Film Coating Line Downtime Resolved with EDC’s Successful Drives & Controls Upgrade using Rockwell Automation Products

EDC coating lineORAFOL Americas Inc. is a global manufacturer of graphics films, reflective solutions, and adhesive tape products for a variety of industries. The company’s Avon, CT plant manufactures the leading brand of DOT-C2 compliant conspicuity tapes for the heavy-duty truck and trailer market. The plant’s Director of Engineering, Gary Gauer, was tasked with resolving increasing downtime issues on an existing film coating line.

Problem

At the heart of the problem was the equipment’s legacy control system. The coater was built in the mid-90s and the existing obsolete drives and controls were no longer supported by the original manufacturer.  The equipment could no longer be adequately serviced due to the lack of technical support and availability of replacement components and parts. The frequency of downtime was increasing as well as frustration for the hours of service required.

The production line also had aging third-party equipment needing to be upgraded or replaced including integrating a new UV Curing system and a new rotary printer into the line. Integrating the new equipment required mechanical design changes to make the new equipment physically compatible with the existing line.

The coating process is very intricate, requiring expert engineering knowledge of complex winders, tension controls and web transport systems. In addition, capturing live production data such as temperatures of ovens, tensions on rollers, and feed rates added to the complexity.

Solution

After researching and receiving multiple proposals from potential solution providers, Gauer chose Electronic Drives and Controls (EDC) to provide a turnkey systems integration solution. “I was impressed by the diversity of projects that EDC had undertaken, their technical knowledge, and their focus on customer satisfaction,” said Gauer.

As primary contractor, EDC was responsible for all aspects of the project both mechanical and electrical including design, procurement, removal, installation, along with the startup and tuning. In addition, EDC managed vendors, suppliers, other engineers, and machine shops; a lot had to come together at the same time to make a project of this magnitude flow smoothly.

The existing automation system was based on multiple platforms including Wonderware, GE, Cleveland Controls, Square D, and proprietary automation. EDC recommended separating out the Wonderware interface, utilizing it as an Historian and moving to a more robust PanelView Operator Interface. Rockwell Automation’s PLCs have the capability of “recognizing” other Rockwell components such as drives, HMIs and remote I/O resulting in an effortless configuration of the network. This makes the transfer of commands, data and parameters much smoother and the task of bringing third-party equipment online less challenging, especially when Ethernet communications can be utilized.

Rockwell Automation products used include Allen-Bradley ControlLogix PLCs, PowerFlex 755 closed loop vector variable frequency drives (VFDs), PowerFlex 525 AC Drives, PanelView Plus 6 HMIs, and Stratix Ethernet switches. These were complemented by Allen-Bradley FLEX I/O modules, and an assortment of safety components and sensors.

The EDC team worked with ORAFOL’s engineers to customize the system for optimum efficiency and ease of use for the machine operators. EDC engineers developed the software and programmed the new drives and control system, breathing new life into the 20-year-old coating line. EDC integrated all third-party equipment (i.e. UV system and printer), and programmed the back-and-forth communication to each system, such as tension set points, lamp level control, line speed feedback, lamp setpoints & On/Off, Enable, Fault Reset, Shutters Open, etc. These parameters are controlled and indicated on the Rockwell HMIs. In addition to electrical control system integration, EDC completed a mechanical redesign to build new brackets and fixtures to retrofit the existing machine frame to accommodate the installation of the UV curing system, Lower Flammability Limit (LFL) sensors and printing equipment.

Results

Figure 1: Former Main OCS with many meters, buttons and a StrongArm HMI

ORAFOL now has a reliable, modern, state-of-the-art coating line. Old analog components are now digital. All the drives and touch screens are digitally connected over Ethernet. The old operator control station (OCS) full of meters and things to switch on and off (Figure 1) was replaced with two new user-friendly touchscreen PanelView Plus 6 HMIs (Figure 2). The new PanelView Plus 6 HMIs provide a graphical interface that allows the operator to view, monitor, and control all status information. In addition, the newer technology allows for adding recipes and modern functionality not available when the coating line was built 20 years ago.

In Figure 2, the screen on the left features a “bird’s eye view,” allowing visibility of the entire web path with key process variables.  The HMI on the right allows the operator to drill down into function-specific set-up, display and alarm screens. Operators can easily access recipes and set up one product to run today and another to run tomorrow with a few touches of the screen.  The preset recipes eliminate variations with the batches, now producing consistent quality. The graphic display also allows operators to visually detect any problems immediately and act quickly to resolve them.

The retrofit also enhanced safety with the introduction of a safety PLC, which provides better control and visibility of the large line. If an E-stop is depressed, the operator can see where and why on the HMI screen. The E-stop that was pushed is flashing to let operators know which one it is, aiding in quick resolution of the problem. Much of the coating area was explosive.  In these areas hardware and installation were rated for Explosion-proof Class I Div 1.

Figure 2: New Main OCS with two PanelView Plus 6-1500 HMIs

Temperature control is now centralized through the PLC and monitored at the Main OCS. Prior to the upgrade, operators had to change the temperature at each of the individual temperature controllers separately.  Now temperature changes are made with one touch on the display screen, or embedded in a product-specific recipe.

Energy savings usually come hand in hand with control system upgrades, especially when moving from legacy, inefficient DC drives to an inherently brushless VFD technology that also loses less of its input power to heat. For this project, additional energy savings came with the upgrade to the UV curing system, whose technology has improved significantly over the years.

