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Integration Field
Article taken from "Automazione Oggi", issue 261 - September 2003

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Digiware, which is a company that works in the achievement of integration projects regarding company information systems, has choosen Automa's Super-Flash to automize Ilnor production sector.

By Elena Bertillo - Michele Scarfì

Since 1961 Ilnor is working successfully in the brass, bronze and copper cold-roller sector. Its productive cycle goes from the use of raw materials to the packing of rolls and coils of different mechanical and physical characteristics, as well as dimensions for each customer. It is a very complex process not only because requires cutting-edge security standards, but also because it has to develop a high-quality and customized product according to various factors: length, width and thickness of rolls; alloy type and tolerance; toughness, superficial roughness, material sabre fencer and electrical conductibility.
Ilnor production phase starts with the melting of raw materials that are constituted by alloy scraps of the same type (brass, bronze and copper) or by their main components (copper, zinc and tin). Long straps rolled up with a weight between 6 and 12 tons are obtained from the melting phase and milled in all four sides in order to produce a standard semifinished product. The phases after this process are extremely dependent on customer needs. The standard semifinished product is subject then to a lamination set in order to obtain the requested thickness and subsequently to an annealing phase to give the product the apropriate mechanical characteristics. The last phase of the production process is the cutting of material (length and width) through a slitter that feeds automized packing machines that pack and dispatch the product according to customer specifications: bench types, pallet material quantities, label formats including the data, assay types and delivery dates.
In the last years Ilnor has largely improved their products and the efficiency of its production process achieving a certification in ISO 9002 and ISO/TS 16949 reinforceing their own competitiveness in an always complex sector like the brass, bronze and copper cold-roller sector. The company has also improved the resources and internal processes, designed and built new technical advanced plants, developed an integrated hardware and software system to collect plant data and present them apropriately to operators, department chiefs and administration staff.

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Detail plant

To achieve this last task, Ilnor relied on Digiware's collaboration, a young company located in Treviso (Italy) which has a strong espertise in information technology and industrial automation, and therefore plans and develops systems that talk to the machines as well as to human beings; proposes and develops applications that permit data sharing and management. One of the processes that had a deep transformation was the one regarding the annealing in big tank ovens. Tank ovens are compounded by two tanks: a container tank that works in a pure hydrogen atmosphere where the material is inserted and an annealing tank that is positioned just outside the container tank. In a typical way, the preparation of tank ovens requires that an operator should pick up the semifinished straps from the warehouse by using a crane to then make a pile of convector disks and carry the material ready to be annealed inside the first tank oven. Later on, the annealing tank is positioned through the use of a crane and when the annealing process is over, it is removed to be replaced with another tank for the cooling process. Finally the tank oven is left empty and loaded once again. While waiting the tank oven to get cold, the external tank can be used for the annealing of another tank oven. Last year Ilnor has bought a more capacious and continous-cycle plant in order to improve production capabilities with two bases that alternate automatically when annealing the rolls. The continous-cycle working pemits to improve production efficiency thanks to the reduction of dead times and therefore save energy. This plant as well as the rest of the production was automized to improve security lines avoiding the before requested human presence and therefore reduce risks regarding operators' lack of experience as well as increase production capabilities (25% each shift). The manufacturing times have been reduced: the manual management of tank ovens have forced operators to stop the functioning of the plant and wait until they have finished the loading and unloading phases. Now thanks to automatic carriers that use mechanical pliers to lift the convector disks one by one, it is possible to use thinner disks allowing to leave more space to manufacturing materials.

Technological innovations
All automized processes are carried out in a dedicated shed where various plants are installed: the annealing plant compounded by two bases for the annealing phase and by two warehouse and maintenance bases (a diameter of 2.3 meters and an useful height of about 3.5 meters). Inside the tank oven there can be accommodated 10 rolls of 12 tons each, a tram crane to carry almost 20 tons where 5 are already calcolated for hydraulic pliers, a hydraulic plier equipped with absolute photocells and encoders; six bases with load/unload platforms that are used as warehouses for raw and annealed materials; an integrated automation system compounded by two industrial computers (one for supervision and the other for data retrieving), by Siemens S7 PLCs for tank ovens control and tram cranes and by electrical activations to control various engines where everything is connected in a ProfiBus network.

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Main screen

The supervision and control software was developed with Super-Flash, Automa's development system, in order to improve performance, avoid operators' work, diagnostic work progress, control access functions, manage emergency situations and transfer data to the main system. The display pages design have been extremely simplified in order to visualize the most important information to plant operators. By selecting the automatic procedure the handling of rolls, tanks and tank ovens inside the department along with tank oven control commands are executed completely by the supervisor system. The execution of the operation sequences are planned in order to minimize dead times. Before executing any task, an algorithm controls the mission's compatibility with the plant status and isolate all operations that may cause damages or make the plant become potentially dangerous. In particular the rolls are automatically misured and if there are physical incompatibilities that may compromise the line stability (as for example: a roll with a lower diameter than the others), the loading operations are interrupted and the incompatible roll is automatically removed and brought back to the warehouse. If after being restored, an alarm takes part during the execution of an automatic cycle, it is always possible to take the interrupted mission back and continue from the point where the process was stopped. It is also possible to disactivate the automatic cycle anytime to execute any other manual operation. A simple display screen illustrating the section layout with the mission in progress is presented to the operator, from where is possible to interact with the entire annealing plant only if those permissions are granted to the operator. The software identifies the user through a transponder card (without contact) and authorizes him to use pages and commands according to level permissions granted by the system administrator.

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Diagnostic screen

This software, even if a complete and self-sufficient one, was created to be integrated in a wider system. Information coming from human-machines interfaces (HMI) runs towards a main database to be then distributed to various sections and functions. It can be used by managers for production programming, by department operators for quality controls, by maintenance department operators for preventive task programming, by marketing department personnel for customer care activities, etc. A set of information is being available for managers: an automatic final balance of production data, access management (by crossing controls), data management according to a specified product, etc. In fact, Digiware's integration project involves various departments: management, EDP, personnel and suppliers. Technical consultancy is therefore centred in the integration of the new management system, in a lot more than in a simple monitoring software development. Furthermore the software also manages the data that may not have a specified use in that precise moment, but that can be used and integrated with other systems in the near future.

Digiware S.r.l. entrusted once again on Automa's development system to develop successfully its integration project. Realiability, easiness and development times have given Super-Flash more power above any other competitive product regarding basic software development. The possibility of working in MS DOS guarantees a greater system stability and a better performance for a 24-hours system. Thanks to the versatile Automa's MicroC, completely integrated with Super-Flash, is possible to control in a lower level other specific functions.

A zoom on Super-Flash
Super-Flash, the software environment integrated for the development of industrial supervision applications as well as human-machines interfaces, is Automa's first-hand product. Automa is an high-profile italian company in automation sector.The development system is based in a native 32-bit structure which permits to maintain different services at a high-level and offers new and various application possibilities to end-users.
Super-Flash is a multiplatform software that generates applications to work in Windows, DOX (DOX) and that will also work in CE and Linux in a near future. The product does also have various standard modules (alarms, recipes, trends, etc.) and a qualified post-sale support. Moreover the new 3.6 version, full compatible with the older ones, is completely integrated with Windows and does have a renewed graphic editor that improve the services and is easy to use.
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