We are a full-service manufacturer and integrator of secondary machinery for assembly applications. We’ve helped many Tier 1 and Tier 2 automotive suppliers with a primary focus on engineering, research and development, and robotic integration.
However, we faced a major manufacturing challenge of our own in 2012. We needed to update the control architecture of our new edge folding machine supply, which create the folded edge of sunroofs. Specifically, we wanted to eliminate the use of either a network communications adaptor or hardwired parallel cables running back to the PLC I/O—without increasing the machines’ operational costs.
As part of our research of the controls market, our management met with Balluff, a long-term supplier of sensors and identification systems. Balluff recommended using a Distributed Modular I/O block with each edge folding machine. This would reduce labor costs for building the machine, while increasing machine flexibility and expandability.
“The modularity and expandability are top priorities,” said Moe VanPeteghem, controls manager. “We have multiple tools that can be changed out, and must meet future expansion requirements without adding cost to the machines.”
The core of the Distributed Modular I/O block is an IO-Link hub, which features simple, fast and cost-effective point-to-point technology. The hub enables us to network pneumatic manifolds and expand the functionality of a single Ether-net/IP node without incurring the cost or dealing with the complexity of adding network nodes.
VanPeteghem said the Distributed Modular I/O block lowers the cost of networking pneumatic valve manifolds. We save an average of $350 in hardware per manifold, and $1,400 per machine, by eliminating the DeviceNet node adapters. VanPeteghem said the technology enables the company to use six Ethernet/IP nodes rather than 14 DeviceNet nodes previously.
“The IO-Link technology is seamless,” said VanPeteghem. “We didn’t even have to change our pneumatic manifold valves. We just kept the same manifold and used the IO-Link 25-D connectors tied back to the Ethernet/IP node. The IO-Link also eliminates about 3 hours of labor to hardwire the valve banks, resulting in a labor savings of $150 to $200 per bank.”
The block also reduces enclosure space by moving more I/O out of the cabinet and onto the machine. IO-Link hubs are positioned close to the sensors to reduce cable runs and allow operators to see the status LED and the sensors simultaneously.
“Ease of maintenance is a prime concern of our customers,” said Rob Houston, vice president of sales and operations. “Should anything happen to one of the sensors, this machine-mount I/O allows maintenance people to quickly identify the issues and get production going much faster.”
IO-Link hubs also include identification data fields, which enable us to track interchangeable tools to ensure proper machine setup. Because multiple tools can be used with each machine, it is essential to know that the correct tool is loaded for the intended job.
“This setup aide ensures we minimize changeover time, which is critical for our customers to maintain their production schedules.”