Equipment from Beckhoff New Automation Technology, Burnsville, Minn., lets Radiator Specialty, Charlotte, N.C., network its production machinery with a PC instead of dedicating a PLC to each machine or line component.
"A traditional PLC approach would have made it difficult for us to upload and download parameters," says Murray Williamson, project engineer. "In addition, PLC systems force us to buy drivers so all controllers and devices communicate properly. This can boost system costs by thousands of dollars. And adding a single I/O point affects everything connected to the controller and drivers. Programming time skyrockets."
Williamson says Beckhoff TwinCAT software and industrial PCs greatly simplify the transfer of settings. A System Manager program automatically scans bus controllers and a PC that is running TwinCAT. I/O data comes in through a devicemessaging protocol from Beckhoff called ADS (Automation Device Specification) and quickly maps to the PC, greatly reducing programming time.
Beckhoff industrial PCs communicating by Ethernet bus couplers now control several of the facility's fill and packaging lines handling its Gunk line of industrial cleaners and degreasers. Beckhoff control panels with touchscreens are the operator interface. The Beckhoff PC runs both the machine control and the line's HMI.
TwinCAT 2.10 runs on a capper machine for Gunk products. The software supports EtherCAT, which can process 1,000 distributed I/Os in 30 sec or 100 axes in 100 sec. "We don't have to use switches with EtherCAT. Cabling goes right to the EtherCAT I/O bus couplers," says Williamson. "We just purchased an off-the-shelf, dual Intel Ethernet card for the PC and went from single port, real-time ADS to dual port EtherCAT with redundancy. The complete conversion took about an hour."