Digital control system moves gum manufacturing into the 21st century.
Over the past 100 years, chewing gum manufacturers have radically diversified their offerings with new shapes, sizes, ingredients, flavors and purposes. However, many manufacturing systems were closer to the first gum-making machine patented in 1871 than to today’s state of the art systems.
Much about chewing gum is timeless – its form, function, and appeal. One core function of gum-making machines has also remained timeless, the process of kneading and shaping ingredients into sheets for cutting and packaging. Machines that manage this process are called sheeters. While their function has stayed constant, gum sheeters have evolved, albeit slowly.
One global confections provider, in partnership with Siemens, pulled sheeters out of the legacy Industrial Age into the Digital Age. This U.S.-based manufacturer offers a range of confectionery products made in manufacturing plants on multiple continents.
Issues arising out of legacy technologies led this confectioner to pursue a chewing gum industry first: a mechanical and electrical retrofit of its chewing gum sheeter machines. The system needed to eliminate these challenges:
- High maintenance costs associated with existing sheeter mechanical cams and spare parts
- Obsolete automation and drives systems jeopardizing overall equipment effectiveness
- Disparate systems adding complexity and costs to communications, engineering and coding
- Multiple plants worldwide sharing similar issues
- Maintaining machine availability during system conversion so as not to affect production
For global producers, upgrading machines and systems so they’re more flexible and productive means meeting safety requirements in countries where they are installed. Industry standards, spare parts availability, service and technical support are additional considerations in designing a global application. Existing sheeter machines around the world presented similar challenges inherent to legacy mechanical sheeters.
The confectioner partnered with Siemens in a pilot program, planning to replace old mechanical components with modern Siemens technologies, and employ an independently repeatable platform with electronic servo technology.
The approach would simultaneously cut engineering and implementation costs while delivering faster production processes with greater precision and consistency. The pilot program at one U.S. location would upgrade three sheeter machines. If successful, the solution would be rolled out globally.
Prior to the launch of the program, the confectioner had three separate PLCs running its sheeter machines. A Siemens PLC managed machine logic, while PLCs for safety and motion control came from a different automation provider.
Disparate systems couldn’t communicate with each other and had inherent engineering and programming complexities as well as high maintenance costs.
Upgrading to an integrated Siemens Totally Integrated Automation with an open system architecture would eliminate challenges, reduce components and spare parts, and deliver operational and competitive advantages. The number of PLCs would be reduced from three to two, providing a common platform for logic, motion control and safety.
While the confectioner preferred a separate controller for safety, the SIMATIC Safety Integrated PLC used in the upgrade would fully integrate with the unified architecture. Uniform hardware and software interfaces, global standards for interoperability with legacy systems, and consistent data management would measurably increase efficiency and lower the confectioner’s overall operating costs.
For this project, Siemens would assist with the architecture and design overview, the product selection, and drive and HMI programming. DMC, the Siemens integration partner, would implement the architecture and design of the new sheeter machine technologies and PLCs, and perform all systems integration work.
The pilot program was completed in approximately six months. During implementation, the confectioner had to take existing sheeter machines offline. That’s often the most difficult challenge in any manufacturing systems upgrade. Stocking up on confection products and DMC’s implementation skills ensured a successful conversion.
After the pilot program was completed, the confectioner upgraded many sheeters with the same efficient results. This industry-first conversion in gum sheeter technology delivered benefits that far outweighed challenges, providing substantial competitive advantages.
Since the new gum sheeters in the confectioner’s pilot program would be replicated at plants globally, safety compliance was critical in choosing a technology provider. In all of Siemens integrated safety controllers, global safety requirements are satisfied and cost-effectively implemented, also including safe motion.
The SIMATIC S7’s drive-integrated safety functions support flexible safety concepts and very short response times. Certified components simplify validation of machine safety, and uniform engineering and reliable communication are ensured for real-time distributed control. Integrated safety is reducing the confectioner’s hardware needs, space requirements and installation costs around the world.
For motion control solutions, the confectioner chose SIMOTION D435, saving engineering time through unified, integrated engineering with user-friendly components. Tools for commissioning, programming, testing and diagnostics, all from a single source, are integrated in the user interface. One system is used for engineering motion control, the PLC and technology functions, and for configuring drives, all of which can be graphically handled.
SIMATIC HMI TP1200 Touch Panels from Siemens provide the interface between the confectioner’s employees and the new gum sheeter machines. Time and cost savings, and competitive advantages made big contributions to operations. The panels are future-proof and flexible, and fully integrate with the higher-level network of the SIMOTION and SIMATIC Safety Integrated controllers used in the configuration.
Efficient SINAMICS S120 servo drives used in the confectioner’s platform are part of the modular drive system for high performance applications in machinery and plant construction. They offer high-performance single- and multi-axis drives for an extremely wide range of industrial applications. Featuring natural cooling and a maintenance-free design, the cost-efficient SIMOTICS 1FK7 synchronous servomotor from Siemens provides the confectioner the ideal solution for its motion control application, in which a final position must be reached very quickly with ultimate precision.
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