EDC recently worked with a customer that had a desire to increase productivity, automate processes, and cut down on the cost of labor. Let’s take a look at their case study and how EDC was able to help them achieve their goals, stay on the cutting edge of technology, and take their company to the next level.
This manufacturer of disposable paper for the food industry wanted to upgrade their cutting and packaging lines. The company makes 6-foot-long folded sections of paper that are then cut into varying lengths and inserted into ready-to-use boxes for 14, 10, and 8-inch sections – whichever size is needed.
The original system involved a machine that cut the paper one length at a time while an employee on the other side of the machine inserted the paper by hand into the boxes. As you can imagine, this process took a great deal of time and manual labor.
What Did the Customer Want to Accomplish?
The customer wanted to automate and speed up the process of cutting the sections of paper and packaging them into boxes. To achieve this goal, they needed a system that was versatile but at the same time able to operate within a limited amount of space.
In preparation for automation, the customer had purchased a case erector. A case erector takes the flat boxes and turns them into a 3D rectangular shape with one end closed and the other open, ready to receive a section of paper.
However, there was no off-the-shelf solution for the inserter and cutting system. The machine would need to take the 6-foot paper logs, index them to the specified length, cut them, and then push the cut stack of pre-folded paper into the packaging box. The machine would then advance forward, close the box, and that box would go into a carton designed to hold 20-30 boxes. The customer planned to start with one prototype machine to prove the concept. Ultimately, they planned to work their way up to the goal of 6 stations.
Each station needed to have the flexibility to cut the logs of paper into varying lengths based on demand. It also needed to be able to handle reject pieces that were defective as well as leftover pieces that didn’t fit the size requirement.
The main challenge for this project was meeting the versatility requirements and space constraints. For this company’s unique needs, they needed a custom solution. While the in-house team worked on the mechanical design, they turned to EDC’s controls expertise for the electrical design.
Each station would have a total of 12 motors:
- 6 motors would be needed for the main section which included the conveyor belt and knives.
- 4 more motors would be needed to operate jaws
- An additional 2 motors were needed for actuators.
All of these motors, and their associated controls and wiring, would need to fit into a 48”x60” enclosure to be mounted above the inserter!
EDC’s controls expertise was selected by the customer to work with their talented in-house design team to increase productivity, reduce labor costs, and bring its vision to life. EDC decided to utilize the Siemens S120 Vector Drive platform with a Siemens S7 1500-F Fail-Safe PLC.
A Large, Central Control Panel
EDC proposed installing a large panel that would eventually house all of the motor controls for each station, enabling additions as the customer expanded their line – eventually a total of 72 motors across 6 inserter stations! Another key control feature is Siemens’ Fail-Safe PLC with ET200-SP remote I/O. The PLC and distributed I/O at each of the inserter stations have safety-rated inputs and outputs. The PLC’s safety-rated CPU checks for faults locally and remotely and communicates their status over the ProfiSafe ethernet network. Wiring for E-stops and safety switches is greatly simplified since the safety components are connected locally instead of home-runs back to the main controls enclosure. Should an E-stop be activated, the ProfiSafe network issues a Safe Torque Off stop to the VFDs and the location of the fault can be displayed at the main and Mobile HMI’s.
EDC installed a Siemens mobile HMI. This feature gave the operator the ability to walk up and down the line and make changes as he or she saw fit. It also helped EDC with development and troubleshooting of the controls.
System for Getting Rid of Waste Product
The customer built a network of conveyor belts below the floor in the basement of the factory. The short end sections and waste from the cutting and insertion process are simply pushed to an opening in the floor and fall to the conveyors below. EDC integrated the conveyor network with the production system above. Additionally, cameras were placed overlooking the network of conveyor belts so the operator has the ability to view the basement from the HMI at all times.
The customer’s case erector included an OEM-installed Omron PLC which would not directly communicate over the Siemens ProfiNet network. EDC created a custom protocol so the two PLCs could “talk” to one another. This back-n-forth communication allows for a quality check to inform the Inserter PLC, and the operator, that the boxes are ready, in place, and that none are malformed. In return, the Insert PLC lets the case erector know that all the boxes are full.
How Is This Project Innovative?
From the onset, the mechanical portion of this project was achieved through prototyping and development by the customer. Even though the controls portion was 80% known, the solution required flexibility and room for innovation. The EDC / Siemens combination proved to be the best fit. For starters, the Siemens S120 VFD and Servo system may be the most compact solution for multi-axis applications. Each inserter required 12 axes of VFD and servo motor control. The distributed approach to the PLC I/O made it easy to add or subtract field components, including safety-rated devices. Other innovations included:
- PLC to PLC communications
- Laser sensor array for product quality control
- Live video feed displayed on HMI
A summary of the wide range of products includes:
- S120 dual-motor servo drives with 1FK7 motors (super high-performance)
- S120 dual-motor vector drives
- S7 1500-F Fail-Safe PLC with ProfiNet and ProfiSafe communication protocols
- G120C compact VFDs
- Siemens managed 6GK Ethernet switch
- ET200-SP Standard and Fail-Safe Remote I/O
- Comfort Panel HMI
- Mobile Panel HMI
- Laser distance sensors
- Servo-driven rod-style actuators
The End Result
Thanks to a great deal of innovation on the control side, the customer ended up with a system that has the ability to cut and place stacks of paper into boxes at a high speed. In fact, the system can fill about 4 boxes in 40 seconds using just one line! With an increase in production, the customer was able to reduce labor costs.
Space for the controls was a big concern and a huge limiting factor when it came to the design of the system that could be installed. EDC was able to design and deliver a system that fits the small space requirements but also has the full range of functionality desired. Thanks to EDC’s flexible integration solution and this customer now has a system that enables them to take their disposable paper manufacturing company to the next level.
Are You Ready to Take Your Company to the Next Level?
With over 50 years of experience in the industrial automation and service industry, EDC is well-equipped to take on the toughest challenges. With expert engineers, we have the ability to design, build, integrate, and start-up even the most advanced systems. Contact us today for more information on what we can do for your business.