After twenty years of operation, the CNC trimming machine at Gut Metallumformung AG had reached the end of its service life. The control components in particular were suffering more and more frequent breakdowns, yet otherwise the versatile machine was still a perfect match for company's needs. To restore it to full operation, Gut turned to BSR Automation. With automation solutions from B&R, they were able to get the CNC trimmer up to speed with the latest technology.
In Gut's production hall in Hombrechtikon on Switzerland's Lake Zurich, the trimmer is used in the production of scale trays. Deep-drawn workpieces are clamped in the center and rotated while the machine trims and beads the edges. The whole process runs automatically according to programs stored on the CNC controller – until the machine suddenly shudders to a halt. A worker, well familiar with the machine's idiosyncrasies by now, fixes an error in the controller. He finds himself relying on his screwdriver and soldering iron more and more often these days to keep production up and running.
Gut built the machine twenty years ago and has been expanding, adapting and fine-tuning it ever since. It has been versatile, robust, compact and perfectly tailored to Gut's needs. Nevertheless, with outdated software and ever shorter intervals between controller failures, it was only a matter of time until a total breakdown. The solution: a comprehensive retrofit to get the machine back up to speed with state-of-the-art control technology.
Solid partners fur successful retrofit: BSR, Gut and B&R
To implement the retrofit, Gut turned to BSR Automation in Kriens, Switzerland. The 25-employee company offers a range of industrial automation solutions for food and beverage producers, airport operators and machine builders. BSR selected B&R to retrofit the CNC trimmer. "As an independent service provider, we're free to select which manufacturer to work with. B&R's products enabled us to implement the best solution," says Jakob Brun, who was responsible for the project at BSR.
Following the retrofit, the modular trimmer cuts, forms, beads crimps and stamps metal into virtually any shape. "For our customers, the quality of the final product is the top priority. The trimmer needs to follow its defined curves with absolute precision," Brun explains. "At the same time, though, we also wanted to improve the machine." The goal was to make the machine more intuitive to operate and increase the range of functions it offered. The safety technology would also need to be brought up to the latest standards.
"The project was certainly a challenge. Particularly when it came to integrating the third-party motor and adapting to today's safety standards, we relied heavily on B&R's expertise and in-depth support," recalls Brun. "The result is a testament to the mutual trust we have built up over years of successful collaboration. There's no substitute for having a quick, direct connection to your supplier, especially when starting a new project.
The induction motor challenge
Following the retrofit, the trimmer's controller and drive technology is once again state-of-the-art. "Reliable and cost-effective operation make B&R's X20 control system the optimal solution," says Brun. On the machine's HMI, comprising a Panel PC 2100 and an Automation Panel 923, Gut is able to create, edit and save processing sequences for trimming different workpieces. "They used to have to call in a specialist to do that," says Brun.
For BSR, the biggest challenge was driving the existing induction motor that was to remain in place. "Together with B&R's specialists, we elected to use an ACOPOSmulti inverter with a dual-encoder module," says Brun. The ACOPOSmulti delivers the performance they needed in a compact housing. According to Brun, integration was made more difficult by the fact that some of the old motor's parameters were no longer known, so he and his team relied on B&R's drive technology experience. "Together we were able to deduce the parameters that gave us the optimal torque. B&R's support was exceptional," says Brun.
Safe operation of the new drive is ensured by SafeMOTION functions such as Safely Limited Speed (SLS) and Safe Torque Off (STO). The architecture of the safety application integrates these functions and distributes the software to connected hardware components. This saved additional space. For safety communication, B&R relies on the openSAFETY protocol.
BSR relies on B&R mapp Technology
This was the first project where Brun and his team used mapp Technology – B&R's software framework that encapsulates extensive functionality into ready-to-use software blocks that cut an average of two-thirds off of development time for new equipment. "With mapp, we didn't have to do any programming ourselves, and instead could integrate preconfigured blocks for everything from CNC control to alarms and file handling," says Brun. B&R's hardware products dovetail perfectly with one another. Paired with its modular software, the resulting solutions can be scaled effortlessly at any time.
Brun has been observing the trend toward integration of automation components for quite some time. "Packages that combine HMI, PLC and safety technology have been around for a number of years," he says. What's new are the ready-to-use software modules that customers can simply integrate into their own applications – like B&R's mapp Technology. "We've been very happy with mapp Technology," says Brun. "It saved us a lot of time, while also offering us a full range of functionality."