Smart Machines & Factories
Automation solutions increases reliability
Published:  23 July, 2021
The Mitsubishi Electric iQ-F series PLC was identified as the ideal controller for this project

A machine builder specialist in the packaging and converting industries, Optimation, has been supported by Mitsubishi Electric in an automated till roll packing system upgrade project.

When a manufacturer of till rolls wanted to expand its production and improve the availability of its 20-year-old packing units, it asked the Derbyshire-based machine builder to refurbish them. Steve Richardson, managing director at Optimation, explains: “Our customer was keen on improving the availability of its existing machines, as unexpected breakdowns were costing tens of thousands of pounds per day. In addition, the manufacturer wanted to futureproof the units, making sure these would offer reliable, high-speed service for another 20 years. This would enable the company to enhance its competitiveness and leverage cutting-edge technology to ensure smooth operations.”

The design of the existing pick and place systems on the packing machine was particularly unique. It leverages kinematics to offer an extremely compact setup. More precisely, each machine consists of a controller interacting with two identical and highly synchronised servo motors, which are connected to a single timing belt. This moves a central pick and place axis up and down as well as left and right. In this way, the till roll machine does not need as many mechanical parts to support movements in multiple directions when compared to similar devices.

While highly innovative for their time, the machines were relatively slow by today’s standards. In addition, it was becoming increasingly challenging for the till roll producer to find specialists able to repair the equipment in the event of failure, due to the unit’s obsolescence and complex coding behind the design. To deliver a refurbished system that would address these issues, Optimation chose to rely on Mitsubishi Electric’s automation products and services.

Sebastian Viteri, account manager at Mitsubishi Electric, commented: “The project required more than a simple upgrade of the existing controllers and servos with newer solutions. Since the machines heavily relied on the program code for accurate and responsive movements, rewriting it and utilising advanced motion control systems was fundamental to ensuring optimum operations.”

Futureproofing automation components

The Mitsubishi Electric iQ-F series PLC was identified as the ideal controller for this project; offering high performance, advanced system control and user centric programming. By combining it with MELSERVO MR-J4 servos, which are well suited to packaging and handling applications, the resulting setup would offer the long-lasting high performance that the till roll producer was looking for. The upgraded system was also equipped with a GOT2000 series HMI to allow operators to monitor as well as interact with the pick and place processes.

To further improve the system, Mitsubishi Electric and Optimation simplified the existing code, making it more accessible. As a result, the customer’s engineering team would be able to make basic modifications and updates without the need to contact programming specialists. Sebastian Viteri says: “The process of reverse engineering the existing code was heavily simplified by Mitsubishi Electric’s GX Works3 software coupled with the newly installed automation devices’ plug-and-play functionalities. In effect, once the programming was complete, it was possible to install and run the equipment in a matter of minutes.”

Steve Richardson adds: “This was a particularly demanding project from many points of view, from selecting the ideal components to rewriting the existing code. Thanks to the high-quality automation solutions and continuous technical support provided by Mitsubishi Electric we could deliver highly reliable machines to our customer that have expanded their production. We are extremely satisfied with the results of this collaboration and based on this, we decided to work together with Mitsubishi Electric on four additional refurbishments of similar machines for the converting industry.”