Boeing has learned first-hand how a control-system upgrade can make an old machine work like new, at a fraction of the cost of purchasing a new machine. Case in point: recent refurbishing of four shot-peening machines at the Boeing Fabrication Division plant in Auburn, WA. The Boeing fabrication shop uses spanwise peening machines for contouring wing components, and compression peening machines for cold working. Early in 2011, plant managers decided to upgrade the machines’ controls, which ranged from 20 to 40 years old. Some used relay logic and some were CNC-based. Parts had become obsolete, and maintenance had become overly expensive.
The plant’s managers sought new controls that were more process-oriented, and simple-to-use human-machine interfaces (HMIs) standardized with operator controls used at other Boeing plants. To help with the upgrades, Boeing turned to Concept Systems Inc. Albany, OR, and its engineer Jim Ford, who proposed replacing the old CNCs with Allen-Bradley PLCs. In addition, he recommended Allen-Bradley Panel View terminals to provide the graphics displays. The old DC servos were replaced with smaller AC servomotors and new gearboxes were installed to upgrade the mechanical aspects of the machine. Continue Reading →