Learn how an OEM provides efficient, flexible equipment for users’ tire-rubber mixing processes.
Increased tire performance requirements demand integrated automation solutions. In particular, rubber-mixing is a complex combination of several individual processes that can be optimized with modern control technology. At the 2016 Automation Fair® event Automotive Industry Forum, Hans-Martin Monyer, head of automation and systems at HF Mixing Group, described requirements for processes and performance in a rubber-mixing room. With an assist from the Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture® system, his company provides equipment for tire-rubber processes.
"Every machine builder, every manufacturer, feels pressure to increase performance," said Monyer. He also reviewed for the audience technologies available to manufacture, build and develop new automation systems for mixing; explained how HF uses integrated solutions for its mixing rooms; and talked about his company’s modern approach.
Automation as a Product
HF is part of the international Possehl Group, which consists of about 150 companies with 12,000 employees. HF focuses on providing equipment and complete solutions for rubber-mixing plants. It designs complete mixing systems, including related upstream and downstream equipment, and provides the necessary interfaces and manufactures and commissions the equipment. It takes full turnkey responsibility for both greenfield and brownfield applications. HF's automation group consists of more than 100 employees 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 HF 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," he explained. "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 by weighing ingredients, proceeds to chemical preparation and then moves to mixing. After 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,” Moyner 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
Technology is 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," commente Monyer.
To automate the mixing room, equipment communication needed to be integrated. EtherNet/IPTM tied it all together, while integrated software — in this case, Studio 5000 Logix Designer™ software — was 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,” he said.
IT and OT Integration
HF worked with Rockwell Automation to integrate the IT and operations technology (OT) aspects of a complete mixing system. HF applications control the complete workflow, from receiving to printing a barcode label for the final package. To control and plan for required resources efficiently, HF provides a set of applications that includes production and inventory planning systems as well as overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) dashboards. HF also is working to implement the new Allen-Bradley® PowerFlex® 755 drive from Rockwell Automation 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 collaboration with Rockwell Automation and HF and it is bringing added value to the tire industry."
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