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September 1, 2003

12 Min Read
Machine controls, production monitoring

Ferromatik Milacron’s new superpowered Xtreem XP control has an open-architecture Windows XP Professional OS and dual Pentium 4 2-GHz processors.

Working together with control OEMs like Barber-Colman, Siemens, and Allen-Bradley/Rockwell Automation, Epco displayed the retrofittable molding machine control upgrades it has developed.

One might think McCormick’s halls were filled with office equipment instead of plastics machinery, given the widespread use of Microsoft’s Windows platform among machine controls at NPE. Manufacturers departed from the customized software exhibited three years ago and instead chose to build on existing technology for press control. And now that machine controls interface so widely with production monitoring, there’s no excuse for not knowing exactly what is happening with every machine on the floor.

  • Man-machine Interfacing

    Milacron’s new Xtreem XP open-architecture machine control is the first ever to use standard Intel PCs to control the molding process. Its Windows XP Professional operating system is run by dual Pentium 4 2-GHz processors—one to control the machine, and the other to run the operator station.

    Two 20-GB hard drives and 256-MB DDR-RAM memory handle program and data storage. And the Xtreem XP has five available USB 2.0 ports for high-speed plug-and-play connectivity with everything from video cameras and DVD devices to bar code readers.

    It’s equipped with a big, touch-friendly, 15.1-inch color LCD GUI, making it easy not only to control a press, but also to access software, like MS Office and remote Ethernet LAN, and to access the Internet. It comes with software like MoldFlow and Avalon Vision Solutions preloaded and awaiting activation. Optional remote and local machine and process diagnostics software packages also are available. Milacron sources call the new Xtreem XP “the most powerful machine control in the plastics industry.” An advanced prototype was on show at NPE.

    Engel introduced its new MiniCam. MiniCam software, fully integrated with the molding machine control architecture, consists of a technical database and expert software that helps molds find correct initial machine setup info. It’s designed to be easy to use by both experienced molders and newbies.

    Epco Machinery and Barber-Colman/Eurotherm collaborated to develop the affordable, easy-to-use, real-time E-7000-I retrofit control for injection molding. It uses B-C’s Impact II system, designed to maximize control through valve linearization, fill-pressure profiling, and use of advanced algorithms.

    Troubleshooting machine problems is made simpler through a portable wireless control panel called Optima from Eurotherm. Users can carry the device around the machine and record data directly into the software.

    Epco also has teamed up with the Siemens Energy & Automation Unit to develop two new control upgrades. The Siject IM16-170 is an open loop, low-cost control for smaller molding shops. It does all the basics—including timing, counting, and machine sequencing—and also controls clamp, ejection, and injection functions. Multilingual barrel PID temperature control, diagnostics, and mold setup storage also are provided.

    Tackling much more than just machine data, Hunkar Laboratories Inc. demonstrated its new system for factory floor data collection of bar codes, image capture, database connection, and label printing over a wireless LAN. Hunkar’s software runs on a Model 7400 scanner from Hand Held Products using the Adaptus Imager. The system expands the use of portable data collection terminals that are a mainstay of most manufacturing environments. In addition to the bar code data that are collected and sent to the database in real time, photo images expand remote decision making. The captured image is saved in the database, associated with the job data via the bar code, and can then be printed, displayed, e-mailed, or archived as required.

    Expanding data collection and production management to the front office and integrating it with other administration functions is the goal of DTR Software International’s latest offering. The company introduced version 9 of The Manufacturing Manager to offer improved information analysis, inventory management, and operational efficiencies for plastics processors. TMM v.9 blends manufacturing, distribution, and financial management software in a system configurable to match varying processes and profiles with plastics-specific functions for all aspects of manufacturing.

    Integrating plantwide process systems

    Managing the production floor has long been a goal of enterprise software. At NPE 2000, RJG Inc. connected several molding machines at various booths with phone lines and showed data on each machine from its own booth. This year, the company’s Insight production and process management system enabled show attendees to view machines in 10 booths, but this time connected via a local area network (LAN). Processing information from Arburg, Battenfeld, Engel, Haitian, Ferromatik Milacron, Sumitomo, Toyo, UBE, Yushin, and Synventive all transmitted back to RJG’s booth through the Insight System.

