Working together with our customer we helped to, automate a process, remove a third party cost and significantly reduce production line overheads.
We were approached by a leading global manufacturer to assist them in reducing costs associated with the internal pipework for the various models of heating/cooling equipment they manufacture. The main objective was to remove the need for offshoring the supply of multiple versions of galvanised pipe, with custom shapes and dimensions. The customer’s desired outcome was to take on that role in-house at their facility, thus reducing the current costs by enabling our customer to buy pre-cut lengths of pipework in bulk and customising their shape and other attributes accordingly. Our customer had sourced the stand-alone machinery required to perform the individual tasks involved in amending the attributes of the bulk sourced pipe. There were three "parts" that the system needed to create, each part was a pipe that would take on a unique attribute. The first part would be a 49mm galvanised pipe with one end being formed to a larger diameter, the second and third would be 19mm galvanised pipe. Each part would take on a different shape depending on the bend radius required to be introduced to the once straight pipe. The customer sourced machinery consisted of two standalone fully automated Pipe Bending Machines, one configured for 19mm and the other 49mm. A stand-alone hydraulic end former configured for the 49mm pipe and 3 ex- automotive pedestal mount robots. These stand-alone machines would need to work in unison as one system and be fully autonomous in their individual tasks.
In order for these machines to work together VK Logic gave them a "Brain". We installed a programmable logic controller to take on the task of being master to these machines. In this case it was an Allen Bradley Micrologix. The machinery was positioned systematically by the customer and then the area enclosed with fencing and access gates to provide a safe work environment. Each machine needed to be examined and interface wiring taken back to a main control panel, including any safety circuits that would be tied into a separate programmable safety controller. The system would be broken up into zones for overall control giving the ability to disable a section or part and to serve the requirement of removing finished parts or adding raw pipework. This gave us the ability to reduce downtime and allow sections that were deemed safe to operate to continue works whilst other zones were tended to by operational staff. The "Brain" would then need to receive every signal required to make a decision before issuing a command. This was done predominantly by low voltage interface relays that tied back to the individual machines internal wiring. Once we knew what coordinates a robot had reached or that a machine had completed a task of clasping a pipe etc, this allowed us to program sequential movements from incoming information in reaction to the outgoing commands issued by the "Brain". Finally controls and indication would be added in various sections around the installation. Items such as, general mode selection switches, running indicators, fault indicators, alarms sirens, safety fault and reset indication.
The system was a success and can now easily provide a throughput of parts to meet the needs of production. It is simply loaded with pallets of bulk straight pipe and then shaped parts are removed via trolleys at the operator’s discretion. The project itself gained the interest of the NSW premier to the extent a plaque was fixed to the machine on his behalf. In conjunction with our customer we were able to automate a process, remove a third-party cost and reduce production overheads significantly.