Remotely operated pneumatic water pumping system keeps Guernsey dry!

11/10/2014

Festo’s CPX platform – complete automation solution

Much like the mainland Britain, Guernsey has been ravaged by the forces of nature this year. But thanks to a remotely controlled, pneumatically operated pumping station that was completed last year, one area of the island has escaped damage from the resulting floods.

On February 3rd this year (2014) Guernsey faced one of its wettest and windiest days in recent memory. Heavy rain fell throughout much of the day and by the evening Guernsey Airport had recorded 32.5mm – more than an inch – of rainfall, flooding many of the island’s major roads, making several impassable and causing widespread disruptions.

Both local radio stations were forced off air as the FM transmitter was flooded, with TV signals being unavailable for part of the night. According to Guernsey Police more than 60 roads were flooded – which outpaced the number of closed signs available. Sandbags also ran short as authorities scrambled to contain the worst of the weather.

Guernsey_water

But thanks to improvements at the Marais Stream pumping station one area of the island emerged virtually unscathed from the onslaught. The pumping station, situated off les Banques not far from the capital of Guernsey, St Peter Port, is part of a network of facilities that form Guernsey Water’s infrastructure for the catchment, storage and transfer of raw water for the production of the island’s drinking water.

“Without a doubt we would have suffered big issues this winter with the heavy rainfall if we hadn’t undertaken the work there,” Andy Benstead, Water Production Manager, at Guernsey Water says. “I can guarantee that there would have been problems if we hadn’t upgraded it.

“We don’t actually have rivers in Guernsey they are all classified as streams; the Marais Stream has a fair catchment area and it includes a bank and an insurance company, and without this work they would have been flooded.”

 The work at the pumping station was an upgrade; the whole infrastructure was changed apart from an old tank that remained. “There were two reasons for the upgrade, part age and part because the area had suffered from a flooding problem,” Benstead adds. “The equipment is much bigger, more reliable, easier to control and we can now pump up to 1000 litres a second.”

Marais Stream pumping station was originally built in 1938 and required an upgrade to allow an increased volume of water to be collected and delivered to the nearby water treatment works with less going to waste.

Geomarine, a local civil engineering contractor, was contracted by Guernsey Water to carry out these improvement works as part of on-going works on the island’s infrastructure. Before the project was started all that was on site was a holding tank and pump house.

Marais Stream collects the run-off water from the local area and this is fed via the three inlet penstocks   through fine screens that remove debris that would damage the pumps in the pumping station. The water is then pumped either into the treatment works or, in the case of heavy rainfall such as earlier this year, can be diverted and discharged straight into the sea.

The entire system is run by Festo’s CPX remotely operated control system

The entire system is run by Festo’s CPX remotely operated control system

The pumping station is the first on the Island which could be considered ‘multifunctional’, as it incorporates three vital elements. Firstly, raw water (rainfall) is caught and transferred into Longue Hougue reservoir for conversion into drinking water. Secondly, stream water is used to maintain the cleanliness of the screens at the new Belle Greve Wastewater Treatment Centre. Finally, the new pumping station enables excess water to be pumped out to sea, which might otherwise overload the capacity of the Barker’s Quarry Reservoir and lead to localised flooding.

“Festo supplied three pneumatically operated penstocks, driven by linear actuators, to isolate the flow; these were located in the incoming channel,” Tony Gillard, Business Development Manager at Festo explains. “DNC cylinders with rod clamps are used to control the raising and lowering of the penstocks. These distribute the incoming water into the storage basins. From the storage basins, the water is distributed to various parts of the site by butterfly valves operated by pneumatic quarter-turn actuators.”

The entire system is run by Festo’s CPX remotely operated control system. The site itself is unmanned and is controlled via the SCADA system from the Guernsey Water Offices based five miles away. “The CPX platform is a complete automation solution that integrates a wide choice of pneumatic and electrical, analogue and digital I/O,” Gillard explains. “CPX systems configured for specific requirements are delivered pre-built, tested and ready for installation, enabling system integrators to meet tight deadlines and budgets. For additional flexibility, the CPX platform can operate as either a self-contained industrial PLC, or as a local unit on a Fieldbus or Industrial Ethernet-based distributed system. In addition, a wide choice of I/O and connector modules makes interfacing to process sensors and actuators easy.

“Remote operation is becoming more common; with pneumatic control you have the functionality to remotely operate the system,” Gillard adds.

