A total of 52 dip tanks with 80 stopping points along a 27m long line equipped with three automatic carriages.

These are the key facts for the new, cutting-edge GALVABAU AG electroplating system that has been running at the circuit board specialist Varioprint AG in Heiden, Switzerland, since 2013.

The fully automated concept also features sensor solutions by SICK: UP56 ultrasonic sensors for level measurement and C4000 safety light curtains for area protection.

Chemistry plays a crucial role in the electroplating process: the tanks contain a mixture of water and additives which must be in perfect proportion with one another.

Furthermore, these mixtures must not exceed or fall below certain levels in the tanks.

“For level sensors that detect evaporation losses and leaks in the tanks, and monitor the medium supply, bubbling and spattering media create a really tough environment to work in”, says Patrick Risi, Product Man- ager at SICK’s Stans site in Switzerland.

“Thanks to the UP56, we were able to provide GALVABAU AG with a rugged, reliable solution that has none of the disadvantages associated with ordinary float switches or capacitance probes.”

As well as providing accurate measurements, ultrasonic level sensors are also distinguished by their ability to withstand a range of aggressive media.

The corrosion resistant stainless steel housing has been issued an IP 67 enclosure rating. The transducer is protected by a Teflon coating.

Application of the sensors in practice proves just how rugged they are.

“The UP56’s measurements and notifications are reliable and error-free,” said Christoph Hutter, head of technical services and senior manager at Varioprint AG.

“The level measurement values at the individual dip tanks are displayed on the control system’s visualization screen. If the level is too low, the medium in question is automatically refilled to the right level.”

GALVABAU’s Managing Director, Markus Gisler also has high praise for the number of sensor parameters that can be configured when commissioning the electroplating system.

“We can switch the analog signal and adjust the switching signal limits using the integrated operator display, a PC, or even Connect+.”

Online story 2- May Sick_image_2No collisions on the way to the electroplating line

A total of three carriages are responsible for transportation at the fully-automated electroplating plant.

They transport three to six circuit boards to the dip tanks at a time and then return them again once the electroplating process is complete.

To prevent the carriages from colliding with other objects or people in the plant, vertical C4000 safety light curtains monitor the carriages’ paths.

Classified as Performance Level PL e according to EN ISO 13849 and Type 4 according to IEC 61496, these sensors meet the very highest standards of protection.

The main benefits for Varioprint AG are the system’s sensing range of seven meters, the ability to cascade the systems over the entire length of the facility, and the beam coding feature, which prevents the sensors from interfering with one another during operation.

If anyone breaches the protective field, the C4000 safety light curtains stop the carriages in their tracks instantly.

This partner content is brought to you by SICK.

For more information, visit

Jessica Dickers is an experienced journalist, editor and content creator who is currently the Editor of Utility’s sister publication, Infrastructure. With a strong writing background, Jessica has experience in journalism, editing, print production, content marketing, event program creation, PR and editorial management. Her favourite part of her role as editor is collaborating with the sector to put together the best industry-leading content for the audience.

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