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The capabilities of QuadTech’s parent company Quad/Graphics include books, catalogs, direct mail, directories, journals, packaging, publications, and retail inserts.

Industry software

One step ahead

QuadTech upgraded its critical Product Tracking System for highly complex printing systems to the latest Simatic S7-1500 with WinCC Professional using TIA Portal to keep ahead of the industry’s evolving demands.

Modern, high-speed printing requires presses that are highly automated and adaptable to perform a wide variety of jobs as economically as possible. As one of the industry’s leading printing companies, QuadTech’s parent company Quad/Graphics’ expertise includes books, catalogs, direct mail, directories, journals, packaging, publications, and retail inserts. On the floors of Quad/Graphics’ many printing plants around the world are huge, capital-intensive integrated printing presses with typically complex, end-stage material handling devices.

QuadTech’s mission is to develop and support advanced, technology-based systems to ensure the highest quality and largest economical output. One of these systems is the QuadTech Product Tracking System (PTS). It tracks waste events that happen anywhere in the printing process and discards the product in question. Secondly, it provides count data for all in-process printing products. Since 2000, QuadTech had been using the Simatic S7-300 series PLCs in the PTS for its automation, monitoring, and control. In 2007, the company switched to the Simatic WinCC SCADA platform for the HMI. In 2010, Quad/Graphics became a publicly traded company, and today its facilities have increased six-fold, with many different legacy printing systems, which required the PTS. A retail insert business that produces high-volume color flyers for major retailers needed to implement duplex systems in which two side-by-side presses run either independently or together as one system.

Upgrade opportunity 

QuadTech saw this as an opportunity to rethink and reengineer the PTS. It was particularly timely, given the debut of the Simatic S7-1500 PLC family with advanced features, modularity, and scalability.

During the rethink of how QuadTech could provide the intelligence behind the PTS monitoring and control system, the company wanted a single, modular code set that could handle every type of press and printing need. It also sought to reduce the amount of Statement List (STL) code and envisioned converting most, if not all, of the PTS code to ladder logic. In addition, QuadTech wanted to take advantage of the latest and most advanced PLC hardware and software available. To accommodate Quad/Graphics’ growth, the scalability of the PTS could be further increased to rapidly expand its capabilities as needs evolved. To do so, the PTS had to become easier to install, use, and troubleshoot. QuadTech thus anticipates a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) over the PTS lifecycle thanks to the cost- and time-saving benefits brought about by achieving these goals.

Migration with no disruptions

As the next-generation PLC for the QuadTech PTS, the company specifically chose the Simatic S7-1516-3 PN/DP controller. For the main PLC rack, it combined the PLC with a CP1543-1 Ethernet module, a 32DI digital input card, a 32DO digital output card, and two high-speed counters. One counter supports up to two press encoders; the other monitors gas and ink levels. Within the S7-1516, one Ethernet connection is used for HMI communications, while the other is used for Profinet I/O. A Profibus connection links the PTS to legacy systems. The separate CP1543 Ethernet module communicates with Quad/Graphics’ company-wide data collection system.

The main PTS operator interface uses a locally sourced industrial PC running Microsoft Windows 7 and Simatic WinCC Professional. The PC connects to a Simatic ITC 1900 display – a 19-inch, industrial, thin client. A Simatic TP700 Comfort Panel is also used as the PTS inspection station.

Simplified engineering

The migration of the S7-300 in­struction set to the S7-1517 PLC was straight­forward thanks to the Siemens Migration Tool. TIA Portal was instrumental in creating a single code-set that could adapt to all of Quad/Graphics’ differing press installations. To do this, several key features of TIA Portal were used, including its Global Libraries, Integrated System Diagnostics, and the web server. In summary, TIA Portal reduced weeks of programming to days, if not less. For example, integrating alarms into the code may have previously taken as much as two days, but now only requires a few seconds of checking a couple boxes in the programming interface.

Importantly, 90% of the S7-300 code that had previously needed to be written in STL was converted to ladder logic. QuadTech was also able to make the code as modular as possible while still simplifying it. In the process, the S7-1500 code is much easier to install, use, and troubleshoot in the field. This was enabled by the increased memory and speed of the S7-1500 hardware, the optimized block access, and the ability to use indirect addressing of arrays.

Ready for the future

The cornerstone of the case for migrating to the S7-1500 platform has been the savings in development time, thanks to TIA Portal with its advanced features, integrated diagnostics, and modular scalability. These advantages will continue providing dividends in years to come, along with easier installations and updates. Technical support calls have been reduced.

A big part of the cost-justification is better waste management that will save about $50,000 per press each year. This is a result of more precise counting, which minimizes over- and under-runs, when a waste event occurs. This not only saves paper but also prevents landfill. Another source of green savings is energy. The new S7-1500 reduces the standby idling of the scores of one-horsepower motors, which are components in each press that keep products moving. 

QuadTech is looking forward to many years of smooth operations as it deploys the PTS in more Quad/Graphics plants around the world.

Picture credits: Fotolia-Goss Vitalij