Unusually for the water treatment sector is the selection of pneumatically controlled valves rather than electric. “On Great Britain it is more usual to have electric actuators but the advantages of pneumatics are beginning to sway the market,” Gillard says. “In most other applications, such as petro chemical and industrial applications, pneumatics are the preferred solution, but for some reason in water treatment and sewage plants electric actuation is still predominant for now.”

Pneumatic automation presents an extremely reliable alternative to electrical automation systems and reduces the costs of investment, installation and operation compared with conventional electrical installations.”

Guernsey Water has gone down the path of changing electric actuators to pneumatic and is reaping the benefits. Pneumatic control delivers energy saving, ease of installation, safety and reliability, because of less moving parts, as well as being faster to operate and easier to control.

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Conveying and sorting in one!

27/09/2014

Festo has developed a new pneumatic conveyor concept – the WaveHandler – for the transportation and simultaneous sorting of delicate objects.

“Delicate FMCG products, like fruit and vegetables, require particular care in their handling and transportation if they are to make a timely arrival to market with minimum damage losses,” says Steve Sands, Product Manager, Festo. “Their limited shelf-life means that time is of the essence. In such cases, it’s believed that industry can learn a lot from natural principles and wave technology is one such principle. The new WaveHandler pneumatic conveyor concept could help the food & packaging industry make huge cost savings.”

WaveHandler – transporting and sorting in one.

The flexible polyamide bellows structure with the integrated electronics and valve technology in the substructure

Individual modules can be connected as required and are self-configuring to guarantee the rapid networking of the entire system.

Individual modules can be connected as required and are self-configuring to guarantee the rapid networking of the entire system.

The conveyor consists of numerous bellows modules that deform the surface creating a wave motion that transports the objects in a targeted manner. Inspiration for this principle was provided by monitoring natural waves. The movement of wind over the smooth surface of the water produces small ripples, which grow as the wind pushes against them. However, it is energy being moved by the waves, not water. The water molecules within a wave move up and down in a circular motion, but remain in roughly the same place. Yet the energy produced causes the wave to roll over the surface of the sea. The WaveHandler system behaves in a similar way: while each individual bellow advances and retracts in the same spot, a wave moves over the surface of the conveyor.

The system display utilises forward thinking technologies based around Web4.0 concepts. Autonomous actuators, comprising 216 connected pneumatic bellows modules, are attached underneath the covering that forms the surface of the conveyor. Each module consists of bellows kinematics on top, an integrated standard valve MHA1 from Festo and the appropriate electronics for actuating the valve. The bellows structure is pneumatically driven and can expand and contract by around 1 to 2 cm. The conveyor is supplied with power and control commands, via a CAN bus, by a compressed air channel and an electrical cable running through all the modules. Each identical module recognises its position in the network and is programmed to understand its role.

Mounted above the WaveHandler system is a camera system that senses the objects on the conveyor. The camera transmits the images to a computer that processes them and actuates the conveyor via software developed specifically for this purpose. In the bellow modules, each microcontroller receives commands via the CAN bus and forwards them to the valve. The respective bellows structure expands when the valve is switched, which causes the surface to arch at this point. The end result is a control network that moves objects on the surface in a targeted manner, enabling it to take over the sorting and moving action in the process.

Modular in design, the WaveHandler system could be positioned in the centre of a conveying unit to distribute the goods to the next conveyors on the left or right. The time and effort needed for installing the conveyor is reduced since an additional handling unit is no longer required for the sorting process. Individual modules can be connected as required and are self-configuring, which opens up new opportunities in applications where subsystems need to be quickly and flexibly integrated into production sequence.

“Whether it is decentralised intelligence, high transformability or plug and produce, the principles of the factory of tomorrow are already playing an important role in today’s products,” concludes Sands.


Wash, Rinse, Dry: Cleaning mass-produced automotive parts!

04/08/2014
High quality components keep vacuum cleaning plant running smoothly

The Multiclean-D-4-4-F full vacuum plant from Höckh is a true giant among washing machines. While the drum of a household washing machine can hold six kilograms at any one time, an industrial washing machine recently delivered to a German customer can take two 600 kg loads of metal parts for the automotive industry.

Festo’s  technology keeps the twin-chamber cleaning plant running smoothly.

The Multiclean-D-4-4-F full vacuum plant from Höckh is a true giant among washing machines.

The Multiclean-D-4-4-F full vacuum plant from Höckh is a true giant among washing machines.