Finally, with the remote access module installed into the machine, future engineering changes are much quicker and less expensive to implement. From troubleshooting a problem to changing a recipe, EDC can help via a secure encrypted virtual private network (VPN). A recent recipe change was completed via VPN by EDC in less time than it would have taken to drive to ORAFOL’s facility.

When interviewed after its completion, Gauer expressed his delight with the project, “The EDC team delivered exactly what was promised and worked with our engineers to customize the system to the satisfaction and ease of the machine operators. EDC demonstrates a very strong commitment to their technical expertise, understanding the latest products that are available and having a technical acumen with those products. They are proficient as well as being responsive and personable.”

Before and After PicturesEDC Before and After Photos ORAFOL

 

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Controls System Upgrade Reduces Waste, Saving Thousands of Dollars in Revenue for Potato Chip Manufacturer

In this case study, we are sharing how a manufacturer of premium potato chips resolved an unacceptable amount of food waste in the manufacturing process.

Problem

A premium potato chip manufacturing company had grown substantially since the company openedElectronic Drives and Controls potato chip control system upgrade nearly 3 decades ago. As the company grew its product line and volume, its founding passion for creating delicious, top-quality chips remained the highest priority. Top-quality demands high standards. With aging equipment in its plant, the company was struggling with a rising waste percentage resulting in lost revenue.

The potato chip manufacturing facility produces 25,000 pounds of chips every eight hours and operates 24 hours a day, 6 days a week.  There were two points on the line that were causing the majority of the waste.  First, in the bagging area, the loss of mounds of chips dropping to the plant floor was unacceptable; chip overflow needed to be addressed. Quality control was another culprit of the waste problem. The chips cannot be undercooked or overcooked to meet the brand’s high-quality standards. Entire batches were being dumped if the appropriate high temperature fry time was not achieved or if the chips were overcooked.

With older equipment and an aging Rockwell Automation control system, the plant manager was looking for an expert control system integrator to help resolve the waste issues and who could also provide continued support with a quick emergency response time. The company reached out to Rockwell Automation for assistance and was referred to Electronic Drives and Controls, Inc. (EDC). As a Rockwell Automation Recognized System Integrator, EDC has proven expertise in upgrading this automation technology and EDC’s quick emergency response time is what the plant manager needed.

Solution

To address the waste of chips falling to the floor in the bagging section, EDC spent time observing the manufacturing process from the fryers to the bagging section. The chips move from the fryers to a FastBack horizontal motion conveyor, which shakes the chips onto an incline conveyor which then takes the chips to the bagging section. Baggers were being overloaded with chips and creating spillage. To resolve the problem, EDC added sorting logic to the control system to evenly distribute chips to the baggers to avoid overloading any one bagger. They also adjusted the time delays of the different sections so that a moderate amount of chips occupied each section as opposed to an overflowing amount. This reduced the number of chips on the floor.

After evaluating the current equipment and manufacturing process, EDC recommended upgrading and consolidating the older fryer equipment’s control system to resolve the quality control problem. Previously, each of the plant’s seven fryers had a legacy Allen Bradley SLC-500. Each fryer’s PLC had its own unique programming and operator interface.  The lack of standardization was contributing to errors resulting in overcooked or undercooked batches.  EDC’s plan included standardizing fryer programming and consolidating the control of all seven fryers to one centralized PLC using Allen-Bradley’s state-of-the-art CompactLogicx PLC. The centralized PLC communicates to the existing supervisory PLC and to EDC’s recommended upgraded touch screen HMIs for user-friendly operator monitoring and control.

For less disruption of production, EDC upgraded 1 to 2 fryers at a time to slowly migrate all fryers’ control to the new centralized PLC. In addition, EDC added quality control logic to prevent dumping entire batches. The new PLC alarm prevents undercooking by notifying the operators if the batch has not cooked at the designated temperature for at least 5 minutes and automatically shuts down the fryer until the issue is acknowledged by a supervisor.

Overcooking is now prevented by getting the chips out of the fryer faster.  EDC reconfigured the Takeout Cycle controls, which have been modified so the chips are cooked in one single pass through the fryer, instead of the 2-3 passes previously used.

While modifying the process, EDC took the opportunity to improve the programming on the fryer’s slicer conveyor, saving 1-2 minutes per batch with more efficient conveyor logistics.  This has improved batch production by over 40% per hour.

Results

The customer has been able to increase overall production by 50%, and is seeing a continued decrease in waste percentages from improvement in quality control with the fryer upgrades. Chips on the floor of the bagging area have been greatly reduced. They have also seen throughput of all the fryers increase.

To provide ongoing support, EDC’s engineers can use a virtual private network (VPN) to log into the control system to quickly diagnose and resolve problems or adjust programming logic for change requests. In addition, EDC provides 24/7 emergency support, connected or dispatched within two hours or less.

If you are interested in learning how a control system upgrade can help your facility please contact us, we are here to help!

Envelope Converting Machine Control and Drive System Upgrade

Downtime Resolved and Operator Control Simplified  

“We are very happy with our recent control system upgrade to the packing list envelope line. The equipment operates much better than it used to. EDC’s engineering team communicated with us extensively during the project to really understand our needs. This included streamlining the controls with advanced technology to simplify operator control making it user-friendly and easy for operators. Now it takes just two weeks to train a new operator before they can run the line on their own, a much quicker learning curve to bring new employees up to speed.”

