In a recent project for a leading producer of specialty rolled products, Electronic Drives and Controls (EDC) successfully addressed a series of challenges stemming from an outdated Ruesch slitting machine control system. Characterized by obsolete hardware components, a complex operator interface, and difficulties in maintaining precise tension during steel slitting, the control system required an extensive modernization. EDC proposed a detailed control system upgrade, committing to an installation period of less than four days, leveraging modern Siemens technology to enhance hardware reliability, retrofit existing components, improve operator interface with a user-friendly HMI, and implement innovative torque management control for consistent winding tension.
ATI Materials, a producer of specialty rolled products specializing in high-tech steel for aerospace and defense applications, operates as a critical supplier focused on precision aerospace engine and airframe components. They produce advanced steel alloys, including titanium, nickel, and cobalt-based materials in various forms such as long products, precision forgings, and machined components.
The client faced significant issues with their aging Ruesch slitting line originally installed in 1995. The equipment’s legacy control system presented three primary challenges.
|The system’s reliance on obsolete hardware components, including SIMOREG 6RA24 DC Drives and Siemens TI545 PLC made it progressively difficult to secure replacement parts, thereby jeopardizing the system’s operational continuity and increasing the risk of downtime.
|The operator control panel, with its complex array of analog functions, push buttons, and meters, hindered efficiency, making the system less intuitive and harder to use.
|The critical requirement of ensuring consistent tension across the material web during steel slitting was a significant challenge, given the current system’s difficulty in providing accurate torque control for the winding process.
To address these challenges and provide a comprehensive solution, EDC proposed a control system upgrade using modern components and innovative technology:
Hardware and Software Upgrade: EDC replaced the outdated components with the state-of-the-art Siemens 6RA80 DC drives, S7-1500 PLC, and Siemens Comfort Panel HMI, ensuring reliability, scalability, and long-term support. Existing motors were retained, optimizing cost-effectiveness.
Installation and Retrofit: EDC’s engineers designed, built and tested the hardware and software prior to installation to minimize downtime for the retrofit. Sending a team of three engineers to work extended hours on site to install the new Siemens control system hardware and software further minimized production downtime.
Enhanced Operator Interface: An ergonomic 22-inch Siemens Touchscreen Comfort Panel HMI was installed to provide an intuitive and user-friendly operator interface. EDC programmed the HMI with meticulous detail to display over three dozen machine status messages and alarms making it easier to train operators and maintenance personnel to visualize and navigate the system effectively to keep production running at peak performance.
Torque Management: The EDC team harnessed the extended speed range of the existing DC motor to maintain predictable winding tension, even in the field range where torque no longer reacted linearly as field current decreased. This ensured the precise tension exiting the slitter section optimizing the quality of the slit edge.
Advanced Communication: PROFINET was implemented to enable high-speed communication, replacing the previous PROFIBUS system. This upgrade enhanced speed, data processing, and control capabilities.
Remote Troubleshooting: EDC introduced remote access capabilities utilizing Tosibox secure remote access platform to streamline maintenance. If support is needed, the remote access into the machine’s control system facilitates a much quicker issue resolution.
Documentation: Using Siemens totally integrated automation software platform, TIA Portal, EDC provided a complete PLC, HMI and Drive functionality documentation package, including a fully commented PLC and HMI program, and drive parameters. In addition, using AutoCAD Electrical, EDC provided a robust complete set of schematics of not just the hardware components provided by EDC, but for the entire system including every limit switch, product sensor, push button, etc. to replace the clients’ outdated schematics.
The modernization of the Ruesch slitting line’s control system yielded significant improvements in the customer’s operations. The machine’s throughput experienced a remarkable surge, increasing from 300 to 500 feet per minute. This remarkable 67% boost in productivity not only delighted the client, but also enhanced their overall operational efficiency. Safety measures received substantial upgrades, particularly with the introduction of an automatic slowdown feature to prevent material “tail-out.” This enhancement significantly reduced the risk of accidents and potential equipment damage, a critical advantage, especially when dealing with sensitive materials such as titanium.
The implementation of remote troubleshooting capabilities played a pivotal role in reducing downtime and improving maintenance efficiency. The introduction of a user-friendly, 22-inch HMI streamlined machine operation and reduced downtime by providing operators with a clear overview of machine status and alarms to quickly assess and rectify issues, ensuring a seamless and efficient production process. The new intuitive operator interface also proved invaluable in training new personnel. The modern control system, founded on Siemens technology, offered long-term reliability and a robust, well-supported platform.
“We are extremely satisfied with the project’s results. EDC’s solution brought about a notable transformation in our slitting operations,” said ATI Senior Engineer II, Greg Lima. “With improved speed control and torque management, we achieved a more predictable winding tension, ensuring the quality of our slit materials. EDC’s expertise and innovative problem-solving have proven instrumental in optimizing our processes and ensuring our continued success in the industry.”
By overcoming the challenges posed by an outdated system and implementing innovative solutions, EDC not only improved productivity and safety but also future-proofed the client’s operations in an installation that lasted less than four days.