In metalworking, greases and special emulsions protect cutting tools against wear. While this is good for the machines, it leaves a residue on the metal parts and must be removed before further processing. Assembly processes or surface treatments such as galvanising or painting require clean parts. Depending on the application, aqueous cleaning solutions or solvents can be used.

Solvents are preferable to aqueous cleaners for oily mass produced parts for the automotive industry as they are quick, economical and resource-saving. A new twin-chamber perchlorethylene-based cleaning plant from Höckh Metall-Reinigungsanlagen GmbH has raised the bar with operation under full vacuum.

When integrated into the production cycle, it increases part throughput significantly. Up to ten crates filled with pressed and stamped parts pass through the system every hour in a three shift operation. State-of-the-art valve terminal technology from Festo contributes to this excellent performance.

Everything in one chamber
The capacity of the huge washing machine for metal parts is simply enormous. In addition to rapidly cleaning large volumes of metal parts in either a 65° or 98° wash with liquid or vaporous perchlorethylene, the system also dries the parts using a vacuum after they have been washed. And all of this in less than 15 minutes per crate.

Before that, the pressed parts are transported in bulk. Forklift trucks move the parts in crates measuring approx. 900 x 800 x 850 mm and with a total weight of between 500 and 600 kg. To select the right program, the system operator simply scans the bar code on the accompanying ticket. As soon as he has left the loading area, automatic feeding begins and the crate is transported to the next free process chamber. To achieve the required capacity of 10 batches per hour in a three-shift operation, the process has been divided between two chambers.

The door of the giant washing machine drum is closed by a standard cylinder.

The door of the giant washing machine drum is closed by a standard cylinder.

The loading gantry then loads the rotating crate holder and a Festo standard cylinder DNG with a stroke of 180 cm closes the sliding door of the process chamber vacuum tight. When it reaches the last few centimetres, a clever toggle lever mechanism ensures it is firmly closed.

When the door reaches the last few centimetres, a clever toggle lever mechanism ensures it is firmly closed.

When the door reaches the last few centimetres, a clever toggle lever mechanism ensures it is firmly closed.

10 batches per hour
Depending on the parts type, this is then followed by an individual cleaning programme, which can be made up of various modules such as evacuation of the process chamber to process vacuum, pre-washing in the spray process, flood cleaning (full bath) from tank one, post washing in the spray process, flood cleaning (full bath) from tank two, vapour degreasing with solvent vapour and vacuum drying. A limit value encoder monitors the drying process so that only completely dry, solvent free parts are removed from the process chamber.

When the door reaches the last few centimetres, a clever toggle lever mechanism ensures it is firmly closed.

When the door reaches the last few centimetres, a clever toggle lever mechanism ensures it is firmly closed.

The cleaned parts then pass through a cooling tunnel on the unloading roller conveyor so that the crates can be packed directly for shipment. To achieve maximum flexibility, the system was designed as three separate modules.

For cleaning there are two identical, completely independent cleaning modules with process chamber, twin tank, distillation plant, pumps and filters. Because of standalone operation, one module can be switched off in the event of maintenance or low capacity utilisation and the system can continue to operate at half capacity. Both cleaning modules are connected to a central supply module, which houses the vacuum pumps as well as the activated carbon absorber for process air preparation.

The entire vacuum performance of over 1,000 m³/h can be divided into variable ratios between the two process chambers if required. This ensures a very high throughput for the size of the chamber and the complexity of the process of 10 batches per hour.

Reliable process engineering
This demanding process is kept running smoothly by a variety of Festo components. These include valve terminals type CPX/MPA with Profibus control. These valve terminals look after all of the process engineering, activate the angle seat valves and the actuators, ensure the crates are locked and control the liquid transport and the vacuum.

Thanks to ‘intelligence on the terminal’; the cleaning plant from Höckh does not require any additional multi-pin cables. The MS series service unit ensures correct and reliable compressed air preparation. The latest Festo technology also offers a condition monitoring option. Values such as maximum, peak and average consumption as well as effective and apparent power are displayed.


The trends that are driving electric drives

19/08/2013
What does the future hold for electric drives in the industrial automation sector? Currently there are three trends which are dictating development – speed and ease of specification, simplified control and maintenance, and machinery safety. Here, Nigel Dawson, Festo GB’s Product Manager for Electric Drives, looks at these trends.

Today’s consumers expect their products, however sophisticated, to be intuitive, readily available, and quick and safe to use. The iPad is a great example; as soon as you take it out of the box, you know how to charge it, switch it on and hey presto you’re up and running in no time at all. What’s more, if you’re a technological Luddite or need help setting it up, there’s simple online support or you can call the hotline for step-by-step assistance.

The future of electric drives: they should be easy to size, easy to order and easy to assmeble – just like the "Optimised Motion Series”

The future of electric drives: they should be easy to size, easy to order and easy to assmeble – just like the “Optimised Motion Series”

This expectation has spread into the industrial world: design engineers and machine builders expect Festo to have products that are easy to specify, for the control technology to be simple, for the maintenance to be straightforward and for the products to adhere to the latest safety legislation.

Trend One
So how can vendors help to reduce the time taken to dimension and select the product? Just as the iPad is quick and easy to select, buy and get up and running, so should electric drives be. Festo has responded to these demands with the introduction of its ‘Optimised Motion Series’, which is a range of electric drives based on those easily accessible and easy to use iPad principles.

The intuitive online configuration tool assists in the specification and selection process and for easier sizing a range of pre-defined and tested combinations with all of the necessary data is available. For easier ordering, a complete drive solution – comprising mechanical system, motor and motor controller – is available with just a single part number. And, for easier assembly, the motor and mechanical system is integrated.

Web brower technology will simplify control technology and handling of electric drives in the future!

Web brower technology will simplify control technology and handling of electric drives in the future!

Second trend
The second trend is for simplified control and maintenance and web browser technology is at work here; it allows the user to source electric drives that are easy to commission, programme and maintain. The demand from the end user is that electric drives have to be intuitive and they don’t want to have to buy specialist programming cables and software.

A standard Ethernet CAT5 cable, which is relatively cheap and readily available, will connect straight into the controller from the laptop and, using a web browser, type in the IP address of the controller, which has its own web page on-board, to commission it (as you would when setting up your own home router). This web-based configuration makes control simple too as it is based on the basic principles of solenoid valve technology. The diagnostic function, accessed via a standard web browser, supports simplified maintenance.

Trend Three
The final trend which is influencing the sector is machinery safety. But, the issue here is that the machinery safety industry is focused on electrically and electronically monitored systems that end at the motor. The question is who is monitoring the mechanics? Here, Festo have developed a unique overall safety concept integrating clamping modules and linear feedback systems onto its popular EGC axis. These mechanical measures, combined with safety functions in the drives and motors and specific electric drive safety controllers allow customers to create fully certified systems for category 4  / PLe safety from a single supplier with full documentation and circuit diagrams.

By understanding these three trends, Festo is opening up new possibilities in industrial automation, making it easier for machine builders and design engineers alike to specify, control and maintain electric drives while ensuring they comply with the latest safety legislation.  Ultimately, machine builders can improve motion control and profit margins, as well as make significant cost savings on integration.


Increased yields can help drive emobility uptake!

24/07/2013
The benefits of renewable energy sources such as water, wind and solar power are well known, and electric cars are not a new concept.  However, to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, which will be exhausted in just one century, efficient ways of mass producing the cells need to be established.

The electric motor can be up to four times more efficient than the combustion engine.  Given the finite nature of fossil fuels, the uptake of electric cars or emobility as it is now called is inevitable.  However, what does this mean for automation technology?  Steve Sands, Product Manager at Festo GB, reviews the current situation.

eleccarFossil fuels are expected to be depleted by 2112 and a report by WWF says that in Great Britain one in 17 cars by 2020, and one in six by 2030, must be electric if they are  to meet emission targets and bring an end to a dependence on oil.  This means that 1.7 million electric vehicles  will need to be put on the road by 2020 and then treble take-up of the technology in the following decade if it is to meet its climate change targets.

However, there were only 1,052 claims on the British government electric car subsidy in 2011 and one of the barriers to the adoption of electric vehicles is their cost.  Despite government grants the vehicles are still expensive, constrained in supply and there are too many good conventional alternatives.

For electric cars to compete against Britain’s fleet of 31m fossil fuel cars they need to be more affordable.  Consumers will only accept emobility suitable for daily use when the batteries allow a sufficient distance to be travelled and their cost does not increase the vehicle price compared with an equivalent petrol or diesel model.

Expensive batteries
Currently between 30 and 40 per cent of the cost of electric vehicles is down to the battery.  Battery production manufacturing costs are high and there is a lot of research into alternative materials and processes.  For now, one way to reduce cell costs is through increasing efficiency in automation.

