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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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.