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 Additionally, the PLC I/O modules were outdated, and the critical position sensors utilized an ultra-sensitive communications protocol that was subject to frequent “crashes,” made worse by machine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.