    As part of its Insight System, a new statistical software package from RJG called InsightStats interfaces directly with eDart, the company’s data acquisition box, and iLink, its new production control system. InsightStats can create X Bar & R and Histogram charts for all saved data, and scatter plots for correlation analysis. A GUI enables viewing of all graphs, which can be saved and printed. To assist users in setting process alarms, an Alarm Assistant tool enables part measurement information to be correlated against actual process variables.

    Factory Intelligence Network LLC showcased its newest real-time monitoring and data collection software, version 3.6 of FIN, designed to help manufacturers improve efficiency by monitoring process parameters and reducing downtime. FIN comes preconfigured, although all reports are highly customizable and can be easily exported to Microsoft Excel. Key enhancements include new trending tools and an optional wireless tablet PC as a part of the system.

    The FIN system continuously collects plant floor data including temperature, pressure, weight, motor load, speed, and other details. The newest version adds three functions for reporting by event, data, or batch.

    Mattec Corp. introduced several new products including ProHelp EPM version 6.0.0 and ProHelp Millennium version 3.02. ProHelp EPM 6.0.0 features a family molding option, a cavity-pressure transfer option, and new real-time display, job scheduling, and reporting capabilities. ProHelp Millennium 3.02 features an upgraded operating system (Open Unix 8), a cavity-pressure transfer option, assorted bug fixes, and minor enhancements. Mattec also introduced its newest cavity pressure transfer option, TSMIU 750-B600 version E, which adds interfaces for Nissei 8300 FT-10 PLC, Krauss-Maffei MC4 PLC, Sumitomo SH1 PLC, Demag NC4 PLC, Siemens 944 PLC, and Allen-Bradley DF1 PLC as well as multiple language support.

    InsightStats software from RJG allows for plant floor data collection and graphs the results for saving and printing.

    Version 9 also features Customer Relationship Management software to allow processors to streamline information flow through the organization, and simplifies interdepartmental sharing of customer information, improving customer service while reducing service costs. TMM-CRM provides real-time order management, payment and credit information, and easy access to historical sales information for marketing analysis and up-sell opportunities.

    Another new feature in v.9 is Insight, a business intelligence tool that allows executives and management to immediately identify bottlenecks in the supply chain before they affect business.

    Syscon-PlantStar introduced a new low-cost, entry-level production monitoring system consisting of four different configurations. The QuickShot product comes as a complete package with data collection modules for either 12, 24, 36, or 48 machines, relays for cycle counting, wiring information, and installation instruction. The QuickShot offers the most commonly requested features in an entry-level system, including cycle counting at each press, 10 scrap codes, 10 downtime codes, and 10 assist calls. Syscon has also expanded PlantStar’s machine monitoring products to meet the requirements of ISO 9001 and FDA as well as customer requests for traceability.

    The second, the IM16-270, offers all of the above, plus closed loop control and a 10-inch color touch-screen GUI, a Windows CE-based microprocessor, 2 MB memory, and comprehensive parameter profiling capabilities. High-speed data collection, uptime/downtime reporting with alarms, and Acrobat PDF documentation capabilities also are provided. It’s also got a multilingual Ethernet port, standard.

    Siemens also has teamed up with Taylor’s Industrial Services, HPM Div. to develop the Total Command 2003 (TC03), a PC-based machine control system with a touch-screen GUI. The open-architecture TC03 is used on HPM’s Modular hydraulic machines (200 to 4000 tons) and its Freedom hydromechanicals (350 to 5000 tons). The TC03 is designed to have screen-set flexibility, so molders can customize the display to their own needs. It can easily be networked to a plant’s MIS/MRP systems and other third-party software running the machinery and robotics in a cell. It’s fast, it provides unlimited recipe storage, and maintenance/troubleshooting screens are built right in.

    Taking a page from Microsoft’s notepad product, Eurotherm Controls rolled out the Optima wireless operator station for its new low-cost Maco DS injection molding machine control system. It can also be used on extrusion and blowmolding machines. Promising to reduce time spent on machine setup and troubleshooting, company sources say Optima enables the user to walk around the machine with the panel and view adjustments in real time rather than returning to a fixed station to input new values. Optima is based on a Hewlett-Packard PC running Windows XP and comes with a stylus that allows for notations directly on the monitor; additionally, written or spoken information can be converted to text. Multiple presses can be controlled through a single Optima system.

