Increased performance requirements of today's tires demand integrated automation solutions. In particular, rubber-mixing is a complex combination of several individual processes that can be optimized with modern control technology.
"Every machine builder, every manufacturer feels pressure to increase performance," said Hans-Martin Monyer. As head of automation and systems at HF Mixing Group (HF), he successfully designed, developed and delivered that performance using Rockwell Automation technology.
Monyer discussed requirements for processes and performance in a rubber mixing room. He also reviewed technologies available to manufacture, build up and develop new, modern automation systems for mixing during the Automotive & Tire Industry Forum at Automation Fair 2016 in Atlanta. He explained how HF used specific integrated solutions for its mixing rooms, as well as the benefits of his company’s modern approach.
Automation as a product
HF Mixing Group is part of the international Possehl Group, consisting of approximately 150 companies with 12,000 total personnel. HF focuses on providing equipment and complete solutions for rubber-mixing plants. Based on user requirements, it designs complete systems for mixing, including related upstream and downstream equipment, provides the necessary interfaces, and manufactures and commissions the equipment. It takes full turn-key responsibility for both greenfield and brownfield applications. As a total global solution provider, HF's automation group consists of more than 100 personnel located worldwide.
"The automation itself is a product,” said Monyer. “HF has standardized the automation product using a development group consisting of IT engineers, PLC engineers and drive engineers. The systems are engineered, commissioned and supported, and it also provides customer workshops.
“We understand the challenges, such as costing, quality and efficiency, along with the new raw materials and sophisticated processes that all must come together in our new products," said Monyer. "The questions we always raise are, ‘What is the role of automation in all of this?’ And, ‘How can automation support our customers with these challenges?’"
Mixing room processing begins with the weighing of ingredients, proceeds to preparation of the chemicals and then, of course, to mixing. Once the mixer drops the batch, the materials are moved into a continuous process. “The challenge is to bring all these elements together to make one complete process,” Monyer said.
“There are also many individual machines in the mixing room that must be brought into an overall solution.”
"The most challenging part is efficiently dealing with the resources," Monyer added. "Raw materials are a big part of the cost of a tire, as is energy. Human resources must also be managed."
Assembling the technology
There is technology available to provide intelligent and efficient solutions for automating the mixing room. "Rockwell Automation was very helpful and introduced us to its High Performance Architecture, which combines and integrates information and control technology," commented Monyer.
To start, the communication needed to be integrated, so EtherNet/IP was used to tie it all together, along with integrated software. Studio 5000 Logix Designer was the software application used to configure, program and maintain the discrete, batch, process, motion, safety and drive functionalities. “It was also used to develop user-friendly human machine interfaces,” Monyer said.
HF worked with Rockwell Automation to integrate the IT and OT aspects of a complete mixing system. From receiving all the way to printing a barcode label for the final package, the complete workflow is controlled by HF applications. To efficiently control and plan for required resources, HF provides a set of applications that includes production and inventory planning systems as well as OEE dashboards. HF is also working to implement the new Rockwell Automation PowerFlex 755 drive in new applications.
"The system that controls the process allows us to improve performance and quality while reducing scrap and rework," noted Monyer. "It allows us to integrate IT and OT, and to provide our customers with the information they need to make faster decisions. It has been a profitable partnership with Rockwell Automation and HF and it is bringing added value to the tire industry."
This article was originally published on ControlGlobal.com.