Man or woman, no one likes wrinkles - well, unless you’re a fan of Shar Peis or Klingons. Wrinkles are a sign of old age and people usually avoid them for as long as possible, mainly through the use of cosmetic products. In a production process, though, old, aging equipment can slow down productivity and affect the bottom line. Merrid Controls, a system integrator, took the wrinkles out of a major cosmetic and beauty manufacturer’s production process in Poland by installing ProSoft Technology radios. Data transmission wrinkles, to be exact.
The cosmetics manufacturer had an existing system using an antiquated PC computer as an HMI and a PLC. Spare parts and customer service support were scarce. The PLC’s job was to control the rotating filling process, whether it was perfume, wrinkle cream, or any other cosmetic product.
“The machine is an important part of the production line, so they decided to modernize it,” said Piotr Pasierowski, a control systems development engineer with Merrid Controls.
And to emphasize its importance, the machine has no backup. If it goes down, so does the entire plant. “If it stops, all production has to be stopped,” Mr. Pasierowski explained. “It’s the only rotating filler they have.”
Yes, you read that correctly - the only one. Communication between the PLCs was done through an HMI and a slip ring communication system. PLCs communicate to each other exchanging values such as pumping speed, rotation speed, and how much product to put in each container.
ProSoft Technology and Merrid Controls proposed using a radiating cable and wireless radios. They installed the system, which included a new PanelView™ Plus, so that it would work in parallel to the old HMI, to further ensure its success. The radiating cable was installed inside the rotating table.
ProSoft Technology radios were used for communication via Ethernet between the fixed SLC™ 500 5/05 and PanelView Plus on one side and a CompactLogix™ on the machine controlling measurements and fillers. 5GHz frequency radios were used to ensure the IT network didn’t influence PLC communication. The radios have more channels - allowing more networks, including the IT network, to coexist in the same area. Migrating to the wireless system was done in a few steps: They had to migrate to the Ethernet-enabled PLC, remove the old 18-connection slip ring, and install the radiating cable.
The benefits of this solution include a solid platform and communications architecture.
“They have the option to reprogram without stopping the machine,” Mr. Pasierowski explained. “Communication is done using only Ethernet so even wirelessly they could reprogram PLCs and the HMI.”
The new wireless system requires fewer maintenance expenses, no stops, full application documentation, and backup. It’s also possible to connect to a central SCADA system for machine performance measurements.