Vergilio Jacinto, ADM Production Manager – First Shift

BACKGROUND

Founded in 1964, ADM Corporation is the industry leader in the manufacturing and supply of high-quality pressure sensitive envelopes and packaging and shipping products worldwide. ADM puts quality first in all aspects of the business including strict quality control standards; whether it is investing in new equipment or keeping current equipment in peak operating condition, ADM is proactive.

PROBLEM

Downtime for one of ADM’s envelope converting lines for its pressure sensitive envelopes had become problematic and costly. The equipment’s legacy Indramat drive and control system was causing the increased downtime. Finding replacement parts for the obsolete system was difficult at best.

  

SOLUTION

EDC is an expert in control and drive systems for converting, coating and laminating processes and equipment. EDC has worked with ADM for 24 years upgrading equipment and providing 24/7 responsive service when needed. “If we have issues with our equipment, we always try to fix the problem with our in-house resources first. If we can’t resolve the problem in-house, we call EDC. We have tried another less expensive resource and always come back to EDC. They are very responsive, know what they are doing and work well with our people,” said Susan Mota, VP of Operations.

One of the keys to success for any upgrade/retrofit project is understanding the process and thoroughly evaluating what current drive and control components should be replaced and what should stay for the optimal solution. In this application, the web unwinding system feeding material to two DC drive-controlled dancers controlling the web tension before the laminating process was maintaining proper tension and providing reliable web transport. EDC determined that section should be left alone.

In order to address downtime and restore the envelope converting machine’s typical production rates, EDC recommended retrofitting the envelope converting equipment with a state-of-the-art PLC-based motion control system with new motors and drives. In addition, EDC recommended replacing the operator’s cumbersome variety of push buttons, knobs, dials and meter controls with a new simplified user-friendly touch screen HMI. Some improved mechanical modifications to the clamp section and the implementation of a heater lane robotic set-up helped to add to product quality and increase OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness).

The new components included:

  • Siemens S7-1500 PLC
  • Siemens 1FT7 motors for high-performance motion control applications with integrated DC brakes
  • Siemens S120 drive for the three main motion axes
  • AMCI Stepper Drive
  • 15” Siemens Comfort Panel for the HMI

EDC retrofitted three legacy Indramat TDM servo drive motors with three new state-of-the-art Siemens 1FT7 servo motors with integrated DC brakes, and integrated DRIVE-CLiQ with a single-turn absolute position encoder. The new motors have an integrated DC brake that gets powered on the same cable that powers the motor.  The DRIVE-CLiQ system interface is an innovative, high-performance interface that supports simple data communication among the converter components.  It speeds installation and commissioning while virtually eliminating wiring errors.

The servo drives need to perform a very precise coordinated motion for a quality cut. The goal was to achieve 120 cycles per minute for a 4.5” envelope. The pull roll needed to feed 4.5 inches, cut and seal, and repeat the process 120 times per minute with a 1/16th inch tolerance.   The first drive controlled the pull roll (index roll) of the material – moving it forward the appropriate length.  The second drive controlled a guillotine blade, and the third drive controlled the clamp. Programming the axes needed to be precise as there is potential for the two axes to collide – they need precise motion to go down and up in unison so that the clamp is holding the paper down for a stable, clean cut.

To simplify the equipment’s operator control, EDC moved a lot of the manual dials and push buttons into a user-friendly Siemens HMI touch screen monitor. For example, the old Eurotherm temperature control units with dial heating control for the side sealing bars was moved to the PLC using Watlow SSR (solid state relay) outputs for easier operator temperature control through the Siemens HMI touch screen.

Working with ADM to determine how best to streamline operator control, EDC left some of the basic start-stop selector switches, e-stop, and the e-stop reset as physical buttons. All other modes were centralized and integrated into the new HMI touch screen. Enhancements to the system were also added including recipe control and the ability to create a production report with screenshots of different production parameters and the current date easily downloaded through a USB port.

To further enhance usability, EDC worked with ADM’s staff, to make everything clear and concise for the operator to enable and disable different features of the machine as it’s running. This included registration control, table speed and other auxiliary devices operators can enable/disable and control. Verbiage for control was also adjusted to provide a clear, simple interface to the operator.

RESULTS

The control system retrofit added years of new life to the envelope converting equipment achieving production output goals while meeting ADM’s strict quality control standards. The benefits of this upgrade included:

  • Improved reliability
  • Reduced maintenance cost
  • Expanded capabilities
  • Comprehensive, efficient code for motion control
  • Recipe-based seal parameter helps machine operator control complex parameters
  • Total management of real-time quality-related data for accurate adjustments
  • More complete operator control of weld/seal quality and consistency
  • High throughput (120 cycles/minute for 4.5” envelope with a 1/16th inch tolerance)
  • Fast switchover between jobs
  • Substantial reduction in rejected seals and material waste
  • Saved space in control cabinet with use of newer technology
  • Consolidated knobs, dials and meters into a user-friendly color touch screen

 

ADM’s Plant Manager Gene Potts has been with the company for 29 years. Gene spoke about ADM’s long relationship with EDC. “I have been working with Chuck Dillard (VP of Engineering) from Electronic Drives and Controls for around 24 years now. He has been a reliable partner with great integrity and that means a lot to us. In addition, it is clear that EDC invests in their people – they are highly trained and professional. They understand our equipment and processes. When we need help with our equipment, they fully analyze the problem and we can trust they will recommend the best and most cost-effective solution. When we do encounter an urgent problem beyond our staff’s ability to resolve, EDC response time is swift to get us back up and running.”

