When Norwegian machine builders Askim Mek Verksted needed to update the fieldbus architecture of its Battpacker glass wool packaging machine, EtherNet I/P proved the clear favourite.
Given its northerly latitude, glass wool insulation products occupy a special place within Norway’s building and construction industry. So it perhaps comes as no surprise to learn that Norway is home to Glava AS – one of Europe’s biggest producers of glass wool insulation products. But along with the buoyant local market, Glava’s insulation products are playing a central role in Europe’s strategy to curb CO2 emissions and global warming, ensuring a rising demand for glass wool products.
Coping with increased demand effectively means ensuring more efficient production methods. Askim Mek Verksted AS, a subsidiary of Glava AS, is one of only a handful of manufacturers supplying cold-end glass wool production machinery and manufactures specialist machines designed to package difficult-to-handle glass wool insulation products. AMV’s unique Battpacker system completely automates the entire cold-end process of glass wool production, transforming raw material into palletised, ready-to-ship product. The packaging process is a complex one, involving numerous operations, all of which have to be carried out with a high degree of precision and repeatability. AMV has built up considerable expertise in this specialist area, which has seen its Battpacker system gradually evolve as technologies have improved. But for its latest version, announced earlier this year, AMV took the more radical step of completely re-evaluating Battpacker’s control architecture.
Battpacker comprises eight separate stages, each one requiring numerous sensors and valves to manoeuvre the glass wool through each part of the process. Accuracy and repeatability are vital in ensuring efficient operation, minimum wastage and maximum product throughput. The machine also has to be flexible enough to cope with different types of products and different "recipes" with minimum disruption of production. Comprehensive system monitoring and diagnostics functions were also vital in ensuring maximum efficiency and uptime. To achieve these objectives, AMV’s engineers looked to replace Battpacker’s Profibus architecture with a start-of-the-art EtherNet I/P solution, supplied by local Rockwell Automation distributor, Triple-S Industry Automation AS
Working with Triple-S, the choice of EtherNet I/P opened up some exciting new possibilities for AMV’s engineers – chief among these being the growing number of manufacturers offering EtherNet I/P compatible products – leading to greater choice for OEMs and machine builders. In this case, AMV were able to employ the latest generation of Allen-Bradley ControlLogix PLCs from Rockwell Automation, which, in turn, manage Festo’s latest EtherNet I/P plug-in pneumatic valves.
ControlLogix controllers are ideal for use in complex applications such as Battpacker, which require the fast processing of sequential, motion and process instructions. ControLogix’s multi-tasking operating system supports 32 prioritised tasks. Each task can have as many as 100 programs, each with its own local data and logic, allowing virtual machines to operate independently within the same controller. The ControlLogix controller provides a scalable solution capable of addressing a large amount of I/O points, making it ideally suited to managing complicated processes. Allen-Bradley PanelView Plus HMIs, also connected via EtherNet I/P, provide operators with comprehensive system monitoring from a number of strategic vantage points. Recipe changes can be handled directly from the PanelView Plus, minimising changeover time and lost production.
The plug-and-play connection of controllers, actuators and I/O devices from an increasingly wide number of manufacturers is just a small part of the benefit that EtherNet I/P delivers to machine builders like AMV. EtherNet I/P from Rockwell Automation adheres strictly to the Ethernet standard, allowing users to take advantage of low cost of Ethernet hardware and cabling. The adoption of the standard Ethernet protocol, rather than a modified version of it, delivers maximum flexibility for machine builders to choose the best components for their application. Because everything from controller to actuator shares a common, single connection the direct costs of wiring are greatly reduced. The dramatic reduction in wiring bulk delivers significant secondary benefits, such as minimising the need for cable management and greatly reducing wiring time.
Alongside the tangible cost benefits of a de-centralised control architecture, EtherNet I/P allows greatly enhanced functionality. Thanks to EtherNet I/P, virtually every aspect of Battpacker can be monitored for effective maintenance and rapid fault diagnosis, from the operation of the Festo pneumatic valves to the operating temperature of the motors. Allen-Bradley E1-Plus overload relays continually monitor motor temperature and will generate a pre-trip warning alarm in the event of an overload. Full alarm and fault condition information is provided via the PanelView Plus HMIs, allowing a rapid response, and all alarms are logged for later analysis. EtherNet I/P also allows comprehensive remote diagnostics and machine management over the Internet via a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN).
Thanks to EtherNet I/P, Triple-S and AMV were able to create a highly flexible, yet highly efficient de-centralised solution that met all the requirements for accuracy, efficiency and supportability.