Speed baking with POWERLINK
"The rising cost of raw materials is driving our customers to lower their production costs," explains De La Ballina CEO Benjamin De Chilly. "Europe's overall production volume is growing every year, so they need to be able to accommodate higher production rates while at the same time eliminating manual tasks. Under these conditions, fully automatic lines like ours are no longer a luxury – they're a necessity. In the future, we expect the market to require even higher production rates as well as a continuously growing variety of bread products." In preparation for these challenges, De La Ballina's technical manager Thierry De Lazzari and his team revamped the entire automation architecture of its quality control system – using B&R technology across the board. The goals were to boost performance while making it easier to configure changes, as well as reducing the cost of implementation and maintenance.
The high performance of the real-time POWERLINK network makes it perfectly suited for providing data transfer and synchronization for an image processing application. The most important criteria for the network technology were that it should be deterministic (precision <1 ms) and especially powerful. With a precision of 10 ns, cycle times of 100 µs and response times well under 1 ms, POWERLINK is more than up to the task.
18,000 baguettes per hour
The result of the system revamp with B&R technology is a whole new generation of machines that count, convey and monitor quality at a rate of 18,000 baguettes per hour. Products pass through a 3D vision inspection system before being transported by an array of suction cups to the packaging conveyor. The machines are equipped with a complete automation solution from B&R consisting of a PC-based Power Panel 500 that serves as the primary control and HMI platform, connected to a POWERLINK network of ACOPOS servo drives for axis control and XV modules for valve control.
According to De Lazzari, the decision to switch to B&R was based on some key advantages offered by its solution. These include the high performance of the POWERLINK network as well as the distributed X20 I/O system, which allows distances of up to 100 meters between stations. Other decisive factors were the ease of integrating the valve terminals into the automation system using XV modules, as well as B&R's comprehensive range of products, including mixed I/O modules. The countless integration features offered by Automation Studio 4 and the variety of communication protocols supported by the X20 system – including TCP/IP and Modbus – make it easy to directly integrate multi-vendor systems.
POWERLINK – Powerful network technology
The selection of POWERLINK-based B&R technology proved to be just as advantageous for the 3D vision inspection system as it was for the control system. The optical scanners and image processing components used here demand absolute precision with very fast response times. In the past, these requirements drove De La Ballina to hardwiring and basic fieldbus solutions. Familiar with POWERLINK's capabilities, vision systems manager Emmanuel Dumas was convinced that the real-time network would be perfectly able to handle data transfer and synchronization for the 3D inspection system. The most important criteria for the network technology were that it should be deterministic (precision <1 ms) and especially powerful. With a precision of 10 ns, cycle times of 100 µs and response times well under 1 ms, POWERLINK is more than up to the task.
"When you design a new machine architecture, selecting a network is an important strategic decision," emphasizes Dumas. "Our choice of POWERLINK harmonizes perfectly with our vision of an integrated automation solution. Open-source technology eliminates the risk of hidden development deficiencies you face with a proprietary solution. That's the great advantage of the white box principle behind open-source products." Every machine that De La Ballina has installed all over the world since 2010 has been based on POWERLINK technology. POWERLINK easily handles even the most demanding requirements and has paved the way for the new machine generation's fully integrated and highly efficient automation architecture.
With the open POWERLINK solution, integrating the existing image processing system was not only inexpensive, but also increased its performance significantly. The next step for De La Ballina will be so convert its image processing system to FPGA technology. This is no problem for the compact POWERLINK solution – and a single FPGA can handle both the image processing algorithm and the POWERLINK connection.
B&R technology and the POWERLINK network help keep De La Ballina highly responsive to its customers' ever-changing requirements. The new machines allow quicker configuration changes and increased production volume. The new developments from De La Ballina will ensure that its customers will move into the future ready to meet the competition head on.
Vision Systems Manager, De La Ballina
"Our choice of POWERLINK harmonizes perfectly with our vision of an integrated automation solution. Open-source technology eliminates the risk of hidden development deficiencies you face with a proprietary solution. That's the great advantage of the white box principle behind open-source products."