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.”