Better hardware, better bottle

12 June 2008

Amcor, Australian owned packaging company, recently completed a two-year overhaul of a manufacturing information system at its Gresford, Wrexham, PET bottle manufacturing plant.

Fibre optic networking hubs and controllers
Fibre optic networking hubs and controllers

When you manufacture over ten million containers a day it is important to ensure reliable and accurate production. That is just what Amcor engineers, with the help of machine vendors, SolutionsPT, claim to have achieved at the Gresford plant.

Once it was decided that a plant-wide SCADA should be installed Amcor turned to SolutionsPT for Wonderware InTouch SCADA and real-time database InSQL.

The acquisition of data from the plastics machinery required fast data access without affecting controller cycle time. A pilot design was developed and tested prior to deployment across 28 machines.

Using an Advantech Touch Screen PC, the basic scheme acquires data from a tag server. In turn, it also supplies the tag server with data from the machine’s logic controllers. In order to do this unobtrusively, and to allow the Touch Screen PC’s to have a good response, Amcor employed the use of a Woodhead Applicom PCU2000ETH intelligent communications card. This was mounted in the PC and connected by Ethernet to the PLCs. The card handles all communication ‘on-board’ and thereby relieved the PC from this task. Data rates are over 100 words in <100 mS periods, plus an additional 3000 words every eight seconds.

In a bid to provide extra protection to the shopfloor PCs, Amcor mounted the units in the H section steelwork that supports the roof.

Further to the data available in the logic controllers, various data was required from non-intelligent electrical devices. SolutionsPT supplied an Advantech ADAM 5000 modular IO system, allowing particular points in the electrical scheme (both digital and analogue) to be sampled and connected back to the tag server via Ethernet. An output is also used to switch a machine-mounted beacon on to warn of threshold alarm levels being reached.

The Amcor plant is big and involves large distances for factory networking. Hirschman equipment provides network ring monitoring and 64 RJ45 points of connection for equipment and servers.

The associated server equipment is situated in the company’s main site server room, alongside Amcor’s business servers. A new rack was needed to run the various Wonderware components. A 19” rack system with 5 Advantech servers, shared screen and keyboard administration system, network hubs and UPS was designed, configured, tested and documented by Solutions PT’s hardware group.

Some of the servers (notably the Tag Servers) operate in master/slave mode, the InSQL server chassis has a dual power supply system and all the servers have RAID drives. Protection against mains noise, brownouts and blackouts is provided by a rack-mounted on-line UPS.

Amcor engineers were ‘sceptical’ about using touch screen PCs on the shopfloor, said Stuart Griffiths, process improvement team leader at Amcor.

‘However, our experience is that they are extremely durable and very simple to clean,’ he added.

Griffiths took the new solution to the machine operators and trained them in the use of the system.

Fine resolution data, a hallmark of real-time information, is said to be providing machine process insight that was previously unavailable to the Amcor engineers.

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