A Custom Solution for a Food Paper Manufacturer

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.

Background

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.

Challenges

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 Solution

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.

Mobile HMI

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.

Communication Protocol

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.

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Battery Manufacturer Case Study – Siemens S210 Servo Drive

Not all systems integrators are created equal.  Apart from raw talent within the organization, the industry concentration of the firms varies. Some are good at process control; some specialize in food and beverage and others are adept at creating customized assembly machines, like what may be employed to assemble a ballpoint pen.  While EDC has performed projects in a wide spectrum of fields, tension control is where we shine.

Recently, EDC worked with a battery manufacturer to introduce specialized automation into an extremely delicate web handling process. Finding ways to integrate intelligent control solutions on an existing prototype process platform was a key concern for this battery supplier, who was working on mass-producing a successful battery R&D project.

The Challenge

As most battery manufacturing processes go, this one involves many steps – from slurry mixing and calendaring to slitting, coating and laminating. Particularly challenging was a web handling process necessary to laminate several substrates together, some as thin as 25 microns (um) – half the thickness of a human hair! A backing needed to be stripped off the substrate, then adhesive is applied, followed by the melding of the two very thin substrates together. Obviously, complex motor/torque control was necessary for delivering four things:

  1. Superfine tension control
  2. High reliability
  3. High stability
  4. High versatility

Note that EDC’s usual web handling applications realize tensions in excess of 100 times higher.  The customer also asked EDC to size all the motors based on their existing mechanical configuration. Further escalating the challenge, two other design constraints included 208VAC single phase input and space limitations to house nine total drives, a PLC, and associated controls.

The Solution

While relatively new on the market, the Siemens S210 servo drive was an obvious choice.  Compact, (footprint just 55 mm wide by 170 mm high or 2.2” x 6.7”), safe (EN 61508 & ISO 13849-1 compliant), and available in the requisite 208VAC single phase input (see Figure 1).

Battery Substrate Laminator Controls
FIGURE 1: Battery Substrate Laminator Controls – featuring compact electrical design

 

In addition to delicate tension control, very fine speed control was needed. To address this aspect, EDC sized 20-to-1 and 50-to-1 planetary gearboxes for the nip and rewind motor sections.  Therefore, precise tension control could be accomplished with minute speed changes of the spindle motors.

The Solution Beyond-the-Drive

While we may be best known for our incredible drive expertise, EDC understands the intricacies of inline/web processes. Like other web lines, this machine uses “dancers” – i.e., feedback devices that help determine if the web is going too fast or too slow, thus affecting tension. Generally, dancers exert a predetermined force on a web that results in a desired tension, usually with an air cylinder and a pressure regulator commanded from the PLC, an “I-to-P” current-to-pressure device.  In some instances, weights on a lever arm are utilized with a high-quality potentiometer or encoder feeding back the position of the lever arm.  In the case of the battery laminator and its unique requirements, the traditional methods were not viable.

EDC’s unique solution utilized the Siemens S-1FL6 servo motors with Siemens V90 positioning amplifiers to directly drive the dancers.  The servo motor was commanded in a position mode at a percentage of its available torque. This placed the dancer arm at a location and force that corresponded with the desired web tension.  A fluctuation in the position of the dancer arm was detected by the dancer servo motor’s encoder and fed back to the PLC.  Siemens’ ProfiNet communications protocol was utilized to command the roll motors to speed up or slow down, thus maintaining the ultra-fine tension needed to peel the backing off of the substrate without damaging the web.

The Value of EDC’s Solution and Siemens S210 Drives

Using best-in-class technology and savvy drive programming, we were able to take a completely custom mechanical configuration and adapt a control system to that configuration. The end result was control of feather-light tensions and a machine capable of continuously peeling backing and laminating substrates using a fully-automated, scalable solution.

It is also important to highlight the value of the Siemens S210 drives. The power levels were low, the motors relatively small, and control was of critical concern. The agile S210 was well-suited for this battery laminator project and can be utilized for many other applications such as pick-n-place devices, metering pumps, and dynamic positioning tasks of all types.

Are You Ready to Embrace the Future of Manufacturing?

With buzzwords like “Industry 4.0” seeping into the manufacturing ecosystem, the pressure to automate can be overwhelming, but the benefits are enormous. Reducing manual touchpoints and increasing throughput throughout your entire manufacturing process can help you remain a competitive player in the global supply chain.

Are you looking for custom control and drive solutions that can help you automate those pesky hard-to-configure manufacturing tasks?

 Do you have an existing system that is need of a new lease on life?

Contact us

EDC’s custom integrated solutions can help you realize the power of automation in every layer of your manufacturing process.

How To: Rockwell Automation Allen-Bradley PLC-5 to ControlLogix Conversion

Electronic Drives and Controls, a nationwide recognized Rockwell Automation systems integrator showcases a real-life Allen-Bradley PLC-5 to ControlLogix conversion in the video below.  Using this space-saving kit allows the upgrade to exist in the same footprint and with minimal rewiring. Follow along with the directions below.

Equipment shown in this tutorial:

  • Conversion base plate
  • I/O conversion module
  • Pre-wired cables
  • Cover plate
  • ControlLogix rack

 

On the PLC-5, we mark the I/O modules, remove the serial cables, the AC power, and the tie wraps. We remove the PLC-5 I/O headers, letting them carefully drape below the PLC-5 rack. The screws of the PLC-5 rack are loosened and a helper is called in to lift the rack off its mounts. We give the back panel a nice cleaning to prepare for the conversion base plate. The mounting screws are installed in the same holes as the PLC-5 rack, then we add the base plate and bottom screws.

The I/O conversion modules are snapped into the base plate. These 25- or 37-pin modules transition the PLC-5 I/O wiring to ControlLogix using the PLC-5 headers we draped below earlier. The Rockwell Automation selection guide will help you determine these part numbers.

Next, we reinstall the PLC-5 headers in the order as they were marked. The pre-wired cables are installed on the I/O conversion modules. We make sure all 12 cables are nice and snug. We have mounted the new PLC I/O modules and the A-17 rack, and then to the conversion cover plate. This hooks on the conversion base plate, and then is secured with screws. The header ends of the pre-wired cables are snapped into the ControlLogix I/O modules, then the rack’s back power supply.

Notice the missing ControlLogix terminal module. Since an exact I/O conversion from PLC-5 to ControlLogix is not available, we simply wired the conductors to a 1756 terminal block on site and according to our wiring schematics.

Now, let’s reconnect the AC power, then the data highway connections for legacy components we will replace later. Finally, the Ethernet connection is snapped in and we are ready to start testing and troubleshooting our system in a fraction of the time had we not used this labor-saving conversion kit.

From PLC-5 to ControlLogix in the same space and minimal rewiring. Of course, that was the easy part. Need help programming, troubleshooting, and starting up your new ControlLogix system? Give Electronic Drives and Controls, the nationwide PLC and drives integration specialists, a call or click.

 

Project Profile: Adhesive Coating Line Upgrade

Holland Manufacturing contracted with EDC to upgrade their coating line that applies the adhesive to the reinforced backing for their Reinforced Water Activated Tape. Working with Todd Holland, EDC updated the machine that was developed by his grandfather, Holland’s founder and machine designer in the 1960’s. EDC provided a state of the art drive and control system to remove the Motor-Generator Set single motor driver of the machine, and supply Rockwell control hardware and custom-designed mechanical upgrades to coordinate and control independent drives for much-improved product quality and consistency.

The project needed to be broken down into two phases. It started by calculating how the drive power should be distributed to each independently driven section. We then did the mechanical design to adapt the motor, gearbox, and power transmission hardware into each section. Interviews with process engineers and operators gave assurance that we incorporated all of their wishes into our design. The drive system was sized to easily install the phase 2 drives at a later date. We incorporated recipes to load the ideal running parameters at the push of a button. Sections could be run in coordinated speed draw or tension modes.

Installation and start-up was provided “turn-key”. EDC provided Electricians, Millrights, and Field engineers to remove the line shaft and install control cabinets, conduit, power transmission, operator stations, load cells and guarding. Holland commented on how the installation was “Beautiful and went faster than we could have expected”. Drives were speed matched and closed-loop regulators were turned on. The line was producing saleable product 5 days after the commencement of demolition.

PHASE 2

Months later, we added 3 new drive sections with a custom-designed weldment, gearboxes, chains, belts, pulleys, and guarding to drive the coater. Again, the installation was fast and fully operational in 4 days. This project was both fun and challenging. It allowed us to participate in the growth and success of Holland Manufacturing while demonstrating our turn-key design and installation capabilities.

PLC Upgrade Using the Existing IO Rack

Are you wondering how to tackle your PLC retrofit project and avoid hours of rewiring?  Here’s a strategy you can use when upgrading from a legacy PLC to the same manufacturer’s latest and greatest CPU.

