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Udo Weissmann, technical maintenance manager in the plastics technology division at Gira Giersiepen GmbH & Co. KG

Automation technology

Higher availability with IO-Link

IO-Link, Profinet, ASIsafe and innovative components offer advantages for the modernization of a plastic media blasting system. An overall solution was found that the company Gira sees as a role model for the industry.

Gira Giersiepen GmbH & Co. KG in Radevormwald is among Germany's leading mid-sized electrical companies today. The name Gira stands for intelligent building technology and high standards of technology and design. Efficient, high-availability production lines are crucial for the cost-effective and smooth production of high-quality plastic parts.

A plastic media blasting system used by Gira to debur thermoset injection moldings underwent a retrofit

The modernization of a plastic media blasting system that deburs injection moldings made of thermoset plastics is a good example of Giras innovativeness. After 22 years in operation, the system was updated to the state of the art at the beginning of 2014. This involved the complete installation of new controller, switchgear, and visualization and drive systems. do Weissmann, responsible for maintenance in the plastics technology sector at Gira, points out that, "It was the first time that we consistently used the most up-to-date technology available on the market in a retrofit project. As a result, we gained a lot of advantages."

Innovative solutions such as IO-Link offer many advantages that improve the availability of machines and systems.
Udo Weissmann, technical maintenance manager in the plastics technology division at Gira Giersiepen GmbH & Co. KG

Improved diagnostics thanks to IO-Link

The system uses about a dozen three-phase induction motors to ensure movement. A Simatic S7-1500, which works about 40 times faster than an S7-400, is in charge of controlling the system. In addition to this, some of the drives were equipped with Sinamics G110 frequency converters or with a G120C frequency converter. "The result is we save 150 minutes every shift and still produce the same number of work pieces," the automation expert is pleased to say.

The diagnostics were also extended considerably. This is due to the first ever use of IO-Link. Each constant-speed three-phase induction motor is started via a Sirius 3RA6 compact starter with IO-Link and is protected against overload and short-circuit. Thanks to the electronic overload trip with wide setting range of the compact starters, only two frame sizes were needed for the entire system. As IO-Link enables interfacing to the control system, a whole series of diagnostics messages can be sent and displayed via the machine controller and the visualization device.

Sirius 3RA6 compact starters are integrated into system communication via IO-Link. Plenty of wiring can be saved as a result.

Reduced wiring saves, enhanced flexibility

The IO-Link master is integrated in the Simatic ET 200SP distributed I/O and can switch and diagnose up to 16 feeders through its four channels

Although very compact, the KTP 600 from Siemens used for this purpose allows the machine operator to see at a glance whether everything is alright. The screen shows 14 diagnostics and operating messages. The expert was surprised not only by the considerably improved diagnostics, but above all by the simple wiring and thus the time saved by IO-Link. He estimates that it was possible to save about one and a half days as a result of this and the savings on auxiliary switches, coupling relays, etc.

The use of this modern communication technology also enhanced flexibility. The machine operators asked for a large warning lamp on the machine, for example, to indicate every fault, no matter how minor. When illuminated, the lamp can be seen from a great distance. Technically, this was easy to implement. The new, extremely compact Simatic ET 200SP distributed I/O was placed in the control cabinet in addition to the controller and was connected via Profinet. It was expanded with the IO-Link master, which can manage up to 16 single drives through four channels. For visual indication of a fault, the warning lamp only had to be connected to one output of the distributed I/O.

Infeed system as a beneficial addition

Even the safety technology benefits from IO-Link because the 3RA6 motor starters are not plugged onto the standard mounting rail in the control cabinet, but in the associated 3RA68 infeed system. Therefore, in case of Emergency Stop the central power infeed can be cut off completely in the safety system. At the same time, IO-Link monitors the limit switches, which are an integral part of every compact starter, and forwards appropriate status or diagnostics messages to the controller.

For Udo Weissmann, the infeed system considerably simplifies matters in terms of the switchgear and wiring effort and, of course, with regard to possible service deployments. Thanks to permanent wiring, a device only needs to be extracted towards the front and the new one simply inserted after setting the applicable current range. This solution in combination with IO-Link interfacing has made it possible to reduce the required control cabinet space by about 60 percent.

Simplified engineering

For the first time, those responsible for modernization of the glass bead blasting system used the TIA Portal engineering framework. Programming, parameterization and visualization of control, drive, switching and safety systems can be realized on one and the same software platform. Weissmann concludes, "Although the machine is now capable of achieving 40 percent more than before, programming, parameterization and commissioning were extremely easy."

Also according to economic criteria, he has chosen a particularly clever solution because Siemens offers the S7-1500 in combination with two TIA Portal software licenses as a starter pack. Adopting an autodidactic approach, he soon familiarized himself with the new software.

Overall solution for process engineering improvements

The new Simatic S7-1500 controller is 40 times faster than the Simatic S7-400. There is even a starter pack with two software licenses for the TIA Portal.

The system conversion was completed within three weeks. What's more, thanks to modernization a substantial energy saving was also achieved in combination with the controlled drives and energy-efficient IE2 motors. A power supply of 3 x 9 A now suffices instead of the previous 3 x 16 A supply, which ultimately amounts to a calculated annual energy saving of about 37,000 kWh.

Meanwhile, the new possibilities in control technology have produced a significant advantage not only in terms of energy, but also in relation to process engineering. As cycle times are now shorter, users can even contemplate using their own recipe management in future.

Picture credits: Siemens AG