Typical Station Dynamics

In this line application, all the manual workstations utilize the same software to execute quick tooling changes, machine sequence variations, line balancing, and report tracking. Safety features are numerous, resulting in a complete failsafe system across all Siemens Simatic PLC, I/O devices, and safety-integrated drives.

All manual workstations on this line have the same download received to a PLC, provided by Siemens in its Simatic lines. While not reliant on the server network in a deterministic mode, the manual stations nonetheless utilize the same software to execute quick tooling changes, machine sequence variations, line balancing, and report tracking. Operators received training from both Siemens and Elite Engineering personnel for these tasks. All part build histories, troubleshooting, and machine debugging are recorded for further analysis.

Throughout the metal-cutting process — mostly in the gear and spline forming, hobbing, grinding, and finishing — CNC technology is onboard dozens of machine tools. Most of the machines are controlled by Sinumerik® 840D, the highest level CNC offered by Siemens. The control not only processes the particular part dimensions in the cutting theater of the machine, but also coordinates all motion control and movements into and out of the machine. Working in tandem with the other hardware and communication network software in the line, for example, ring gears cut on a Wera Profilator machine are indexed from one station to the next, in timed sequences, to coordinate with predetermined production requirements. This operation occurs in a fully automated mode, requiring no operator intervention, except for maintenance and planned inspections.

Likewise, in the machining of valve bodies and transmission cases, each step of the process is controlled by the Siemens CNC to produce the required components in the proper sequence for subsequent assembly and testing operations. During those subsequent operations, other motion control devices and software solutions provided by Siemens execute, monitor, and control the assembly process through the SIFACS solution set.Typical Station Dynamics

Through a decentralized and cabinet-less design, GM achieves highly integrated RFID control with easy access and true out-of-the-box solutions for the control architecture installed on this line. A Profinet solution provides GM with a high-performance, reliable network with minimum bandwidth impact or additional network load achieved at this plant, all with no special hardware required.

Safety First and Last

Safety features are numerous, resulting in a complete failsafe system across all Siemens Simatic PLC, I/O devices, and safety-integrated drives. All safety devices are networked over Profisafe protocol, a certified safety network, eliminating time-consuming and difficult-to-maintain traditional hardwired safety connections. All I/O failsafe drives are part of the Siemens Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) protocol. Since it is fully integrated, this protocol provides comprehensive system diagnostics, which can help guide maintenance staff to exact fault location and mitigate downtime. Since the drives, starters, and machine safety are integrated into the multifunctional machine mount I/O system, Simatic ET 200pro, the overall engineering complexity is reduced because of simplicity in panel design, wiring architecture, and seamless integration to the project-level hardware configuration, which is reduced due to the totally integrated automation design. For service requirements in the event of a fault, hot-swapping of an I/O module is possible during operation, without switching off the entire station.

Between the two lines, GM Toledo has invested $872 million on its six-speed, rear- and front-wheel-drive transmission production at the 2-million-square-foot facility. The rearwheel-drive Hydra-matic 6L80 transmission is now joined by the GF6 units being produced on this new line under the FACS control solution that supports flexible manufacturing while driving standard processes.

This article, written by Jim Remski, Business Manager for Siemens Automotive, first appeared in “Motion Control and Automation Technology,” December 2013.

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