In the video above, we show you how to save substantial time and cost in a PLC upgrade.  Can’t listen?  Follow along with the text below.

Below we have a representation of a legacy-model PLC with an older, slower CPU and rack-mounted I/O modules.

Each module can contain as many as 32 inputs or outputs, potentially adding up to hundreds of wires to relocate. If we want to change out the CPU to take advantage of faster processing speeds and/or state-of-the-art communication protocols, a traditional rip-and-replace procedure is not only time consuming but could introduce new wiring issues that would need to be sorted out.

Instead, add to your panel a new, superfast CPU from the same PLC manufacturer, and as shown, a multi-port Ethernet switch.

Keep your PLC rack, I/O modules, and wiring intact and replace the CPU with a communications module such as Rockwell Automation’s Ethernet IP, Siemens Profinet, Beckhoff’s Ethercat, or one of the many others available in the automation marketplace.  Next, connect the remote I/O rack and then the new CPU to the Ethernet switch.

Move the PLC program from the old CPU to the new one.  Of course, this is easier said than done, but you will need to do this, regardless.  Now the new CPU can communicate with the remote I/O rack and “see” the status of the I/O, read analog values, or encoder inputs.

If for example, input #7 is pulled high on one of the modules of the rack, it will show up as such in the new PLC program without ever having to move a single wire.  Remember, the new CPU doesn’t even need to be in the same enclosure or mounted on the same panel.  It could be hundreds of feet away, connected to the remote rack’s Ethernet switch by a Cat 5 or Cat 6 cable.

Need help with your PLC retrofit project? Give Electronic Drives and Controls, the nationwide PLC and drives integration specialists, a call or click.

EDC Achieves Control System Integrator Association’s Certification, Meeting Highest Industry Standards

Electronic Drives and Controls achieves CSIA’s benchmark certification, meeting the highest level of technical and business performance standards in providing innovative control system integration solutions and field service work for industrial automation and drive technology.EDC CSIA certification

Parsippany, NJ – January 6, 2020 – Electronic Drives and Controls, Inc. (EDC), a leading control system integrator and field service company for industrial automation and drive technology, today announced the company has achieved certification by the Control System Integrator Association (CSIA), meeting the highest industry standard for successful management of a control system integration business.

“Congratulations to Electronic Drives and Controls on their successful CSIA re-certification. This is a testament to their serious commitment to continuous improvement,” said Jose M. Rivera, CSIA CEO.  “We commend the entire team for this important accomplishment. By supporting the CSIA Certification program Electronic Drives and Controls is not only advancing their company, they are also elevating the playing field for the entire control systems integration community.”

CSIA is a global trade association that seeks to advance the industry of control system integration.  To achieve CSIA certification, a company must demonstrate a commitment to delivering the highest level of quality, performance and reliability by meeting or exceeding the CSIA Best Practices and Benchmarks guidelines in ten key areas, encompassing both technical and business aspects of operation.

To achieve CSIA certification, a third-party auditor conducts an intensive review to confirm that the comprehensive CSIA Best Practices and Benchmarks have been implemented in ten key areas such as general management, human resources management, business development and sales management, financial management, project management, system development lifecycle, quality management, technical management, and other supporting activities.

“As a longtime CSIA member, we have deeply integrated the CSIA Best Practices and Benchmarks into our culture,” said Bud Dillard, president of Electronic Drives and Controls. “Having successfully achieved the rigorous CSIA certification allows us to demonstrate to our customers that our sound business practices and strong technical proficiency substantially reduce their project risk.”

About Electronic Drives and Controls, Inc.  
Founded in 1968, Electronic Drives and Controls, Inc. (EDC) is a CSIA Certified control system integrator with a large field service team specializing in AC and DC drives, PLCs and factory automation headquartered in Parsippany, NJ. Family owned and operated for 50 years, EDC’s team of engineers and technicians has great depth of experience integrating new control systems and breathing life into older equipment. EDC has the engineering capability to design, build, start-up and service projects from the sophisticated to the simple and the service support team on call 24/7/365 to keep it all running at peak efficiency from day 1 and for years to come. In addition to the company’s certification as a Siemens Solution Partner and a Rockwell Automation Recognized System Integrator, EDC is a factory authorized/factory trained service center for over 40 drive brands.  For more information, visit the company’s website, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

EDC Earns High Marks for VFD Preventive Maintenance and Service from Chief Engineer at Premier NYC Commercial Office Building

In a client interview conducted by an independent third party, Chief Engineer of 52 Broadway, Kevin Ridder spoke about the challenges of managing a New York City high-rise commercial office building and how working with EDC, an expert VFD full-service provider, has given him peace of mind.

