When brick manufacturer Cirkel sought a new transport system, ME Engineering delivered an entire plant infrastructure to grow with – from SIMATIC PLCs, WinCC SCADA to wireless PROFIBUS.
Cirkel has manufactured sandlime bricks since 1898, moving bricks with a transport platform that’s been in use for half a century. But after all that time, the transport platform had started to show signs of wear. Uneven transitions from production to platform caused breaks in the freshly pressed sandlime bricks.
The family-run brick manufacturer therefore decided that a modern, automated solution was needed. The techniques for combining burned lime, sand and water to create many different types of bricks is demanding.
The raw materials are mixed and pressed with around 110-bar pressure, then hardened in the hardening boilers, often called autoclaves, under 16-bar high-pressure steam at 200 °C for eight to twelve hours. The end products must meet defined quality requirements according to DIN V 106.
The heart of the plant is the transport platform that carries the pressed sandlime bricks from the four presses to the eleven autoclaves. After hardening, the bricks are collected there and conveyed to one of four production lines. Any standstill of the transport platform causes a standstill of the entire plant.
Previously, the transport platform was controlled manually by an employee who also filled the autoclaves. As demand rose, the transport platform was no longer able to cope.
In response, Cirkel planned a new transport platform to be:
- more fail-safe and less susceptible to faults
- easy to adapt to future products and production quantities
- more powerful
- integrated into the IT infrastructure of the plant; for example, into the materials management system.
Cirkel commissioned ME Engineering, a trusted partner from nearby Marl, Germany, to implement the project, valued at nearly 1 million Euros. The mid-sized enterprise is a solution partner for Siemens Automation, and a specialist for the SCADA software SIMATIC WinCC.
Instead of one platform, ME’s new design deploys two shorter platforms to ensure higher fail-safe operation. The automated operation, requires little human intervention, reducing downtimes and increasing productivity. The distribution of the bricks among the twelve autoclaves will also be controlled automatically in the future.
A wide range of sandlime brick products with bulk densities from 0.35–2.2 kg/dm³ are manufactured at this location. This reduces the logistics and transport costs for the purchasers, as numerous products can be obtained from a single factory. Purchasers do not therefore need to worry about handling several suppliers and coordinating different transports.
Mr. Jepkens, CEO of ME Engineering commissioned the project, and Mr. Bergjürgen, Cirkel Operations Manager agreed on the scope of the project. “The new concept with two transport platforms increases the productivity of the plant, reduces rejects, and thus improves product quality,” they said.
It was not possible to carry out the retrofit during operation as the old loading platform and its concrete foundation had to be replaced. During a two-week production stop, the old loading platform was demolished and replaced with two loading platforms. The new controllers, input/output modules, operator stations and communication modules were also installed during this period.
The entire automation was implemented using Siemens components. The range of products in Siemens Industry’s Totally Integrated Automation ensured that the products were completely compatible, with consistent communications and diagnostics as well as integrated safety function.
A SIMATIC S7-414 programmable logic controller controls the two platforms. PROFIBUS and PROFINET networks provide wired and wireless communications. Decentralized safety functions use ET200 I/O modules. The control program uses a matrix – in which the parameters for the hardening of the bricks is stored – to decide which product will be transported to which autoclave. The bricks are distributed to the four production lines after they have hardened.
The visualization software runs on a SIMATIC IPC677C Panel PC installed in the door of the control cabinet. This ruggedized PC was needed because the control cabinet is in an area where the presses cause strong vibrations while pressing the sandlime bricks. The plant is visualized by the SCADA system SIMATIC WinCC.
A client operator station on each sliding platform, integrated into the network via wireless LAN, also provides a complete overview of the status of the entire plant. If required, corrections to the program parameters can be made directly on each station. In the event of an emergency it is also possible to switch to manual operation.
One of the main advantages of the new sliding platforms is that they are integrated into the already existing infrastructure of the production facility. This was not possible with the previous proprietary system. This integration includes, for example, the WinCC visualization system.
Due to its openness, this system can communicate easily with higher-level production planning systems and merchandise management systems. In the case of Cirkel, data is exchanged via CSV1 files that can be exchanged with the merchandise management system.
The product data is managed using the WinCC UserArchives option. This allows the data from the merchandise management system to be displayed and managed in WinCC. The SCADA system can be easily extended via VBS2 and C scripts to perform complicated calculations, for example.
The new system has provided significant improvements in quality and efficiency. With this solution, Cirkel is equipped for the future. The automation components and the SCADA software are scalable, standard products. The scalability and open architecture of the products means future extensions and upgrades can be implemented easily and cost-effectively.Have an Inquiry for Siemens about this article? Click Here >>