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

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

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).

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.

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.

EDC’s Remote Monitoring Projects Streamline Operations and Avoid Costly Downtime

EDC Remote Monitoring

Recently, EDC has completed a number of diverse projects featuring remote monitoring systems.  From a golf course to a power plant to a traditional manufacturing facility, remote monitoring systems can streamline operations and help avoid costly downtime while providing a quick return on investment.

Remote Monitoring for Golf Course Watering Systems

The Wild Turkey Golf Course at ​​Crystal Springs Resort in Hamburg, NJ, was facing a problem. If their automatic watering system pump went down in the middle of the night, their ground crew wouldn’t be able to see the alert until the morning. At that point, golfers are already on the greens and watering can’t be done as thoroughly and heavily as needed. In the golf industry, a course’s grass health and quality is one of the most prominent, defining factors of the golf course itself. An intricate watering and irrigation plan is essential to the course’s success.

Joe Luna, an Electrical Project Engineer at Electronic Drives and Controls, was tasked with designing and implementing a pump monitoring system for the golf course to record all the watering data. He implemented equipment failure alerts to notify employees so they can fix the issue more promptly and ensure the grass gets the water it needs before employees and customers arrive each morning. Joe maintained feedback from the programmable logic controller (PLC) and the variable frequency drives (VFDs) on the pump motors and used Banner Engineering’s wireless communications to implement a web-based dashboard complete with alarms to remotely monitor these irrigation systems. If the new system detects a pump failure, it instantaneously sends an automated text alert to the point of contact. The failed pump will now have enough time to be repaired before the morning hours, ensuring enough water to keep the course healthy and in good condition.

 

Remote Control & Monitoring for NY Power Plant 

A local power plant in Middletown, NY was experiencing communication outages to their offsite pump house.  An integral part of the plant’s operations, the pump house utilizes treated water from a local wastewater treatment facility as makeup water for the steam generator in order to make power. The power plant already had cellular modems in place, but they weren’t able to efficiently hold a sustained signal or recover well from the occasional cell tower outage. When the PLCs would lose communications with each other, the pumps would need to be started manually, delaying the critical supply of make-up water.

To solve the problem, EDC added two different cellular network modems to facilitate communication between the plant and the pump houses to turn on the pumps for the makeup water. The pump house can now remotely control operations and communicate with the remote PLCs via cellular network.  If the main cell network goes down, the system seamlessly switches to the backup network.

This was a unique remote monitoring and control solution because instead of setting up a dashboard with information, EDC engineers linked up an effective cellular solution, allowing the communication to withstand any kind of cellular issues that arise.

 

Improving Manufacturing Visibility with a Remote Monitoring System 

The SPC Division of the Brady Corporation, a global leader in safety, identification, and compliance solutions makes absorbent products for their industrial customers. The management team at Brady/SPC wanted better visibility into what was happening on the plant floor and to have the ability to pull historical information from their manufacturing information system over an extended period of time. Prior to this project, if a component wasn’t performing properly and operators didn’t happen to notice it, the line could go down for an extended amount of time. For example, a key sub-process is the supply of heated air to the extrusion die. A heating element failure or the supply air not at the proper temperature would lead to failure of the die, significant downtime and the loss of thousands of dollars.

EDC was contracted to implement a remote monitoring system which gathers all run data for more than 200 parameters, the most notable key performance indicators (KPIs) being line speed and extruder temperature and pressure.  For more accessible viewing of this data, Brady/SPC installed a large TV screen on the plant floor to view EDC-created dashboards. This information is also available on a web browser so management can monitor production from anywhere with an internet connection on computers, tablets, and phones assuring no productivity is lost. 

EDC’s remote monitoring system has been a huge success.  With the added historian function, plant personnel have the ability to look at past manufacturing data to increase efficiency and plan preventive maintenance.  EDC Remote Monitoring

Remote monitoring gives operations better visibility and control of equipment which lowers cost and downtime.  To learn more about EDC and our remote monitoring services, contact us for your remote monitoring requirements.

 

Case Study – From Old to New: Modifying a Legacy Dual Textile Spray Line into an Efficient Machine with Doubled Throughput

Heytex, a brand of the German-based Heytex Bramsche GmbH, is a global developer and manufacturer of high-quality technical textiles. Their portfolio includes sophisticated and unique products fabricated and engineered using complex textile technology, such as signage, banners, boats, sales, barriers, and other technical textile products for a variety of customers. Electronic Drives and Controls (EDC), a recognized leader in the design, upgrade, and service support of drive and PLC Systems, recently helped Heytex significantly improve industrial textile coatings equipment for a military customer and double their overall production capabilities. 

Problem

Heytex had previously purchased a used paint line machine at auction that consists of two parallel production lines sharing the same painting booth and oven sections which could run concurrently or separately. However, one of the lines (Line 2) sat idle for approximately three years before Heytex sought help improving its operability to produce spray-painted industrial camouflage textiles for a military customer. Parts from Line 2 were scavenged to keep Line 1 running.