As the first line of communication when it comes to tenant-related complaints, a day in the life of a Chief Engineer can be unpredictable. “I am the head of the engineering department for the property, with four people directly reporting to me. We basically operate eighteen-hour days from six in the morning until ten or twelve at night, Monday through Friday. On the weekends, I have an eight-to-four shift on Saturday and Sunday.” In addition to cosmetic repairs and general maintenance, his team is responsible for operating, repairing, and maintaining all of the equipment related to heating and air conditioning, as well as responding to any complaints that come from the office facilities.

Kevin described a typical day, saying, “We handle a wide variety of tasks, basically anything that’s a complaint on the property. It could be anything from bathrooms to air conditioning or heating, to electrical issues. We would be the first people to go check it out and most likely the ones that are going to take care of it as well.”

With all of this to manage, the last thing a Chief Engineer wants to worry about is an equipment drive failure in the mechanical room compromising the building’s heating and cooling systems and inconveniencing tenants. Having a trusted and reliable vendor to handle drive maintenance and emergency issues is key.

Having worked with EDC for 18 years, Kevin originally hired EDC to perform regular preventative maintenance (PM) services for 52 Broadway’s drives after a referral from a colleague. “I had spoken to the Chief Engineer for 85 Broadway, which was Goldman Sachs’ headquarters, asking him for a reference. He referred me to EDC because they did all of the variable frequency drives (VFDs) for him, and he was very satisfied with them. I gave them a call, we discussed what our needs were, and we’ve been using them ever since,” recalls Kevin.

As is the case for many older commercial buildings in NYC, the building had older drives from multiple different manufacturers on the property and Kevin needed an expert who was capable of servicing a wide variety of drive brands. EDC is a factory authorized/factory trained service center for over 40 drive brands eliminating the need to coordinate and rely on multiple vendors.

When asked how they usually go about sourcing vendors, Kevin responded, “With many of these properties, the equipment that’s used is rather specialized. So, a lot of times a referral works best when trying to find the right person or company for the equipment you’re trying to repair or maintain.”

Before hiring EDC, the property’s previous vendors had lacked the necessary expertise and communication regarding proposals, and lining up work schedules had been overly complicated. Kevin described the relationship with his vendors prior to EDC as “difficult,” noting that making a service call shouldn’t be more aggravating than the actual loss of service from the equipment.

“Since we hired EDC, we’re getting exactly what we need. Their service department is excellent. I can call anytime and they’ll accommodate us, whether it’s an emergency repair or a scheduled repair. Their time to order parts, get them to the job and get the repairs done is really good,” said Kevin.

This positive relationship created with EDC proved to be especially valuable when the building suddenly suffered a critical failure of their motor control center (MCC) equipment in the mechanical room causing electricity to feed back into the variable frequency drives (VFD), destroying the majority of them. As a complicating factor, the property was in the process of upgrading the building management system (BMS). At the time of the loss, two different systems were affected: a legacy Honeywell system and a brand-new ALC system.

Kevin and his engineering team again turned to EDC to help quickly replace the control center and compromised equipment. Having worked with EDC for many years prior to this event, they knew that EDC would not only rebuild the damaged parts but would continue to provide support with excellent response time and a diligent work ethic. With commercial tenants temporarily displaced, the utmost professionalism and expedient response were vital to remedy this difficult situation.

EDC ultimately provided a turnkey rebuild of the lost VFDs, including a plan for running new main power and control wiring. After assessing the site in its original damaged state, EDC supplied a quote for repairs and then immediately pulled the right team together and dispatched them to disassemble and remove the damaged equipment. The EDC team then designed a plan to run new main power wiring, provided and installed the new VFDs, and interfaced with other on-site contractors, as needed, to ensure a successful installation on budget and on time.

In Kevin’s role, the most important thing is to avoid disruption to the tenants, and EDC provides that peace of mind. Kevin describes working with EDC, “It is more like working with a partner that truly cares. I know the service people by name because they have been there for many years. Some other vendors have been hit or miss, sometimes providing experienced technicians and sometimes not. EDC always responds as quickly as they can, rising to the occasion when there is an emergency. They don’t try to upsell a new drive, and they try hard to find the most economical solution to meet their clients’ needs.” When Kevin picks up the phone and calls, he knows EDC will do whatever they can to ease the burden, so that his engineering team can focus on everything else.

