Started back in 1981, every year Electronic Drives and Controls (EDC) releases a new wall calendar. The first year they were printed, EDC gave out 150 copies. What started as a fun piece of marketing collateral to hand out like pens and hats quickly turned into a massive yearly production. The calendars have been incredibly popular year over year – printing copies had to be capped at 5,200 in 2019!
“We could probably distribute about 20,000 calendars if we wanted to – they are very popular with our clients,” said Bud Dillard, President of Electronic Drives and Controls. “We have kept the calendar printing cost proportional to our revenue, so the program has grown along with the company.”
It’s no easy undertaking for the company to print and distribute so many calendars each year, but it seems like a no-brainer when they’re so trendy with clients. The calendars pop up on walls all around the area, even in places with no relation to EDC.
The wall calendar set up is simple: see all 12 months of the year spread out before you. With just a glance at the wall, you can see your year planned out in front of you. It’s a convenient way to avoid missing important dates and deadlines.
The design features EDC’s impressive fleet of service vehicles that stand ready to help clients with a nationally recognized service team to perform repairs, preventative maintenance, and more. The design also clearly labels the weekends in blue and gray, making it easier to focus on the busy workdays.
If you would like to be added to the list of client calendar recipients, fill out the form here. Don’t delay, the list fills up fast!
Electronic Drives and Controls is excited to announce that Bob Pusateri, Director of Business Development at EDC, recently made a notable appearance on a Plant Services podcast titled “The changing role of control system integrators in the automation industry.” In this insightful discussion, Bob Pusateri, along with two other seasoned professionals and host Tom Wilk, Plant Services Editor in Chief, shared their perspectives on the future direction of the automation industry and the evolving role of control system integrators.
During the podcast, Bob highlighted the work undertaken by Electronic Drives and Controls in the field of production line retrofits and “breathing new life into older systems.” EDC specializes in retrofitting lines in industries such as metals, wire and cable, and coating and laminating. With expertise in converting DC drives to AC, updating older generations of AC drives, and offering PLC and drive retrofits across various industries, Electronic Drives and Controls has become a trusted partner for businesses seeking to optimize their automation systems.
One of the key insights shared by Bob revolved around the demand for automation arising from the changing expectations of the workforce. He mentioned how repetitive tasks can now be efficiently replaced by machines, thereby enabling employees to focus on higher-skilled jobs. This shift not only enhances worker satisfaction but also boosts productivity. Bob’s real-world examples provided valuable context to the transformative potential of automation. Looking ahead, Bob also mentioned that Electronic Drives and Controls anticipates an increase in opportunities in the field of OEM-type work, collaborating with original equipment manufacturers to achieve more with fewer resources.
When Dave Radford started his career as a Drive Service Engineer in 1993, many of EDC’s current employees were not yet even born. Variable frequency drive (VFD) technology was just starting to take a foothold in the manufacturing sector and many PLCs that were released then have long been obsolete. EDC was a smaller entity with just six servicemen and even fewer project engineers (now almost twenty in total). Drives were just starting to be utilized in energy-saving HVAC applications and soon thereafter VFDs expanded their use of software and multi-layer circuit boards. So goes Dave’s career that spanned three decades and came to a close just last week.
Growing up in Elizabeth, NJ, Dave was an accomplished hockey player and chose to attend Lehigh University so he could play his chosen sport and study chemical engineering. He worked at his uncle’s bar and as a laborer at a now defunct roller bearing plant in Clark, NJ. Looking for some direction in life he joined the Army at twenty seven and was eventually sent to Fort Gordon in Augusta, GA to a unit that repaired communications avionics for helicopters. While Dave enjoyed the hands-on electronics work, he was “not thrilled” taking a couple of flights in the Army’s infamous “Huey” Bell UH-1 helicopters.
After several promotions, receiving the “Soldier of the Quarter” award and a 3-year tour of Panama and a stop in Fort Drum, NC he performed repairs on biomedical equipment for Army hospitals in facilities in Brooklyn, NY and Aurora, CO, returning home in May of 1993. Not resting long, he answered an ad placed by a long-tenured EDC recruiter who recently placed a Project Engineer just this year!
With a few strong years of repairing electronics for the Army, Dave was a perfect fit to troubleshoot, repair and install industrial drives for EDC. He tackled everything from plastic bag manufacturers to steel slitters to cardboard plants, older eddy current and DC drives, VFDs and later, EDC’s burgeoning new field of HVAC fan and pump drives.
Of the many stories Dave could tell of his troubleshooting travels, one in particular stands out from a steel plant in Gary, IN. After struggling all week to get their line restarted, they practically had a parade for Dave when he arrived on a Friday to dig them out of their hole as the Siemens Factory Service Rep. Despite the added pressure of just seeing it for the first time, Dave had the line running in less than a few hours. A parade would have been well-deserved!
Dave’s skill, intellect and professionalism will leave an enduring legacy. Many customers and EDC coworkers have benefited from his presence on an everyday basis. A very modest person, Dave would not be one to brag about, or even mention, his many success stories. It is estimated that he made well over 4,000 service calls during his 30-year tenure, repairing, troubleshooting or installing about 3,000 drives. He was, however, glad to be a part of broadening the scope of jobs EDC tackles, especially helping them to expand into PLC programming and troubleshooting. As much as he enjoyed this very fulfilling work, he looks forward to moving to South Carolina and getting in as much golf, boating and, of course, hockey as he can. However, says EDC president, Bud Dillard, “we are pleased to hear that Dave has accepted our offer to work remotely as a Quality Control and Training specialist on a part-time basis.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The completion of the project had a significant impact on the drawbench and the client’s operations, delivering several key benefits.