Originally, Heytex would receive an AutoCAD file from their military customer that specified the geometry of the desired pattern to be painted by the machine. Each line has six drives: 3 VFDs for web handling and 3 servo drives to traverse the paint heads. The process begins by feeding industrial fabric through a conveyor from an unpainted fabric roll. Next, three spray heads move across the fabric in a coordinated fashion applying green, brown and black paint resulting in a specified camouflage pattern. The machine then dries the fabric in a tunnel oven and rolls it into a finished painted textile roll.  

As purchased, each section of the machine used a personal computer with an obsolete Windows XP operating system and a soft Allen Bradley Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) for the unwinding and painting of the fabric. Two physical Omron PLCs handled downstream control, one for the oven and conveying systems and another on the rewind section. A proprietary software run on the XP operating system utilized algorithms to control the paint from the spray heads and help to convert the customer’s CAD files into control commands, a very cumbersome process requiring much manual intervention.

Another problem impeding the retrofit plan was a tremendous lack of documentation and labeling. This coupled with obsolete controls, proprietary software and a burdensome workflow with no known support prompted Heytex to task EDC with improving the machine with an integrated hardware and software design.  

Solution

EDC’s approach was to streamline the control architecture ensuring that the PLC, drives and HMI were from the same manufacturer and would all be on the same communications network. Three disparate control programs were consolidated into one PLC, eliminating the need for a machine-based computer, soft PLC and monitor. The Siemens S7-1500 PLC and S120 drive platforms coupled with a 12-inch Comfort Panel were an excellent fit for this application. 

Siemens’ S120 Sinamics Smart line module and common DC-bussed drives provide energy saving load sharing across the six drives and is able to regen excess AC voltage back to the incoming power line. Line drives were previously controlled in a start/stop mode and could only run at other speeds by manually changing the internal drive parameters. The S120 system provided full speed control capabilities as commanded by the PLC over a ProfiNet network.

The S7-1500F failsafe PLC simplified safety component wiring, especially given that three new cable-operated switches (safety rope pulls) were installed at the Unwind Exit, Paint Booth Entry and Rewind, improving the overall safe operation of the line. All main control components communicated with the PLC over a single ProfiNet control network including six VFD and servo drives, two remote I/O hubs and a new 7” HMI located at the Rewind section.

In addition to the cable-operated switches, other mechanical upgrades included a specially designed tension control system for the Unwind, adapters to couple new servo motors to existing spray head linear actuators, a line speed encoder at the oven exit and a linear position transducer for accumulator feedback. The EDC Field Installation Team installed and wired the new elements on Line 2 and ensured their proper functionality.

As previously mentioned, EDC consolidated all PLC logic into one CPU that closely communicates with the new HMI and S120 drive system. A user-friendly HMI screen and a recipe system were incorporated to improve the operator’s experience running the line. An offline program to convert the customer’s CAD files to data the PLC could use for proper control of the spray heads was a crucial part of the upgrade. EDC’s Project Engineer wrote an open-source Java script/HTML interface that could be modified by anyone with those computer language skills, eliminating the proprietary nature of the previous software incarnation.

Another key element of EDC’s retrofit is their documentation. A full set of wiring schematics was created that included reference for all components, wire numbers and a terminal plan. The customer was given a physical binder with hard copies of the drawings and digital copies of the control programs, the CAD conversion program and component manuals. A Tosibox remote access module was installed and connected to the machine’s control network. When connected to the internet, this device provides an ultra-secure VPN tunnel for remote monitoring and troubleshooting.

Impact

The improvements EDC made on Line 2 were substantial. Heytex went from a non-operational line whose parts were being cannibalized to keep an adjacent line running to a fully functional, efficient line with a state-of-the-art control system. Improvements included:

  • Streamlined workflow making it easier to go from the customer’s drawing to product runs, eliminating a full set-up step
  • Open source programs that can be modified and improved by any qualified service provider, eliminating proprietary software
  • An energy-efficient control architecture that is rugged, orderly and fully documented without reliance on ever-changing personal computer hardware
  • Improved control of the Oven conveyor, Tensioner and Rewind motors including better accuracy and synchronization through all speed ranges 
  • Improved Accumulator control that prevents finished product from touching the floor as was the case during Rewind roll changeover
  • User-friendly operator interface screens with more relevant operational feedback, alarms, messages and maintenance screens 
  • New capability to switch between patterns in the middle of a single roll and stop and resume a pattern if there is an Estop or alarm, potentially saving hundreds of yards of material per year
  • Remote monitoring and troubleshooting capability which was utilized to its full potential one month after start-up when Heytex needed to recalibrate Line 2 for new material. EDC was able to support them remotely and avoid a costly service trip from New Jersey to Virginia.
  • A retrofit platform with documentation, programs and drawings that can be utilized to upgrade Line 1, ensuring production viability for years to come

To sum up the benefits of the project, EDC’s VP of Engineering Chuck Dillard said, “If you look back, only Line 1 was operable. Now both lines are running, and Line 2 runs more efficiently with higher throughput than the machine’s original design.”

Case Study – Modernizing a Cable Fabrication Line with Supportable Parts and Equipment for Better Operation, Data Collection, and Performance Features

EDC Wire and Cable CV Line Upgrade Case StudyThe oil and gas industry utilizes equipment and components that must perform and endure in harsh environments such as the ocean, underground, weather, and other adverse conditions.  It is crucial that all equipment or materials used in such operations meet the highest quality standards and specifications.  While many companies outsource the fabrication of large power cabling for these purposes, others fabricate internally for their own products and services for their customers. One such EDC customer in the oil and gas services industry manufactures many types of cable in-house.

Of the assortment of products their plant produces, the most rugged, highest performing is a power cable that includes a rubberized outer jacket, made utilizing a process called continuous vulcanization – CV for short. In general, vulcanization is an industrial process in which rubber is hardened. Wire and cable manufacturers run their rubber-jacketed cables through a long steam-pipe catenary (think suspension bridge main cables) which cures the cable along the 300-plus foot-long tube. For a CV Line to work properly, an orchestra of extruders, pullers, motors, drives, sensors, valves and pumps must all work perfectly in concert. 

While the cable manufacturer has been successfully producing CV cable for years, one of their three CV lines was experiencing excessive downtime and was scheduled for modernization.

 

PROBLEM

Apart from the expected aging and wear of production equipment, controls components such as drives, PLCs and other electronics suffer from the added issue of obsolescence.  Whether functioning or not, an obsolete component such as an extruder AC variable frequency drive (VFD) puts continuous production in jeopardy.

The cable manufacturer had several obsolete components across a variety of automation manufacturers that made downtime even more harrowing. Years of purchasing refurbished or “gently used” components from eBay or surplus distributors had run its course.  When a component was not able to be sourced, a replacement solution needed to be engineered to keep the line running.

In addition to overcoming the obsolescence issue, they wanted to take advantage of the many technological advances in industrial controls since the CV line’s construction, determined to upgrade to a world class, state-of-the-art production line.

 

SOLUTION

The cable manufacturer secured EDC’s turnkey integration services to give the line a full controls makeover.  The upgrade featured a failsafe Rockwell GuardLogix PLC and a network of ABB ACS880 vector drives, HMIs, remote I/O and an industrial-hardened PC for data collection. The state-of-the-art controls network included:

EDC - GuardLogix PLC & ABB VFDs

    • Rockwell GuardLogix 1756-L82ES Failsafe PLC CPU and I/O
    • (5) Rockwell PanelView Plus 7 Performance HMIs, 7”-15”
    • (11) ABB ACS880 VFDs, 3-200 hp
    • (8) Rockwell 1734 series standard and failsafe remote I/O racks
    • Lanner Fanless i7 PC with Rockwell Factory Talk SETM 
    • Tosibox Remote Access Module for remote monitoring and troubleshooting (EDC is located in New Jersey and the customer in Oklahoma!)
    • Graceport with 115VAC convenience outlet and ethernet port for safe access to the machine network

 

Mechanical retrofits included swapping out Reeves drives with fixed gearboxes and VFD-controlled vector motors, sized for optimal speed range and torque. Caterpillar capstan motors and gearboxes were upsized to provide additional pulling capacity so larger cables could be run at higher line speeds.

EDC - Capstan Retrofit Before & After

EDC designed, manufactured, programmed, installed and commissioned the system. Operator training was provided, and the line turned over to the customer following execution and approval of a written Site Acceptance Test. A full documentation package included all schematics, drawings, programs and parts manuals.

IMPACT

During the Site Acceptance Test, their process engineers and maintenance personnel could immediately see an improvement on the line’s performance. It was much easier to adjust important process parameters, tighter tolerances were held throughout the product runs and higher quality cables were being produced. Operators with limited training could be qualified in a few hours to run the line, making it easier to find and retain them. New drives and PLC components meant no more late-night sourcing of obsolete components or outdated control methods. Because these key components were now networked together, vital information could be passed from the VFDs to the PLC and back to the operators at the user-friendly HMIs and on to the facility’s CimplicityTM plant historian.  From their HMI screens, operators could now monitor line speed, steam pressure, and the speed of each drive.

EDC - Main CV Line HMI

Additional improvements at the HMIs included recipe functionality, contextual alarms and messages and streamlined set-up capabilities. One such streamline was the elimination of individual temperature controllers for the extruder barrel heater zones. The entire temperature control was moved into the PLC and the temperature setpoints featured as part of the recipes. Setting up one cable lot number to the next was nearly the touch of a button whether it was initiated on 1st, 2nd or 3rd shift – resolution of common pain point of shift-to-shift set-up (and quality) differences.

 

Other benefits included:

  • Improved tension control between the Capstans
  • Continuous data collection – allowing the customer to examine the data, see trends over time and adjust as necessary.  Problems such as an out-of-range temperature or an oversized diameter can be pinpointed more quickly and accurately. 
  • Faster line speed – Conversion of communication protocols from hardwired to Ethernet-based results in a faster reaction to changes in tension, steam pressure, water level and speed ratios.
  • More capability to fine-tune production – digital controls are more amenable to fine tuning and adjustments and not subject to drift.
  • Overall improved safety – The failsafe PLC and VFDs with safe torque off capability ensure that the line can react to an E-stop quickly and reliably. Failsafe I/O meant elimination of long E-stop strings with the added benefit of knowing where and when an E-stop was triggered. Anti-tie-down features were added where two-hand controls were utilized.
  • Full set of schematics with wire numbers and component references – previous control iterations did not include updated drawing or complete information. The customer’s maintenance department now has a full documentation package to help troubleshoot this line.
  • Significantly reduced downtime – old, obsolete controls almost always lead to downtime and headaches. Upgrading to a world-class digital control system with late-model components that are readily available is a game-changer for any production facility. 

