objects in space, avoiding them, etc. An interface to ROS2 is available. The camera is also available in a waterproof housing (IP69K) and can even be used under water. In addition to the two examples mentioned, SSP will show various industrial customer solutions at its booth in Heilbronn. For example, a compact measurement system that samples 24 analog channels in parallel and absolutely synchronously at a sampling rate of 500 kHz with 16 bits each (Figure 3). An FPGA processes the 12 MSamples/s in real time to detect specific patterns in them. If a pattern is found, the FPGA transmits the corresponding signal sections to the on-board computer, which analyzes them further.

Figure 3: Precision measurement system analyzing and evaluating 24 synchronous measurement channels at 500 kSps each in real time.

Over the years, SSP has steadily expanded its field of activity. For example, 1- and 3-phase digital inverters with PFC for special drives were designed and realized for a customer (Figure 4). These shine due to their energy efficiency and compliance with standards regarding mains feedback. With this, the company managed to enter the field of drive technology up to approx. 10 kW. Since its foundation more than 25 years ago, SSP has always kept its finger on the pulse of technology. With almost 20 employees in the meantime, the company continues to be a competent and reliable partner for demanding technical projects for its customers.

Figure 4: Single-phase and three-phase inverters with PFC for standard-compliant drive solutions.

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