“In these big properties, when something goes wrong or we lose a critical piece of equipment, it can be very difficult to try and provide services that are necessary without affecting the tenants. It can be daunting at times. I know that when I pick up that phone and call EDC, I’m going to get somebody that’s going to handle it – that will be there as soon as they can, and is going to take care of it with the best solution possible. I can’t give them a higher rating than the highest rating. So they were a hundred percent. They are excellent,” said Kevin.

With over 50 years of experience in the industrial automation and service industry, EDC has the capacity to take on the toughest challenges, with the expertise to design, build, integrate, and start up even the most advanced systems. Contact EDC today for more information.

 

5 Controls-Based Causes of Scrap

Often, when people think about causes of scrap, they think about something like a damaged fixture, or worn-out tooling.

Those examples are both mechanical issues, and can contribute to a large amount of scrap being generated in a system. Now the real question is, are there any other areas that can contribute to scrap?

The answer is yes, and one of those main areas is on the controls side of the system. While frequently overlooked, controls related scrap can start as soon as a system is installed.  Below are 5 sources of scrap and how they can be solved with controls solutions.

Analog

Certain devices, like many analog sensors, can be very sensitive to changes in temperature, humidity and other weather conditions. Not using a sensor in its correct environment can lead to inconsistencies in the feedback generated by the device.

Having the right type of device for the job is important, but making sure that the device is able to work accurately in your environment is crucial.

Electrical Noise

Electrical noise occurs when there are unwanted disturbances in an electrical signal. This can become a major issue, especially with analog signals and cause a system to react in un-intended ways.

Using the correct type of cable and shielding can help to reduce the electrical noise created in the system. It is important to not only look at the signal cables, but the communication and power cables as well.

Outdated Programming

Over the years, and sometimes even months, the conditions can change in a system. Maybe product was sourced from a new supplier, or a whole new product type was added to the line. It may seem more appropriate to make a series of quick patches to get the system back up and running, but you need to also look at the long-term implications.

Properly updating software for new changes and added complexity can help reduce the amount of time spent on adjusting just to make things work. When qualifying the added expense of the software updates, make sure to include the reduction of scrap in the ROI.

Inconsistent Hardware Controls

A lot of hardware in a system can have some degree of variability such as the speed of a motor, the pressure for a pneumatic line, or the amount of product dispensed per cycle. Improperly monitoring or controlling vital pieces of hardware can greatly increase scrap, especially between multiple shifts and newly trained operators.

Recipes are a great way to collect setpoints that can be used to drive the automation. With the added ability to save changes and load different recipes, you can reduce the amount of scrap between product changes.

Tension Control

Variations in the tension of your product can lead to rips, wrinkles, and/or printing issues. Not only can this lead to an increase in scrap, but also downtime to get the line back up and running.

Consider adding in one or more tension zones including a load cell or a dancer to gain greater control of your product and reduce the amount of scrap created. Making any adjustments to a tension process can be a trying process and, in most cases, it is beneficial to seek expert opinions on the subject.

 

EDC can help you diagnose your causes of scrap and create a solution to provide you with a more efficient process. For more information, contact us.

7 Common Problems with Slitting Machines in the Metals Industry

EDC Slitting Machine

Having decades of experience helping clients in the metals industry, our engineering team knows the slitting line process inside-out and are experts in automation and control system technology specific to the industry. Typically, when we start with one slitting line retrofit, the success of that first project leads to retrofits of their Metals converting equipment at multiple plants for the same client across the country.

Having implemented control systems for both new slitting lines and retrofitting a countless variety of older slitting lines, EDC has developed deep domain expertise to help our clients optimize production. Because of the complex and nuanced processes for this type of production equipment, there is no universal cookie cutter solution. Each new and retrofit project needs to be developed according to the manufacturers’ unique conditions and production goals.

EDC collaborates with plant managers and operators to evaluate the slitting line from loading the coil and set-up procedure through to the slitting and recoil process to tailor the optimal solution to improve production performance. Although each project is unique, there are 7 common problems we have encountered through the years which are triggers to consider a control system upgrade. In no particular order, here is our list of common problems and examples of solutions we deploy to solve these challenges:

      1. Tension Problems Create Quality Control Issues

        For slitting lines, tension is an important variable. If the tension is not controlled properly, material defects become a problem. Often the material is too taut going in and out of the slitter resulting in a host of quality issues from burring to scratching of the material. A slitting line makes a much better-quality cut at controlled low tension at the entry and little or no tension at the exit of a slitting head. To achieve optimal cut quality, adding a loop going in and a loop coming out of the slitter can solve the tension problem. If you have an entry and exit loop currently and are experiencing quality issues, the control system should be evaluated for potential adjustments. No matter what your problem EDC can help to improve your Precision width tolerances.