 

“In addition to the efficiency gains, the modernization helped the client understand their process better,” says EDC Project Engineer Zach Fischer, who was the technical lead of this modernization project. “For example, if they see the tension increasing, to maintain the cable’s position in the tube they can take corrective action. The customer now has a wealth of information available to them via the much-improved operator interface.”

While EDC is happy with the success of the project and the many benefits attained by their customer, even more rewording are the words from a key member of the customer’s maintenance team,” I am impressed at how EDC resolved the tension issue with our capstans. They stood by their word and made it happen. I’d also like to add that when I need them it is so great to be able to get a person on the phone. I call in to their office, a live person answers their line, and I am able to speak to an engineer who assures me that they are working on my situation. With the Tosibox remote access module EDC can ‘see’ my CV Line from their office 1,000 miles away and help pinpoint and fix any issues. This gives me even more comfort.” 

Case Study – EDC’s Comprehensive Upgrade of a Unique Horizontal Drawbench to Enhance Performance and Reliability

Electronic Drives and Controls recently successfully upgraded a unique horizontal wire drawbench, resolving complex challenges through hardware and software optimization, diagnostic enhancements, and safety improvements, resulting in enhanced performance, reliability, and operational efficiency.

Horizontal Drawbench

Problem:

A long-time client of Electronic Drives and Controls and an American manufacturer of scientific instruments faced numerous issues with their one-of-a-kind machine designed to draw and elongate copper bars filled with superconductors for use in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines. 

Obsolete PLC I-O

After being custom-built by an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) in 2013, the machine experienced sporadic problems due to its

 complex design and programming. The existing PLC program, written in structured text using Siemens SIMATIC S7-300 hardware, was challenging to read and understand. Additionally, the PLC I/O modules were outdated, and the critical position sensors utilized an ultra-sensitive communications protocol that was subject to frequent “crashes,” made worse by machine vibrations. The client needed a comprehensive solution to address these issues and enhance the machine’s performance and reliability.

 

 

Solution:

EDC took on the challenge of upgrading the horizontal drawbench, providing a complete controls overhaul solution to optimize its performance. The project involved several key milestones. First, the existing PLC and HMI software programs were migrated from Siemens SIMATIC Step 7 to Siemens’ more robust Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) Portal. This transition improved program readability, removed obsolete code, and enhanced visualization and maintenance.

Hydraulic Lifter & Position Sensor

The hardware upgrade involved migrating the PLC from SIMATIC S7-300 to S7-1500, providing the client with updated components that offered improved performance, and reliability. Another significant aspect of the project was the transition from PROFIBUS to PROFINET, an Ethernet-based communication system. This switch eliminated existing issues, provided better diagnostic capabilities, and increased bandwidth. Approximately 40 devices were upgraded during this transition.

EDC also recognized that all existing I/O modules, specifically the S7-300 hardware, were obsolete. Consequently, each I/O module was updated to the latest Siemens S7-1500 series hardware, ensuring improved functionality and availability. The combination of the hardware and software improvements enabled optimization of the machine’s hydraulic lifters, key mechanical elements whose motion must be choreographed like a ballet to prevent a physical crash. EDC implemented a PID (Proportional Integral Derivative) loop control method around each lifter, resulting in precise coordination between them not previously realized.

To enhance network reliability, EDC introduced Device Level Rings (DLRs) into the machine’s network architecture. DLRs provided network redundancy, preventing downtime caused by a single faulty cable or device, facilitating efficient troubleshooting and issue diagnosis. Additionally, EDC revamped all drawings associated with the machine, including improved device references, wire numbering and enclosure layouts, providing comprehensive documentation for future reference and maintenance. 

 

 

 

Impact:

The completion of the project had a significant impact on the drawbench and the client’s operations, delivering several key benefits. 

S7-1500 PLC & ProfiNet Comms

First and foremost, the performance and reliability of the machine were significantly enhanced.

The hardware and software upgrades, coupled with the removal of obsolete code, resulted in improved stability and efficiency. In turn, there was no longer sporadic downtime experienced, ensuring a more reliable production process.

The transition from PROFIBUS to PROFINET granted the client enhanced diagnostic capabilities.

This allowed for better monitoring, troubleshooting, and prompt identification of any potential issues, facilitating faster resolution and minimizing downtime. The new HMIs improved visualization and readability making it easier for maintenance personnel to understand the machine’s operations, improving overall efficiency. Furthermore, the optimization of the control scheme and coordination with upgraded safety devices added protection and reduced the risk of failures or accidents, ensuring a safer working environment for operators.

 

In conclusion, EDC’s comprehensive upgrade project effectively tackled the challenges faced with this custom-built horizontal drawbench. The implementation of hardware and software improvements, coupled with enhanced diagnostic capabilities, led to a significant boost in reliability, efficiency, and maintainability. The successful completion of the project highlighted EDC’s expertise in resolving complex industrial automation issues and empowered a dependable machine to be capable of consistently producing high-quality, drawn super-conducting bars for MRI applications.

Case Study – EDC’s Modernization of a Ruesch Steel Slitting Machine Control System with Siemens Yields 67% Throughput Gain

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.

The Client:

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.

Problem:

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. 

1. 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.
2. 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.
 3. 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.
EDC Case Study Simatic TI545 PLC
Prior to Installation – Original Simatic TI545 PLC

Solution:

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.

