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Plastics Plastics

Material Analysis Material Analysis

Major Plastics Manufacturer Speeds Production and Reduces Waste

POSTED 02/23/2015

y everyday consumer products that are simple in appearance, form and function are often produced through a highly complex manufacturing process. Yet even the most complicated processes can be simplified and improved—often very cost effectively—when disparate technology is replaced with a fully integrated, best-of-breed solution. And, for many manufacturers, these solutions can be found by partnering with a systems integrator or automation expert such as Pennsylvania-based, Teledyne DALSA-distributor Intek Systems.
Focused on delivering cost-effective machine control and automation solutions, Intek Systems works with manufacturers, OEMs and integrators across Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, southern New Jersey and parts of West Virginia who want to automate and streamline their manufacturing processes while realizing a lower total cost of ownership. “Intek was founded in 1989 to be an automation resource for customers. We initially offered servo and motion control solutions while many of our competitors were still focused on air valves and air cylinders,” said John Bridgen, senior applications engineer at Intek Systems. “We’ve since added vision capabilities, safety solutions and pneumatics to enable our manufacturing customers to invest in a single unified system. Simply put, we combine the best automation components, from manufacturers that specialize in specific fields—vision, for example—to provide a seamlessly integrated solution, using open architecture components to address each specific customer problem.”
Bridgen noted that for customers who work with a systems integrator or automation resource like Intek, seeing a comprehensive proposal for a complete automation solution can be eye-opening; with traditional vendors, customers must consider disparate components and sometimes can’t envision the level of automation they can achieve or the benefits they can realize. Working with a complete automation resource provides that view. “In addition, we can offer solutions and services at a price that is far less than a customer would have paid elsewhere,” Bridgen said. “At the same time, because we are experienced in programming and supporting the products we sell, we are able to stand behind any solution we deliver. After working with a customer on a complex project, we find they often feel we are an extension of their automation team. That’s how we know we have succeeded; we love the challenge of questioning the norms and exceeding expectations with our solutions.”
The Challenge of Light and Dark

As a case in point, Bridgen cites an Intek Systems customer—a U.S.-based plastics manufacturer that also operates facilities abroad—which sought to implement process improvements in their production line, but found that new solutions from their OEM were costly and couldn’t meet their specific requirements. “The customer was in the process of buying a servo-driven control from one vendor, a web-control solution from a second vendor and a vision system from Intek,” Bridgen said. “These products needed to be completely interoperable to improve production capabilities in the way the customer expected, and the proposed ‘solution’ would have been difficult for their maintenance team to support at best.”
In particular, the manufacturer wanted to speed the accurate sealing and separating of each individual product, while precisely incorporating special product features. Bridgen knew that at a production rate of six parts per second, with a web that encompassed 15 distinct processes and spanned hundreds of feet in length, ensuring the accuracy and coordination of all components was critical. Further, based on continuous control variations, key elements of the manufacturing process occurred at distinct points on the machine that were not relative to each other. Frequent adjustments were required because the materials used were very pliable and susceptible to changes in temperature. In fact, with the customer’s initial configuration, which limited their control, a missed manufacturing-process element would result in increased scrap due to the rejection of hundreds of pieces over a single shift.
The customer’s challenges were compounded by the fact that, depending on pending orders, the line could produce products of different colors, both dark and light. This made monitoring the manufacturing process even more difficult, and was something the customer’s existing vision system couldn’t accommodate. “Once we understood the customer’s challenges, we knew that we needed to incorporate a more robust vision system, and we knew that for best-of-breed machine vision components and solutions the choice was Teledyne DALSA,” Bridgen said. “We sent specifications and samples to Teledyne DALSA, where they were quickly imaged. When we provided the images to our customer, who had spent so much time pursuing inferior solutions, they could see instantly how using the right tools would provide the most effective solution to their challenges. Importantly for Intek, the response from Teledyne DALSA was so quick and seamless that it appeared to come from Intek itself.”
The “Right” Solution

The comprehensive solution accommodated the customer’s initial requirements and integrated a Teledyne DALSA GEVA 1000 vision system with a 640x480 Genie monochrome camera and an Advanced Illumination strobe control. The only vision system able to capture materials with both dark and light colors, the solution encompassed a set of top lights, which allowed for accurate imaging of the darker products, and a set of bottom lights, which ensured accuracy with the lighter products. “When you can use the same vision application parameters to cover all of the products a customer produces on a single line, you know you have a robust solution,” said Bridgen. “That is exactly what we accomplished for this customer.”
A custom human-machine interface (HMI) enables an operator to set up and monitor part inspections performed by Teledyne DALSA’s Sherlock machine vision software.

Along with the vision system, which provided process feedback and quality checks, the solution incorporated a high-speed servo system to complete the manufacturing process. The Kollmorgen servo system, which is also connected to the Ethernet network, uses information from the vision system to provide on-the-fly corrections to the process control. “As we were completing installation, the customer conducted hourly quality control checks on the products produced on the new production line,” Bridgen said. “The customer’s production managers remarked that it was amazing to see how consistent the finished products were. That’s something they couldn’t have been confident in if they had implemented the original solution, and their response confirmed for us that the project was a success.”
The solution also included an all-in-one HMI-PLC for the operator interface, data collection and reject system that are integrated into a single control panel and connected over the Ethernet network via MODBUS/TCP. “As they say, the elegance is in the simplicity,” said Bridgen, “and this solution is superior in performance to the alternatives the customer looked at and allows them to accomplish something they weren’t able to do before. The customer benefitted from the high level of engineering experience offered from Intek and the manufacturers, who stand behind their products. They purchased the solution for less than half of what they would have paid for the systems they originally considered, which would have worked only with light colored materials, and with inferior results.”
In the two years since development and implementation of the first system, the solution has provided the manufacturer with greater control, particularly over the number of products that are rejected; when the vision system identifies a “bad” product, the operator can tell immediately where it is in the web and set the reject mechanism to discard that specific product as well as the ones immediately before or after, or based on whatever reject criteria are appropriate. This has dramatically reduced the number of finished products that don’t meet specifications.
The plastics manufacturer has deployed and duplicated this line in the U.S. where they have multiple production lines; the project has since been relocated to another of the company’s facilities as a turnkey solution, and Intek Systems and Teledyne DALSA played a role in this transition as well. “We proved that even a “local” automation expert from Pennsylvania can quickly design and engineer a custom system, which offers the stability and robustness of a standard piece of equipment with the successful installation of additional lines across the globe,” said Bridgen. “When our customer indicated that they wanted to relocate the original line, we coordinated with Teledyne DALSA and taught them how to support the solution so that they would be available locally to help ensure our customer’s continued success.”