Top

Tag Archives | PLC

Meggitt Robotic Drilling Workcell

Meggitt Polymers & Composites recently updated their manufacturing operations by installing a Drill and Cutting workcell, designed and integrated by Concept Systems. The fully automated workcell uses a Fanuc M-710 series robotic arm and state of the art end of arm tooling to drill and cut material for the aerospace industry. The goal of this project was to improve accuracy and throughput of thousands of parts, allowing Meggitt Polymers & Composites to meet the needs of their customers.

Project duration: 4 months

Team:
Client: 1
Concept Systems: 4

Concept Systems’ time on site: 2 weeks

Headquartered in the United Kingdom, Meggitt PLC is an international group employing some 8,000 people specializing in aerospace equipment, high performance sensors, defense training and combat systems. Meggitt Polymers & Composites, in McMinnville, OR focuses on delivering gaskets and seals to rigorous standards to be used by some of the world’s leading manufacturers.

Meggitt Polymers & Composites had an opportunity to expand their business with a current client, but to do so, they would have to increase production by means other than human labor. Historically, the work on these parts was being done manually in a labor intensive manner. Production rates were limited to an average of 1000 parts per year, but needed to increase production by 300%, or 3000 parts per year, to meet demand. In addition to throughput, accuracy and safety were of high concern.

“A lot of these operations were being done by hand, and we were missing holes,” James Robertson, Meggitt’s vice president of operations, said in a recent news article featuring the project. “This enabled us to simplify the process and improve our quality.”

Concept Systems kicked off the project by meeting with the project manager at Meggitt, to first understand their operations, concerns and goals, ensuring the right solution was delivered based on measurable results and a favorable return on investment.  Once the objectives, timelines, and goals were established, Concept moved forward with the design of the workcell.

The system that Concept created for the drill and cutting project is a fully automated workcell featuring a Fanuc M-710 Robot. The workcell boasts an integrated tool changer that provides seamless interchange of tools, allowing continuous production of the desired hole shape and size for 8 different parts. Further, Concept designed end-of-arm tooling to accommodate 14 automated, interchangeable options for drilling and cutting.  To support flexibility of the workcell, Concept also designed and provided fixture racks to accommodate 8 different parts. All of this was under the direction of a thorough risk assessment based on ANSI/RIA R1506-2012: safety first design of the workcell and all components.

Technology used in workcell:

  • Fanuc M-710iC Series Robot
  • ServoRobot Tool Changer
  • PushCorp High Torque Servo Toolholder
  • Tool Changing Station
  • 4 Custom Built Part Fixtures
  • Safety Interlocked System Guarding: Light Curtain, Area Scanner, Dust Hood

The workcell has now been in production for over 6 months and the initial results show that the project was a success. Meggitt has expanded their production capacity to 3000 parts per year – a 300% increase as per the project goal. Meggitt has also achieved high precision and repeatability from the robot and tools which significantly reduced rework and product loss. Last, the physical guard fencing, door interlocks, and area scanners provide the latest in worker protection.

Preventing Extensive Downtime From Equipment Failure

When updating or maintaining older equipment, it’s important to have maximum visibility into plant operations and make every investment dollar count.

As a company that specializes in automation controls, we field a lot of different requests from clients who want a quick budgetary quote to retrofit an older piece of equipment. These requests usually come in after a piece of machinery has failed and the company has encountered one of three scenarios: 1) The company doesn’t have any documentation. 2) The last person to work on this machine has retired, and no one has been trained. 3) Replacement parts have finally become too difficult to find, even on eBay. There are other reasons, of course, but most often a client is responding to some situation that has left the company exposed to a much larger downtime risk than previously thought.

I want to discuss two different prevention techniques in hopes of providing some insight for companies to consider as they wrestle with keeping equipment current—and we all do! First, don’t be caught off guard with not knowing how and when a piece of equipment is likely to fail. There are several software options available today that provide performance data and maintenance scheduling, helping companies avoid unplanned downtime. Second, consider a machine retrofit as a way of preparing for tomorrow’s manufacturing instead of just reacting to a problem with a rush to update the machine.

Software solutions for machine monitoring have come a long way in the past five years. I don’t know if it can be considered a “mature” market, but there are many established providers that have proven their solutions. Conveniently for users, there are several options available from complete software platforms that monitor everything from CNCs, robots, PLCs and test stands to simple offerings that are designed to provide real-time monitoring per single device. Regardless of your specific needs, be assured that you have options that can be found with some basic Google searching. To make matters easier, a lot of these software providers offer their solutions via a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, which reduces the risk of overcommitting and lowers upfront costs.

All this to say that it is wise to seriously consider employing a machine monitoring software tool of some sort sooner rather than later. The advantages of doing so far outweigh the risk. Consider some of the benefits: scheduled maintenance events based on known wear, use or observed conditions; dashboard monitoring and/or reporting available via desktop computer or mobile devices; uptime and throughput reports to monitor trends; and automated alarming provides alerts that will send alert condition messages to supervisory personnel to facilitate an immediate response. With so many software solutions available provided as flexible options like SaaS, it is a good time to develop and implement a strategy that takes the guessing out of machine monitoring.

The second key aspect to keep in mind when maintaining or updating older equipment is when you evaluate a retrofit investment, consider what you can do to make that piece of machinery or that production line ready for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). In the not so distant future, experts predict whole manufacturing floors will be populated by intelligent machines that are able to monitor themselves, schedule their own maintenance and provide constant monitoring. This future state will allow machines to interoperate and create dramatic efficiencies not possible today. Machines will do this by dynamically adjusting to manufacturing conditions to ensure maximum efficiency. Although all of what is predicted is very exciting, we won’t get there overnight. The clear majority of manufacturers will use a phased approach to slowly migrate equipment to Industry 4.0 requirements over the next decade, since very few companies have the luxury of starting their production strategies from scratch.

Companies can prepare for the future by utilizing their automation roadmap, or 3- to 5-year manufacturing plan, to ensure that any investment made in a machine retrofit will not only be applicable in the future, but will also be an advantage as they phase in more Industry 4.0 equipment. Learn why an automation roadmap is essential to remaining competitive. Not sure how to get started? Learn how to get started on an automation roadmap.

There are several software options available today that provide performance data and maintenance scheduling, helping companies avoid unplanned downtime.

Here are some important things to consider with a retrofit: network compatibility, whether wired or wireless; security protocols to ensure all data is protected; virtualization (consider server consolidation and thin client architecture); and an interface that provides operators and decision-makers with valuable information to make appropriate, timely decisions.

In today’s world, the information coming at us is unlimited and it can feel like we are constantly reacting to issues and scenarios. When updating or maintaining older equipment, it is crucial that we take a proactive approach. To do this, ensure you have maximum visibility into plant operations as described above and make every investment dollar count when you retrofit equipment to be fully prepared for tomorrow’s manufacturing.

As a final comment, integrators certified by the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) can be an invaluable resource whether you are considering manufacturing software or creating an automation roadmap. Often, integrators have worked in a vast range of manufacturing scenarios and they can leverage that knowledge to the benefit of the client.

Michael Lindley is vice president of business development and marketing at Concept Systems Inc., a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association. See Concept Systems’ profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.

The Basics of Programmable Logic Controllers

What do amusement park rides, factory assembly lines, and light fixtures have in common? They are all controlled by a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC), a digital computer used to control machinery by constantly monitoring input and output devices.
PLCs are designed for multiple input and output arrangements, and can withstand various temperature ranges, electrical noises, vibrations, and impacts. Integrating a PLC into any production line or mechanical process is highly beneficial. PLCs enable operation processes to be changed or replicated, while simultaneously collecting and communicating important information.

How do PLCs work?

There are four basic operational steps for every PLC:

  1. Input Scan: Identifies the status of all input devices that are connected to the PLC.
  2. Program Scan: Implements the user-created program logic.
  3. Output Scan: Either energizes or de-energizes all connected output devices.
  4. Housekeeping: This includes communications with programming terminals and internal diagnostics.

What are input/output devices?

Input Device: An input device is a piece of computer hardware equipment used to provide data, and control signals to an information processing system (IPS).
Some examples of input devices include:

  • Switches and push buttons
  • Sensing devices
  • Limit switches
  • Proximity sensors
  • Photoelectric Sensors
  • Condition sensors
  • Vacuum switches
  • Temperature switches
  • Level switches
  • Pressure switches

Output Devices: An output device is any piece of hardware used to communicate the results of data processing carried out by an IPS, and translate the information into an understandable form.

  • Valves
  • Motor starters
  • Horns and alarms
  • Stack lights
  • Control relays
  • Pumps
  • Printers
  • Fans

What are the fundamentals of a PLC system?

CPU or processor: The Central Processing Unit, or main processor, is a microprocessor-based system. It executes the control program after reading field input status, then sends out commands to field outputs.
I/O section: I/O modules act as the Real Data Interface between field and CPU. A PLC knows the real status of field devices and controls them with relevant I/O cards.
Programming device: CPU cards can be connected with programming devices through a communication link via a programming port on the CPU.
Operating station: An operating station is used to provide an “operating window” to the PLC process. It is generally a separate device, like a PC, that is loaded with Human Machine Interface Software.

Why should I use a PLC?

  • PLCs eliminate the need for rewiring and adding additional hardware for each new logical configuration.
  • These devices increase the functionality of controls and do not take up much physical space.
  • Since PLCs are sectional, they can be mixed and matched, so you can choose the best combination of input and output devices for your specific operation.
  • PLCs can perform relay-switching tasks, as well as count, calculate, and compare analog process values.
  • A PLC’s flexibility makes it easy to modify control logic at any time.
  • PLCs are cost-effective for controlling complex systems.
  • PLCs provide easy trouble-shooting capabilities.
  • PLCs can work seamlessly with Human-Machine Interface computers.

Why It’s Time to Consider Using Vision Technology

coffee_robot_3D_modelBecause the use of vision technologies on the plant floor can give you a competitive advantage, here are the key issues to consider when looking for the right vision system.

How viable is vision technology on the plant floor? On the surface, when you look at the technology and the capabilities it seems like vision should be as common as the programmable logic controller (PLC) and the human-machine interface (HMI). If you think about the technology and its ability to “see” the environment and make decisions based on what it sees, the applications are boundless. Despite its clear advantages, the use of vision technology on the plant floor is not as commonplace as most people would imagine. Why is that?

I believe the main reasons are: 1.) The supporting technology behind the camera; and 2.) Camera installations are often viewed as being not very robust. Continue Reading →

Programmable Logic Controller (PLC)

A digital computer used for control of machinery on factory assembly lines, amusement rides or light fixtures. PLCs are used in many industries and machines. Unlike general-purpose computers, the PLC is designed for multiple inputs and output arrangements, extended temperature ranges, immunity to electrical noise, and resistance to vibration and impact.

LadderLogix

A programming language that represents a program by a graphical diagram based on the circuit diagrams of relay logic hardware. It is primarily used to develop software for PLCs used in industrial control applications. The name is based on the observation that programs in this language resemble ladders, with two vertical rails and a series of horizontal rungs between them.