Products inside: PC-based control helps KVAL door production machines

KVAL Inc. uses Beckhoff Automation C6920 Industrial PC, TwinCAT NC I, AX5000 servo drives, AM8000 series servo motors, and ES line of EtherCAT I/O terminals to ease programming, reduce assembly time, cut wiring time to less than half, decrease troubleshooting, and increase flexibility.

By Josh Olson May 17, 2015

KVAL, based in Petaluma, Calif., provides machines for manufacturing high-quality doors, leveraging the latest automation technologies to create customer-specific solutions. Inside the machines, an industrial PC (IPC) runs a unified programming software platform for motion control and CNC operations, as well as facilitating remote diagnostics and troubleshooting via standard tools and programs available in the Microsoft Windows OS platform.

"The TwinCAT software and Beckhoff Industrial PC solutions accomplished just that, helping us make machines of all sizes and complexities while employing the same underlying control system that is highly adaptable to change," according to David Schneider, KVAL software engineer.

KVAL found that using the Beckhoff TwinCAT unified programming environment and run time for all systems offered the widest array of programming languages and code management options.

Schneider said, "I can create a code module using Beckhoff software tools and repurpose that module on every machine we build after that. This is a large part of how we have accelerated our development by leveraging Beckhoff software; we build up a library of function blocks and can essentially ‘drop in’ the code specific to a feeder system, a hinge router, or a door lock router, and know that the underlying functionality to make it work has already been completed."

Beckhoff has an open approach to fieldbuses and communication standards; software tools in TwinCAT add to the overall flexibility, abstracting the application from the network/protocol layer.

"The Beckhoff product line has allowed us to create a machine tailored to a whole market of smaller shops needing automation but unable to budget for our larger machines. The new Commander 3 balances price and functionality for this market, thanks to the scalable Beckhoff systems inside," Schneider said.

In that machine, a Beckhoff C6920 Industrial PC (IPC) running TwinCAT NC I provides a platform for motion control and CNC operations, and facilitates remote diagnostics and troubleshooting via standard tools and programs available in the Microsoft Windows OS platform.

"The C6920 is the most cost-effective automation solution for our machinery," said Schneider. Removing the former mess of proprietary bus system cables, the machine now uses Beckhoff AX5000 servo drives, which use a standard Ethernet cable to get a high-performance EtherCAT motion system up and running. An additional benefit KVAL realizes by using the AX5000 drives is the wide voltage range.

With the Beckhoff AX5000, KVAL stocks one drive type, good for the 230 V and 480 V machines, instead of two, simplifying designs and parts management, and creating savings for the customer. Coupled to the AX5000 servo drives are AM8000 series servo motors, featuring auto programming and Beckhoff’s One Cable Technology (OCT), again simplifying installation by reducing motor cabling and connectors up to 50%.

The Beckhoff ES line of EtherCAT I/O terminals offers a removable plug face for easy installation and removal.

Schneider also said KVAL was able to program, test, and ship a 10-axis 990H CNC routing machine, with custom G-code routines, in two months; with prior design and technology it might have taken two or three times as long, the company said.

KVAL realized time reductions on all machines with the Beckhoff systems, from more flexible automated processes and simplified wiring. With the Beckhoff PC-based control and EtherCAT, the process is less than a day, down from two to four days for multiple persons. The process is automated, and troubleshooting efforts are far more efficient as a result.

"We’ve always felt that Beckhoff has maintained a long-term strategy on our business relationship," Schneider noted. "With the triumph of the Commander 3, we are committed to migrate as many of our machines as possible over to the Beckhoff platforms.

– Josh Olson is marketing communications specialist, Beckhoff Automation; edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering,

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See a related KVAL machine application article with more photos: PC-based control helps KVAL door production machines

See a video of the KVAL Commander 3: