Products used: Lean automation offers higher product quality; less wiring, programming time

Beckhoff Automation software and products were used for OPA Consulting Services to help the Quantum Group achieve 10%-15% improvements in woven product quality with 50% less I/O wiring time and 30% less programming time.

By Shane Novacek October 23, 2014

Quantum Group monofilament extrusion machine controls and temperature and pressure monitoring are handled with PC-based control using embedded PCs from Beckhoff Automation. The EtherCAT industrial Ethernet protocol is used for I/O, motion, safety, and other communications. The retrofit process took about seven months to complete from the design stage to plant-floor commissioning. OPA Consulting Services implemented CU1128 EtherCAT junction devices.

The devices support coupling and uncoupling of EtherCAT I/O sections during operation with Hot Connect groups for flexible reconfiguration of machine modules on the plant floor, without requiring overly complex shut-down and start-up routines on the part of plant personnel.

CU1128 EtherCAT junctions also make it easier to reconfigure the machine lines and change the order of machine modules as production processes are changed.

A consolidated controls platform and lean automation architecture on retrofit monofilament extrusion machines use Beckhoff CX2030 Embedded PCs with Intel Core i7 processors (2 cores) running Beckhoff TwinCAT 3 next-generation PC-based control software and Microsoft Windows 7 Embedded Operating System.

In the move to a PC- and EtherCAT-based system from Beckhoff, OPA Consulting Services implemented the supervisory control system on the same embedded PC as the PLC program for simplicity.

TwinCAT 3 software from Beckhoff was implemented in the framework of the globally used Microsoft Visual Studio, providing a wide range of automation and IT programming tools for PLC, motion control, measurement, and more. Prior experience with TwinCAT 2 and with Microsoft Visual Basic .NET (VB .NET) helped OPA Consulting Services with the new programming environment.

TwinCAT 3 is a big step forward in terms of performance and adds many available tools to ease programming, according to those involved in the project.

The CX2030 Embedded PC also runs the HMI software implemented by OPA Consulting Services, an all-in-one control hardware platform. Connected to the CX2030s on the extrusion machines are EtherCAT I/O terminals, which are also distributed throughout the lines. EtherCAT Terminals with various integrated functions, such as thermocouple terminals, were selected by OPA Consulting Services to implement measurement functionality on the machines. In addition, safety functionality is established via TwinSafe terminals installed throughout the machine modules.

Safety over EtherCAT and the TwinSafe programmable safety technology ensure advanced safety measures are built into the machines. All machine logic, including safety, resides on the CX2030 Embedded PC. TwinSafe and Safety over EtherCAT facilitate simpler wiring and lower costs.

TwinCAT software and EtherCAT implement coordinated motion on two brands of variable frequency drives (VFDs) networked via EtherCAT.

EtherCAT reduced wiring to the drives. More parameters were available without much programming. Using EtherCAT reduced wiring costs for this Quantum Group fabric manufacturing line by 50%.

For many more application details, see "Lean automation offers higher product quality; less wiring, programming time" below.

– Shane Novacek is marketing communications manager, Beckhoff Automation. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering,