Less hardwiring: Faster network connections save time, money

Automatic Feed Co., designer and manufacturer of coil handling and press feeding automation systems, moved to a “one-day build cycle” by standardizing equipment and distributing control devices throughout their machine. This process, coined distributed device architecture or DDA, has allowed the company to drastically improve its productivity, reliability, and quality.

By Control Engineering Staff May 3, 2007

Napoleon, OH Automatic Feed Co ., designer and manufacturer of coil handling and press feeding automation systems, moved to a “one-day build cycle” by standardizing equipment and distributing control devices throughout their machine. This process, coined distributed device architecture or DDA, has allowed the company to drastically improve its productivity, reliability, and quality.

The company has long recognized the importance of streamlining processes, and has been developing programs to accomplish this since the 1980s. DDA’s basic approach is modularity: to incorporate control devices onto a “sub-system” that is located near its associated process. Control devices are removed from traditional enclosures and built to a standard on the sub-system. Certain machine components, like motor, cylinder or valve, can be specified per application, depending on the process chosen for the machine. This design ensures applications specified to customer’s standards are implemented more efficiently; often resulting in a cost savings to the customer.

Prior to the DDA program, a device had eight connection points before reaching the PLC. Now a device has only two connection points before reaching the PLC. According to Mike Wolfrum, electrical engineering manager with Automatic Feed, “we saved 25% on the cost of electrical components by using the AIM blocks (junction boxes) and Turck plug-ins (quick disconnects).”

The DDA program reduced enclosures, connection points and potential failure points. This reduction was achieved with the implementation of stand-alone sub-systems, and was also made possible by using Turck DeviceNet AIM stations and cordsets.

Wolfrum says, “we used plug-and-play technology to eliminate almost all wire reconnections requiring a screwdriver, except the 480 V line. The E-connect plug and play on all safety circuits has eliminated wiring errors reconnecting the safety circuits. Even the cables to each gate are molded from the factory to the correct length to reduce wiring errors. The connections to the panels are also plug-ins, except the 480 V, to speed installation time and reduce wiring errors.”

In using the quick connection system instead of hardwired terminations, Automatic Feed reduced:

Junction boxes on the press feed line by 97% and on the coil line by 90%;

Communication and power cable by 70%; and

Personnel wiring hours by 50%.

Edited by Mark T. Hoske , editor in chief
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