A highly automated control system with pre-programmed recipes that automatically perform all of the setup functions previously done manually by operators has streamlined automated press feeders.
Coe Press Equipment Corporation builds precision equipment for feeding massive rolls of steel into presses that stamp out body and structural parts for automobiles and appliances. Recently, Coe Press designed and built the feed system for a new blanking press manufactured by Fagor Arrasate of Spain, for delivery to a leading Tier One automotive supplier.
“The longer it takes an operator to set up a machine, the longer the downtime when no parts are being made and no money is being made,” says Barry Lewalski of Coe Press.Traditionally, Lewalski says setup of a feeder machine is a time-consuming process involving 10 to 20 different manual adjustments. Operators must manually center the coil on the reel, align the coil edge guides, adjust the straightener to flatten the material, thread the coil to the feeder and set the feed progression length, speed and timing with the press.
The new system eliminates all of these manual steps by storing parameters as recipes in a Siemens SIMATIC MP270 HMI operator panel and distributing the setup instructions to SINAMICS drives through the SIMOTION drive controller. The drive controller gets its instructions over ET200S I/O distributed on PROFIBUS from the feeder’s WinCC Flexible software.The operator only needs to select the right recipe from the control screen, and the software sends the instructions that allow the machine to automatically adjust itself to the correct parameters for the job within seconds.
“The recipes not only allow the machine to be set up more quickly, maximizing the production time,” Lewalski says. “They also eliminate the potential for operator error. The job will run exactly the same way each and every time, with none of the variation you get because one operator sets it up one way and another does it a little differently.”
Coe Press planned for its internal staff to do all of the engineering and programming work necessary to incorporate the Siemens equipment into the feeder machine’s design.But as the project started, the company found itself juggling a large flow of orders.
A local Siemens distributor, Electromatic Products, helped size the equipment, and Siemens engineers worked with Coe to develop the control programs using some existing software as templates. “That allowed us to learn from the experience and be able to reuse that knowledge on the next project,” Lewalski says.
Throughout the six-month build cycle, the team met to establish a work plan and keep the project moving forward on schedule.The Coe engineering staff focused attention on designing and building the feeder system for the customer’s unique challenge, a proprietary approach to stamping that was a first of its kind. When the system was built and wired up in Coe’s plant, the Siemens team came to Michigan to load the control software and begin the debugging phase.
Lewalski says that the tight project timetable created a challenge to compress the debug phase.The control system provided a good method to check all the communications channels and to make sure they were working before putting power to the machine. “Of course we still had bugs, but we were able to isolate where they were very quickly, which allowed us to correct them and move on,” he says.
Using an integrated control system allowed Coe Press to complete its debugging phase in just two weeks. The time savings proved critical when the end customer for the feeder system requested delivery two weeks earlier than Coe’s original commitment.
The system architecture developed using the SIMOTION package and PROFIBUS network allowed the finished machine to be broken down and reassembled at the customer site quickly and with few mistakes. Compared to earlier machines, Lewalski says the wiring inside the new machine is cleaner, less complex and simplifies both initial setup and ongoing maintenance.
All of the components feature WebNavigator which allows for remote troubleshooting of the machine over the Internet if the customer encounters a problem. “We can remotely access the system to monitor it or to make program changes for the client without a service call,” he says. “If the equipment has shut down because of a simple programming fault, we can easily clear the fault and get the equipment running again, which maximizes the customer’s uptime.”