        • EDC’s Entry Loop Solution – To solve for taut entry tension problems, EDC can implement controls to provide an entry loop section to the machine allowing for low tension slitter entry, which will assist in making a better split off. We can also add a sonic sensor above the loop for feedback to the control system to adjust the speed of the motors to maintain optimal loop position.
        • EDC’s Existing Exit Loop Improvement Solution – In many of the facilities that we have visited, an operator is manually manipulating the exit loop which is an art and a nuanced talent. As many longtime operators are approaching retirement, the knowledge and know-how is hard to replace. If an operator is not experienced or not paying attention, either they might run the take up too fast creating a taut web on the exit, or they might run it too slow causing the slit metal to become scraped up at the bottom of the pit. Leveraging the control system, EDC can provide a loop position feedback on the exit loop, eliminating the need for the operator to have to constantly make adjustments.
        • EDC’s No Exit Loop Solution – If you do not have an exit loop you would have to dig a pit that’s 30 feet deep which is not practical in many cases. Although not optimal, EDC can provide a controls solution to operate in a slip core configuration. Another solution can be the implementation of Traverse winding.
      2. Slow Slitting Line Setup

        Traditionally, slitting line setup is not a quick process and can hamper your ability to meet production goals. Setting up automated recipe management can significantly reduce setup time. Operators can easily select the appropriate recipe from a user-friendly touch screen, significantly reducing the setup process and improving product consistency between shifts.

      3. Extended Downtime for E-Stop

        There are cases when an e-stop is required during an operational anomaly. When this happens too quickly and is not controlled properly, it can cause extended recovery time and possible damage to the line.

        EDC can incorporate a coordinated, rapid stop utilizing safe torque-off, web break sensors, and control algorithms to maintain web integrity, saving valuable minutes in setup recovery.

      4. Difficulty Hiring Operators

        The National Association of Manufacturers’ 1st quarter of 2021 survey of manufacturers report ranked the inability to attract and retain talent second place behind the rise in raw material goods on the list of top challenges. It was noted by 65.8% of those completing the survey. Previously, the labor issue was the primary concern in 11 of the past 13 quarters prior to this release. With approximately one quarter of the manufacturing workforce being age 55 or older, the skilled labor shortages are very real and not likely to improve anytime soon.

        If you are too reliant on aging operators who have been with your company for a long time, it’s time to simplify running your manufacturing lines by leverage automation technology. Automating previously manual tasks (i.e., automating loop tension) will enable a less skilled operator to quickly complete training and smoothly transition into taking ownership of running the line. Automating allows new operators to achieve the same or better results of the retiring operator. Modern user-friendly touchscreen operator interfaces with built-in troubleshooting diagnostics will also help attract, train, and retain the younger generation of workers who have grown up with intuitive smartphones and computers.

      5. Bearing Wear in the Slitter Head

        Bearings in the slitter head will start to wear over time, causing loss of precision and other operational difficulties and quality degradation. To help our clients resolve this issue, EDC works with slitter manufacturers to facilitate an upgrade of the mechanical portion of the slitter to bring it back to original tolerances needed for precise slitting.

      6. Edge Trim Control

        All slitting lines produce some scrap due to edge trim. Whether you are using a scrap baller or a scrap winder to collect your edge trim, proper control of your edge trim motor can limit the amount of scrap produced. Limiting the amount of scrap adds to your bottom-line profitability. EDC can address this often-overlooked inefficiency by fine-tuning the motor and controls in your scrap winding section.

      7. Legacy Control System

        Many of the first six problems we have discussed could be related to operating your equipment with legacy controls. Slitting lines are true work horses; the physical equipment well exceeds the operating life of the control systems that run the equipment.

        Running your slitting line on a legacy control system retired by the original manufacturer is like dancing with the devil – you never know when you will get burned. The longer the control system has been retired by a controls manufacturer, the higher your chances of extended downtime. If you have resorted to looking for parts on eBay, it is only a matter of time before unexpected downtime will translate into a costly emergency.

        Legacy control examples include Allen Bradley’s PLC5, SLC-500, Siemens’ S5 and S7-300, GE 90-30, as well as many other obsolete AC and DC drives.

Evaluating a retrofit is highly recommended and you may be surprised at how the advancement in technology can offset the cost, yielding a favorable return on investment. In one case study, our client reported a 40% improvement in productivity after replacing an outdated General Electric control system. EDC can help you evaluate and map out the highest value retrofit.

Contact EDC for a slitting line evaluation

Featured in Processing Magazine, EDC Discusses Upgrading to Digital Controls

In a recent article for Processing Magazine, Bob Pusateri wrote an article titled Is it time to abandon your analog controls?

Even if legacy analog controls are still running your manufacturing process, upgrading to digital can be a game changer, he says.

In his signature relatable style, Bob thoroughly considers the pros and cons of analog vs. digital controls, including capabilities, time requirements, and cost, complete with pictures and diagrams.

You can read the full article here.

 

3 Recent Manufacturing Intelligence Projects

Several manufacturers have reached out to us recently wanting to implement Manufacturing Intelligence in their facility.  This has been called lots of different names – Industry 4.0, IIoT, cloud computing, etc. – but we don’t care much for just the next trendy topic, or implementing new tech just for the sake of it.  What’s interesting to our Systems department at EDC is finding solutions that help our customers solve their problems.

Manufacturing Intelligence is not just gathering data but doing something with that data.  Manufacturing Intelligence projects contextualize the data so that it is meaningful and helps manufacturing teams make better decisions.

Alerts for Consistent Product Quality

A recent project featured collection of process data for a company that extrudes a non-woven web of absorbent padding, then cuts it into sheets for use by industrial customers. A data historian was created to capture and store 200 data tags for temperatures, line speed, motor speeds, and the status of safety devices such as interlocking door switches, e-stops and cable pulls.  Alerts were set-up for out-of-range process parameters, which will trigger e-mails and text messages to warn key plant personnel.  Actionable information such as this can be used to prevent product scrap, downtime and component failure. For this customer, a simple blower air temperature that was too low was their largest concern. The project was so successful that it was implemented across their other three production lines.

Downtime Monitoring

A metals converting customer wanted to easily monitor and display their production rates.  EDC utilized encoders and variable frequency drive (VFD) data from our previous slitting line upgrade to calculate line speed in feet per minute and display it on large character rate meter so it could be seen from across the plant floor.  The cloud-based solution also made the production rate and other contextual process points available wherever the plant manager had internet access and the proper authentication. Production managers use this information to help them monitor their plant by simply walking around.  They also receive text alerts if downtime is more than they expect so that they can troubleshoot in a timely manner.

Critical Sensor Monitoring and Alerting

A NYC high-rise needed to alert their maintenance staff when the level of their domestic water tank was too low. Usually, the facility will utilize a building management system (BMS) to perform the monitoring function. However, this building’s BMS was obsolete and adding the necessary system upgrades to accomplish this seemingly small but important task proved to be too costly. EDC installed a Samsara cloud-based data collection gateway and set-up text and email alerts for the low-level condition. A trend line graph was created so the facilities personnel could check the tank level anytime, anywhere they had internet access. The project was performed at a fraction of the cost of the BMS upgrade.

Ready to Implement Manufacturing Intelligence?

The above are just a sample of manufacturing intelligence projects EDC has performed as an end goal or as part of a larger systems integration project. EDC is adept at utilizing a variety of platforms and techniques including Samsara’s cloud-based gateways, Rockwell’s Factory Talk or simple data arrays in customer HMIs that operators can view or download.  These solutions provide actionable information that can help you increase uptime, reduce scrap and transform your production facility, no matter how large or small, into a state-of-the-art efficient operation.

Let EDC help you with your Manufacturing Intelligence project
Contact Us 

Spotlight: Zack Fischer

Zack Fischer has been with Electronic Drives and Controls for almost 8 years, starting with the Drives Service team in October of 2013, and then moving over to the Systems Integration team in 2016. Asked about how Zack started in Service, Chuck Dillard, vice president of EDC, said, “He took the initiative to buy his own PLC. He bought an enclosure and mounted the PLC in the enclosure, wired it all and then started programming PLCs just because he wanted to. And it’s still there in the back of the office. People still use it today for training.”

While working with the Drives Service team, Zack consistently showed that he would be a great systems engineer and an asset for EDC. On one project, Zack developed an idea for a modular rack that could be made utilizing Versabar, then mounted and wired all the drives to it, which Chuck said “came out so beautiful.” He then took it to the job installed the entire system with no problems whatsoever. And Chuck, referring to customers, summed things up by simply saying that “People love when Zack comes.”

Like any great systems engineer, he also wanted to make sure he was prepared with whatever tools he might need for any type of job, even if it meant buying the tools himself prior to EDC implementing a tool program. When buying his own tools, Zack always made sure he had the best tools available. He didn’t take shortcuts or buy cheap or poorly constructed tools.

One of Zack’s favorite things about working with the systems team is the variety. Zack said, “You get to see a lot of different things.” Zack enjoys working with all of the different applications and learning about different types of production machinery. He has worked on projects including improving the manufacturing of potato chips, stranding of large power cables and slitting of steel strips, all very engaging projects. In addition to all the different applications, machines, and even wire and cable lines Zack gets to work with, this job also gives him the opportunity to see a lot of different places in the country.

Zack attended New Jersey Institute of Technology, receiving a degree in Electrical Engineering. Outside of work, Zack enjoys hiking and travelling with his fiancée Laura, and recently was helping to plan their wedding, being held July 22nd, 2022. He has also been helping out his future father-in-law with projects around their house, including rebuilding their back deck. Zack also helps out with electrical work because his fiancée’s father does not enjoy doing electrical work.

In addition to always being prepared for any job, the hallmark of a great systems engineer, Zack is a natural when it comes to documenting his work. Even more, he is an example of what you would expect from a great systems engineer –  solid electrical designs, accurate Bills of Materials (BOMs), and an excellent practitioner of EDC’s standards. Bob Pusateri, Director of Business Development for EDC, said that Zack has “an incredible attention to detail and a tremendous  level of high-quality standards.” In fact, Zack finished the Siemens Solution partner certification, or in his case, recertification exam. When asked how he did and what he scored, Zack humbly said “Pretty good. Ninety-nine and a half.”

Case Study: Upgrading an Obsolete Coating Line

PROJECT SUMMARY

A specialty media print company was having issues with one of their tape coating lines. The line had obsolete equipment as far as the eye could see. As problems with the line arose over the years, the issues were resolved with a quick fix rather than fixing the root cause. This triggered a loss in functionality of the line which ultimately led to automatic functions being controlled manually for the last decade.

As with most customers, there was a major concern with the amount of downtime that the upgrades would cause. The decision was made to split the system into two separate projects, to be able to break the downtime into more manageable chunks along with spreading the cost over a greater period of time.

CHALLENGE

The customer finally decided that they could no longer run the line the way it was. Long down times due to compounding problems were losing up to half a day in production. With minimal diagnostic information, inexperienced operators could spend hours trying to fix a simple issue.

The line was plagued with constant tension control problems as each of the 20-year-old drives had their own self-contained PID loop. The system was controlled by two separate controllers trying to work together to run the same line, which added to the unnecessary complexity of the line. Overcoming these issues became the target of the first project.

As this project was the first of two projects completed on the same line, EDC had to do more upfront planning. The upgrades completed in this project had to work with the equipment that was remaining on the line.

SOLUTION & BENEFITS

Since only some of the components were being replaced in this project, EDC could not build and test the full system offsite. The new equipment was prepped before installation so that it could be installed next to the existing components that were remaining. The prep work completed offsite ensured that the deadlines for the installation could be met on time.

EDC simplified the controls of the line by replacing the dual PLC controllers with a single Allen Bradley GuardLogix L81 PLC. This allowed for a single controller to run everything with integrated safety. EDC was then able to add in run permissive messages and safety alarms to ensure that operators had a clear understanding of what steps needed to be taken to get the line back up and running.

A full mechanical retrofit was completed for all of the motors. New AC Powerflex 525 and 755 drives replaced the existing DC drives. The tension control which was originally controlled in each drive individually, was centralized into the new PLC. With the updates in technology over the last 20 years, the amount of time to calculate the tension requirements in the PLC and transmit the speeds over ethernet to the vector drives was a fast and robust solution.

RESULTS

The amount of downtime of the system has been significantly reduced. The run permissive messages and safety alarms allow the operators, at all levels of experience, be able to diagnose the issue and recover the system at a much faster rate.

With the upgrades to the PLC and the tension control, the unwind tension is now an automatic process again for the first time in over a decade. This has also helped to reduce the overall runtime of the machine, as the operators do not have to manually step through the process.

The line now runs better than it has in a long time. EDC was able to use their extensive experience with these types of lines to understand what needs to be done and what resources need to be available in order to get production running again in a timely fashion.