Unified platform helps robotics for packaging
In 2012, Cama Group’s research and development team, along with its mechanical and electronic engineering department, worked with consultants at the automation vendor, providing “specific production line requirements. And, of course, we gave them a very ambitious time target,” Mosca explained. The experts “helped us understand exactly how the system would perform. We worked together as partners to attain the highest speed for the application we were requesting.”
Engineers chose a modular approach to help Cama Group adapt the solution to unique specifications of different manufacturing processes.
“From a technical point of view, we wanted to integrate logic and motion on a unique automation platform,” Mosca said. “The robot automation and control system had to fit different requirements: speed and flexibility in handling operations, synchronization of different axes in the plant, and easy product changeovers.”
At the outset of the project, the blended team defined technical specifications to size the programmable automation controller (PAC), I/O modules, motors, servo drives, ac drives, and operator interfaces.
At the heart of the system is a control platform with integrated motion. Having one control platform allows users to manage different robot kinematics at the same time and synchronize separate tracking, handling, and vision systems. The controller has a SERCOS (Serial Real-time Communications System) interface motion module.
End users can easily share production information across all equipment through one EtherNet/IP network. EtherNet/IP, an ODVA Ethernet protocol, uses the same TCP/IP protocol suite that is used for the Internet, with the open connectivity and global acceptance of standard Ethernet and the real-time performance and security of fieldbus networks.
Cama Group engineers can link their optical character recognition and optical character verification vision systems to other automation products in the robotic cell via EtherNet/IP.
The system uses servo drives that help eliminate the need for a dedicated motion network and allow users to support high-performance drives, I/O modules, smart actuators, and any other EtherNet/IP-connected device on one network.
The drives, with safe-off function, reside on the same EtherNet/IP network for simplified machine design and production line operation. Low inertia servo motors fit compact space requirements while meeting the demands of the high-performance motion system.
Another important goal of the project was to improve operator safety and deliver a system compliant with global safety standard EN ISO 13849-1. The automation vendor conducted a safety risk assessment and implemented an integrated safety system, which allows for safety and standard control on one platform, alleviates complicated hardwiring, and reduces engineering time.
With the unified platform, the PAC uses the same configuration, networking, and visualization environment as the rest of the system. This integration provides users with fewer spare parts to maintain, while the control platform’s openness helps ease integration into an existing plant.
Unlike hardwired systems, the integration of safety and standard control provides operators and maintenance personnel with visibility to all machine events—including safety events—via a human-machine interface. The knowledge and insight provided by the integrated system allows users to respond quickly and return the machine or line to full production.
To manage safety on smaller, individual machines with the robot system, the team used safety relays.
“The new control platform gives our customers a linear and lean production line,” Mosca said. “The modular approach allows us to apply the standard platform in future projects, saving design and development time.”
Results: Time to market
Cama Group has just begun installing the new system in customers’ factories, and one customer has requested the same architecture on an additional packaging line.
During the project, Mosca said, clear definition of specifications and targets helped, thanks to the highly skilled teams involved, along with shared project management methods. These methods helped meet cost and time-to-market requirements.
- Mike Wagner is global segment business manager for packaging at Rockwell Automation. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering and Plant Engineering, firstname.lastname@example.org.
See the Cama article below for more application details and products used in unified robotics platform for packaging.