Results

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. 

EDC Case Study 6RA80 and S7-1500 state of the art DC Drives and PLC
6RA80 and S7-1500 state of the art DC Drives and PLC
EDC Case Study Post Installation – Fuses
Post Installation – Fuses replaced with more resilient Molded Case Circuit Breakers

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.

Modernizing Industrial Machinery: A Strategic Approach to Retrofitting with EDC

EDC’s client bought a slitting machine that was in pieces from an auction.  EDC engineers were excited to give new life to a line that was in a used equipment warehouse.

Case study by EDC Project Manager Joe Maloney

Slitting Line Upgraded by EDC with New HMI and Streamlined Operator Controls
Slitting Line Upgraded by EDC with New HMI and Streamlined Operator Controls

Problem

Reviving outdated machinery with modern controls demands strategic planning. This was the case when an EDC client acquired a 1960s-era Ruesch Slitting line from an auction. “The client bought the individual pieces of the slitting line. Everything was obsolete, defunct,” said EDC Project Manager Joe Maloney. “The client didn’t have any electrical drawings. Everything had to be refurbished and there were no controls. The client bought this slitter and they needed us, the systems integrator, to provide controls and integrate it back to working condition, which was no small feat.”

For cost and timing reasons, the client had chosen refurbishment of older equipment rather than investing in new equipment.

Once running, the line would be tasked with slitting 200 meter runs of a thicker gauge steel laminate material used in making bearings.  With no welding system in place to link subsequent coils together, the material tails out at the end of each coil.  

Challenges

In addition to possessing obsolete controls, among the primary challenges was the presence of outdated Parker SSD DC drives. 

Reusing the existing drives required extensive refurbishment and rewiring to integrate them with a modern control system. This choice was driven by both cost considerations and the compatibility of the drives with the line’s existing components. The client’s choice to use the refurbished drives presented additional challenges with outdated connectivity interfaces, such as the need to program drives through serial cables due to the absence of Ethernet connectivity.  “Without the refurbished drives, we could have used a high-speed Ethernet protocol to communicate things like run commands and line speed. Because of the drives, everything had to be hardwired,” said Joe Maloney.

“We followed strict arc flash rules to gain access to the panel, wearing the full personal protective equipment (PPE) suit,” said Joe Maloney. “All these old drives don’t connect over Ethernet, so you have to program them through a serial connection. The hard wire, the run, the speed reference, all the feedback – all that eats up your available IO.”

 

Solution

With an ambitious project timeline of four months and needing to meet additional safety requirements, the client aimed to integrate controls into the acquired line. With a focus on compliance with safety standards and certifications, EDC offered flexibility in programming and integrating the outdated controls and fragmented machinery.

 

The line’s layout comprised six primary components, each playing an important role in its operation. These included:
1. Uncoiler section: Where the material is unwound and fed into the machine
 2. Slitting section: Where the actual cutting process occurs
3. Scrap winder area: Manages the disposal of scrap edge trimmed material
4. Tension stand: Isolates tension between Slitter and Recoiler
5. Recoiler: Rewinds the processed material
6. Turnstile: facilitates material handling and movement within the line

 

 

 

 

While reusing the legacy Parker SSD DC drives, EDC engineers retrofitted the slitting machine with a modern PLC and HMI; the controls software was programmed from scratch.  To enhance functionality, EDC modified the operator stations by streamlining interfaces and optimizing control panels. Rockwell Automation / Allen Bradley components were used for the retrofit, including the installation of a CompactLogix PLC and a PanelView HMI, enhancing control capabilities and providing a user-friendly interface for operators. 

In addressing the outdated DC motor used in the scrap winder area, EDC opted for integration of a new AC motor. This replacement not only eliminated the limitations associated with the obsolete DC motor but also improved efficiency and reliability in material handling operations.

Since the line’s speed could exceed 100-200 feet per minute as the coil finishes, the metal tail could pose a safety hazard.  “I programmed in a footage counter and an auto stop on the slitter so the customer could stop near the recoil,” said Joe Maloney. “Once you reach the preset length, it shifts your set point down to a slow speed, and then you run at that slow speed for a short amount of time before it is turned off. We provide the flexibility of being able to have custom programming to meet the client’s specific situation and needs.  We can even add features at a future time as the production evolves.”

Another customization was adding a sensor that integrated with the hydraulic system to automatically provide tension stand positioning.

Results

“It’s almost like we took a bucket of parts and helped them put it all in place and then completely reprogrammed everything from scratch,” said EDC Vice President of Systems Chuck Dillard. “You can get a line from a used equipment dealer, not know much about it and have junk for electrical parts. Our engineers were able to put it together utilizing many of the original parts to create a fully-functional machine.”

“It can take months, if not years, to build a new piece of equipment rather than getting a used piece of machinery,” said Joe Maloney. “By taking older equipment and updating the controls, you can save not only time, but also a lot of money – and that gives you an extra 20 or 30 years of life on that equipment.”

Through retrofitting, integration of modern components, and adherence to strict safety regulations, the slitting line was transformed into a reliable and efficient asset for the client. Despite the many challenges posed by outdated controls, lack of documentation, complex wiring, and more, EDC successfully restored the equipment’s functionality. This slitting line will contribute to the client’s operations for years to come, offering a cost-effective and sustainable alternative to investing in new equipment.