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Automation Technologies 4/2015

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Automation Technologies 4/2015


CONTROL AND DRIVE TECHNOLOGY previous page parallel with their own motion and process control, which they were then able to integrate via Profibus quite easily. Supported by the continuous development of Beckhoff systems, for example in the form of high-performance processors or through the introduction of integrated, very fast EtherCAT right down to the I/O terminal, at LCA they were finally able to fully retire their old system in 2010. Complex assembly lines with flexible control The recently developed steering shaft assembly line uses PC based control throughout. The finely scalable, modular design of PC-based control, and the resulting high degree of flexibility in the application, proved to be very beneficial during this process. Based on the approach of flexible control technology which optimally supports modifications in the machine design, the company was able to implement the whole steering shaft assembly line in just eight months. The line features 3 manual feed stations, where the individual components are placed in the workpiece carriers of the automated transport system. The carriers then pass through the individual processing stations. At one of the stations, the tubular raw material is pressed and shaped, and before it is connected with other components, it is greased and oiled. At each processing station, checks are carried out for dimensional accuracy. For example, the presence of all the required parts is verified as is the compliance with specified forces in joining processes. This results in very reliable part quality assurance and reject identification. The corresponding information is then assigned to the respective workpiece carrier. A AUTOMATION TECHNOLOGIES 4/2015

CONTROL AND DRIVE TECHNOLOGY complex final examination takes place in a measuring station that represents the most important part of the LCA expertise, as Rainer Pölzl points out: “On the one hand, vehicle steering components must be backlash-free, but on the other, the connections must not be too tight to prevent ‘telescoping’ in the event of an accident. An excellent system integration According to Rainer Pölzl, existing systems also increasingly benefit from the performance of PC-based control technology: “Many of our systems have been operating reliably at our customers facilities for 20 years or more. In order to modernize these machines without prolonged production downtime, we simulate our previous control components with the PC-based system. In this way, the existing control system doesn‘t even ‘notice’ that the hardware has been upgraded with advanced components. This allows us to exchange different modules one by one, thereby replacing the existing hardware gradually. Due to the increasing variety of product types to be produced, the control software has become too complex to be replaced directly. The approach described above has the advantage that, by simulating the hardware, it is possible to continue using the existing software. During the modernization of individualmachine modules, we also benefit from the wide range of IPC form factors. The modules can initially be realized flexibly using the compact Embedded PCs from the CX series. A control cabinet IPC lends itself when it finally comes to replacing the ‘heart’ of the system. This modularity and diversity is very well suited to our approach.” The current steering shaft assembly line uses four C6930 control cabinet IPCs with Intel Core 2 Duo processors (2.53 GHz), each connected to a 15“ CP7902 control panel. One of the computers is used as a master, e.g. for transferring process data and interfacing with the ERP level. The other IPCs control the internal processes of the assembly line. The complex process comprises more than 1 000 I/Os, which according to Rainer Pölzl - are implemented locally via IP 67-rated EtherCAT box modules, particularly Rainer Pölzl (left), project planning and control engineer, LCA Automation, and Managing Director LCA Automation Christoph P. Rennhard examine the assembly results About Company name: Beckhoff Automation Headquarters: Verl, Germany Turnover: € 510 million Employees: 2 800 worldwide Products: Industrial PCs, I/O‘s and Fieldbus components, drive technology, and automation software when it comes to logging analog data. Other components include 18 servo axes, which are composed of AX5000 servo drives and AM3000 servomotors and controlled via TwinCAT NC I. EtherCAT is used for high-performance networking, which perfectly blends into the PC Control system. With excellent system integration, TwinCAT enables optimum access to the data. As a result, subsequent extensions can be implemented much more easily than would be the case with third-party software.” Opportunities for further innovation For future projects, Rainer Pölzl sees further innovation potential, due to PC-based control. For example, the software is currently being upgraded to TwinCAT 3: The main advantage for LCA is the use of C/C++ as a programming language, due to its long standing expertise in this regard. With C programming as an integral part of the process, it is possible to integrate these quickly and easily as encapsulated functions, e.g. for hydraulic axes that are synchronized with high precision. Rainer Pölzl also sees many advantages in the advanced multi-touch control technology, particularly in connection with the CP-Link 4 one-cable technology for displays. Smaller target markets, such as the medical or railway industries, tend to be much more open in this regard than more standardized markets like the automotive industry. Multi-touch offers significant enhancements for machine users with regard to operating preferences and safety. Pölzl concludes: “Together with the introduction of Twin- CAT 3, we will also migrate our safety solution to the Beckhoff system, which was previously implemented separately.” Photographs: Beckhoff, LCA Automation AG, Fotolia AUTOMATION TECHNOLOGIES 4/2015


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