Mobile wine bottling truck integrates controls, HMI

Application Update: Marathon Bottling and Automation, a mobile wine bottling and custom automation original equipment manufacturer, automates its new mobile wine bottling operation with an integrated PLC and HMI, requiring less configuration for 50-bottles-per-minute performance.


Marathon Bottling and Automation LLC, a mobile wine bottling and custom automation OEM, uses a networked Unitronics Vision130 PLC to control local functions on the truck and a Unitronics Vision1210 for system control and data collection. Courtesy: UnitronMarathon Bottling and Automation LLC, a mobile wine bottling and custom automation OEM using  programmable logic controllers (PLCs), has automated its mobile wine bottling operation with an integrated PLC and human-machine interface (HMI). In conjunction with using PLCs on custom automation projects, Marathon Bottling and Automation has networked a PLC to control local functions on the truck, and an integrated HMI and PLC for system control and data collection. This mobile operation connects to a winery’s tank, pumps the wine into the equipment on the truck, and nitrogen sparges, fills, vacuum corks, and labels bottles at 50 bottles per minute. The whole bottling system consists of a rotary nitrogen bottle sparger, gravity filler, vacuum corker, six-head capsule spinner, and pressure-sensitive and cold glue labeler with six conveyor controls.

In the mobile wine bottling line, there are several variable speed motors that need to work in concert with bottle backup sensors. The overall line speed needs to maximize efficiency and maintain bottle control. Various sensors are needed to verify nitrogen flow pressure, fill levels in the filler machine, label length, and gap detection. The labeler requires several options to accommodate varying styles of labels—including applying two labels on each bottle from the same reel or from two separate reels.

Label spacing on the bottle must be balanced. The gap detection requires a rapid and consistent input trigger. The 1.5 msec interrupt guarantees the repeatability of the label positioning when the gap between labels is detected—it provides an immediate input response to control stepper motors. Without this, slight, but unacceptable, variation in label placement would occur. The automated capsule placing process over the corked bottles requires simple I/O control. 

Multiple hardware options provided “so many choices to solve the project while keeping costs low,” said Dan Murphy, owner of Marathon Bottling and Automation. “Very rarely do I have a project requirement that is not covered by one of the basic options [of available hardware]. When it isn’t part of a snap-in module, certainly it is covered by the expansion module lineup.”

To get the system running, the application required RS485 for control of variable-speed ac motor drives along with analog inputs for temperature measurements of incoming water during the sanitation process. Analog inputs were also used to monitor incoming nitrogen gas pressure. Various and multiple I/Os were needed for general sensors and pneumatic valve actuators. High-speed outputs were needed for stepper-motors along with high-speed inputs for rapid sensor detection.  Accurate label placement with even spacing between front and back labels was also a necessity.

Mobile wine bottling plant: The Marathon Bottling and Automation’s mobile wine bottling truck uses Unitronics PLC and integrated HMI. Courtesy: UnitronicsAfter using and programming several brands of PLCs, the software chosen was “by far the most intuitive and easily understood while providing significant functionality and quality,” said Murphy. The time required to configure and implement features and functions in other PLC brands often isn’t required in this platform due to the ease of use. Sample code introduced features that Murphy hadn’t seen before. After copying and pasting the samples into his code, “they often work the first time.”

With integration of RS485 communications, analog inputs, and general I/O, along with multiple PLC-to-PLC communication options, “programming challenges are kept to the processes at hand instead of configuration issues, handshake issues, communication issues, etcetera, that other PLCs require.” 

- Lindsay Pestilli works in marketing/communications for Unitronics Inc. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, CFE Media, Control Engineering content manager. 

Integrated HMI/PLC adds I/O

Read more about the tools used: “Mobile wine bottling application technologies,” below. 

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