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.
In a recent project for a leading producer of specialty rolled products, Electronic Drives and Controls (EDC) successfully addressed a series of challenges stemming from an outdated Ruesch slitting machine control system. Characterized by obsolete hardware components, a complex operator interface, and difficulties in maintaining precise tension during steel slitting, the control system required an extensive modernization. EDC proposed a detailed control system upgrade, committing to an installation period of less than four days, leveraging modern Siemens technology to enhance hardware reliability, retrofit existing components, improve operator interface with a user-friendly HMI, and implement innovative torque management control for consistent winding tension.
ATI Materials, a producer of specialty rolled products specializing in high-tech steel for aerospace and defense applications, operates as a critical supplier focused on precision aerospace engine and airframe components. They produce advanced steel alloys, including titanium, nickel, and cobalt-based materials in various forms such as long products, precision forgings, and machined components.
The client faced significant issues with their aging Ruesch slitting line originally installed in 1995. The equipment’s legacy control system presented three primary challenges.
The system’s reliance on obsolete hardware components, including SIMOREG 6RA24 DC Drives and Siemens TI545 PLC made it progressively difficult to secure replacement parts, thereby jeopardizing the system’s operational continuity and increasing the risk of downtime.
The operator control panel, with its complex array of analog functions, push buttons, and meters, hindered efficiency, making the system less intuitive and harder to use.
The critical requirement of ensuring consistent tension across the material web during steel slitting was a significant challenge, given the current system’s difficulty in providing accurate torque control for the winding process.
To address these challenges and provide a comprehensive solution, EDC proposed a control system upgrade using modern components and innovative technology:
Hardware and Software Upgrade: EDC replaced the outdated components with the state-of-the-art Siemens 6RA80 DC drives, S7-1500 PLC, and Siemens Comfort Panel HMI, ensuring reliability, scalability, and long-term support. Existing motors were retained, optimizing cost-effectiveness.
Installation and Retrofit: EDC’s engineers designed, built and tested the hardware and software prior to installation to minimize downtime for the retrofit. Sending a team of three engineers to work extended hours on site to install the new Siemens control system hardware and software further minimized production downtime.
Enhanced Operator Interface: An ergonomic 22-inch Siemens Touchscreen Comfort Panel HMI was installed to provide an intuitive and user-friendly operator interface. EDC programmed the HMI with meticulous detail to display over three dozen machine status messages and alarms making it easier to train operators and maintenance personnel to visualize and navigate the system effectively to keep production running at peak performance.
Torque Management: The EDC team harnessed the extended speed range of the existing DC motor to maintain predictable winding tension, even in the field range where torque no longer reacted linearly as field current decreased. This ensured the precise tension exiting the slitter section optimizing the quality of the slit edge.
Advanced Communication: PROFINET was implemented to enable high-speed communication, replacing the previous PROFIBUS system. This upgrade enhanced speed, data processing, and control capabilities.
Remote Troubleshooting: EDC introduced remote access capabilities utilizing Tosibox secure remote access platform to streamline maintenance. If support is needed, the remote access into the machine’s control system facilitates a much quicker issue resolution.
Documentation: Using Siemens totally integrated automation software platform, TIA Portal, EDC provided a complete PLC, HMI and Drive functionality documentation package, including a fully commented PLC and HMI program, and drive parameters. In addition, using AutoCAD Electrical, EDC provided a robust complete set of schematics of not just the hardware components provided by EDC, but for the entire system including every limit switch, product sensor, push button, etc. to replace the clients’ outdated schematics.
The modernization of the Ruesch slitting line’s control system yielded significant improvements in the customer’s operations. The machine’s throughput experienced a remarkable surge, increasing from 300 to 500 feet per minute. This remarkable 67% boost in productivity not only delighted the client, but also enhanced their overall operational efficiency. Safety measures received substantial upgrades, particularly with the introduction of an automatic slowdown feature to prevent material “tail-out.” This enhancement significantly reduced the risk of accidents and potential equipment damage, a critical advantage, especially when dealing with sensitive materials such as titanium.
The implementation of remote troubleshooting capabilities played a pivotal role in reducing downtime and improving maintenance efficiency. The introduction of a user-friendly, 22-inch HMI streamlined machine operation and reduced downtime by providing operators with a clear overview of machine status and alarms to quickly assess and rectify issues, ensuring a seamless and efficient production process. The new intuitive operator interface also proved invaluable in training new personnel. The modern control system, founded on Siemens technology, offered long-term reliability and a robust, well-supported platform.
“We are extremely satisfied with the project’s results. EDC’s solution brought about a notable transformation in our slitting operations,” said ATI Senior Engineer II, Greg Lima. “With improved speed control and torque management, we achieved a more predictable winding tension, ensuring the quality of our slit materials. EDC’s expertise and innovative problem-solving have proven instrumental in optimizing our processes and ensuring our continued success in the industry.”
By overcoming the challenges posed by an outdated system and implementing innovative solutions, EDC not only improved productivity and safety but also future-proofed the client’s operations in an installation that lasted less than four days.