    Touting reduced cost of ownership as the impetus for introducing its new 3000 Series temperature and process controls/programmers, Eurotherm rolled out four new models that are designed for ease of startup with more features. First, the 3216 temperature and process control is programmed through a text display that can scroll parameter descriptions horizontally. Five onboard process recipes with 48 parameters per recipe are possible, and it has a compact 1¼16 DIN, 90-mm-deep size.

    Designed for demanding, high-accuracy, single loop control applications, the 3508 and 3504 models of temperature/process controls/programmers also answer customer requests for an easier-to-use product by including the same scrolling text message display as the 3216. The 3508 is a 1¼8 DIN, 4.5-digit unit with three plug-in I/O slots, and the 3504 is a 1¼4 DIN, five-digit unit and presents six I/O modules. They can store up to 50 setpoint programs that have control sequencing capability. All of the 3000 Series controls can be programmed in seconds with a four-digit “Quick Code.”

    Configuration and maintenance software iTools version 5 from Eurotherm has added to the ease of use in the 3000 Series. In the 3508 and 3504, a graphical editor allows for drag-and-drop configuration, and the software interfaces with the controls through a built-in hardware port or an infrared port on the unit’s face. Additionally, all of the new units are compatible with the company’s new Archestra architecture, which serves as a comprehensive industrial automation and information system to run, expand, and build new plants.

    The company also introduced ControlNet communications with application-specific block process controls, which can be equipped with a central processor for custom control and local I/O drops. Finally, Eurotherm’s Intelligent Integrator HMI for injection molding, blowmolding, or extrusion separates the monitor and computer, enabling the CPU to be mounted in the main electrical panel and away from potential hazards.

    Hunkar Laboratories Inc. showed its most recent-generation closed loop injection process control at NPE 2003. The DAC-V claims to extend the life and improve the performance of older presses. For $11,700, it comes with enhanced servo circuit technology, SPC plotting for all measured parameters, autoprofiling, and shot control, and it saves process setpoints and limits internally and via a network to the Hunkar Smart Manufacturing System.

    Promising better repeatability in its wares was Bosch Rexroth Corp., which brought two new closed loop machine controls to the show. The 2X DPQ digital control for hydraulic injection cylinders has user-selectable internal DeviceNet or external analog injection profile control; its closed loop injection velocity and pressure profiles have bumpless transitions and there is no hydraulic shock under standard operation.

    Toshiba’s new iPaqet remote monitoring system gathers real-time data from up to 24 of its molding machines, and can upload mold setup files to Toshiba’s V21 machine controls.

    The company also introduced its DPC digital control for hydraulic clamp systems, which is designed for high-speed clamp operation. A damping feature allows springy, low-natural-frequency systems to run at high speeds without shock and with previously unreached position repeatability. Both the 2X DPQ and DPC operate with the Bodac interface running on the Windows operating system.

  • Remote Controls

    Syscon PlantStar and Van Dorn Demag announced at NPE 2003 that they have completed a cooperative effort to embed Syscon PlantStar’s production and process monitoring system into VDD’s latest series of Pathfinder 6000 machine controls. Wireless Ethernet, scheduling and monitoring features, and a full suite of Web services to browse information from any PC or browser-enabled device on the same network are supported by the new systems.

    A highlight of Niigata’s NPE exhibit was a display of its LAN-connected IMM remote monitoring system. The same screens running on the control panels of the two all-electric machines in its booth were replicated on a remote PC running its monitoring system.

    The system provides two-way communication between the host computer and presses in the plant, or across the planet via the Internet. Remote Niigata technical servicing and troubleshooting is another key feature provided.

    Toshiba introduced its Ethernet-compatible iPaqet remote monitoring system at the show. Designed to gather discrete, comprehensive, real-time data from up to 24 molding machines, the system also has a quality monitoring table, materials lot history logging, and e-mail capabilities. The V21 can even transfer and copy screens from Toshiba’s V21 machine controls, upload mold setup files, and download messages to operators.

    The lines are definitely blurring between OEM machine controls and whole plant monitoring systems. See “Integrating Plantwide Process Systems,” p. 57, for more.

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