The problem is that battery lithium-ion production is still predominately a manual process with a large number of individual steps.   During the battery manufacturing process, two battery cells are bonded by a foil.  Each cell is bonded to a copper plate and several double cells are combined to form a battery pack.  With conventional automation processes the cells can only be gripped in certain places using vacuum generators. This means that reliable holding of the cell is not guaranteed.

The handling of sensitive lithium-ion cells is a major challenge for battery manufacturers as the cells can be easily damaged or contaminated during the manufacturing process.  If we are to eventually have efficient mass production, we need to set up technologically flexible electrode and cell production for the manufacture of battery prototypes with a high degree of standardisation and automation.  Mechatronic solutions which integrate expertise from different areas of process and factory automation and transfer it to the latest technologies in battery production look promising.

Air bearings as a solution
ads-tec, a company which develops automated production systems for high performance lithium energy storage devices first developed a production method for automating the bonding, feeding and handling of cells on a laboratory scale.  The aim was to provide production facilities that would allow the fast, low cost production of cells and battery systems.

festoemobilityEngineers worked with Festo to develop a new front-end solution for handling lithium-ion cells, with an air bearing.  The ATBT air bearing was initially designed for use in the solar or electrical manufacturing industry.  It produces an evenly distributed layer of air on its fine surface, which allows delicate objects to glide smoothly, enabling the reliable contactless transport of sheets of glass and delicate film.

Festo’s experts have now applied the technology to battery production, by making use of a reverse effect.  Instead of ‘blowing’ air, the air bearing draws a vacuum which is distributed over the large surface.  Their ATBT suction pad has been used in a battery bonding prototype machine, where it is ideal for handling, clamping and holding the delicate cell packs during production

FT01354As the new air bearing grips the entire surface of the battery plate, the bonding process is no longer prone to stress fractures caused during production.  It is proving to be an effective solution for efficient automation processes and increasing productivity.

Despite their higher costs the level of acceptance for electric cars is growing worldwide.  This applies in particular to the emerging markets of China and India, where mobility is also rising.  92% of people in India and 88% in China are willing to consider an electric car if buying a new car within the next five years.  In Britain and France this figure is only 57%, but the number is rising and production innovation will help reduce costs and bring forward the emobility revolution!


Energy efficiency report

28/03/2013

New report challenges simplistic claims for energy efficiency in automation processes

festoenreport

The energy report provides a simple introduction to the subject of efficiency with pneumatic and electric drives.

Festo has published a new report which evaluates energy efficiency measures in the automation and positioning technology fields. The report helps manufacturers to better understand and identify methods, tools and the alternative advantages of pneumatic and electric drive technologies for improving energy efficiency in automation processes.

The report provides a simple introduction to the subject of efficiency with pneumatic and electric drives. The paper has been produced as part of a joint ‘EnEffAH’ project, part of the German Government’s energy research programme, and clearly outlines a broad range of technical and organisational topics. It explores the basic principles and measures for increasing energy efficiency and shows that the correct selection of technology (effectiveness) and the correct operation (efficiency) are critical.

“Energy is an ever-more important issue and this guide is an excellent opportunity to become acquainted with pneumatic and electric drives systems as a whole,” says Steve Sands, Product Manager at Festo. “The research shows that the requirements of the application entirely determine the right technology mix for energy efficiency.”

“As one of the leading automation technology companies, we have a deep understanding of both pneumatic and electric drive technologies. Through this report we can share our knowledge to help our customers make informed decisions on the correct selection of technology to maximise their energy efficiency.”

Steve concludes: “There are no quick-fix solutions for increasing energy efficiency, as it must be viewed in an overall context. Trying to save money at a component level without considering the overall system is in-effective and parameters must be looked at in detail to provide lasting efficiencies and savings. Life time costs really must be considered; it makes no sense for it to take 10 years to achieve a payback on an initial investment through improved efficiency if the expected life of the machine is only five years! Selecting the right measures and using drive technology correctly, means notable energy and cost savings can and must be reached.”

The secret is in the mix: the most energy-efficient solution will often be a mixture of electric and pneumatic drive technology

The secret is in the mix: the most energy-efficient solution will often be a mixture of electric and pneumatic drive technology


Implementing automated machinery safety

19/02/2013

One of the most significant trends driving automation relates to machinery safety and how the integration of technologies is key to advances in this area. Here, Nigel Dawson, Festo GB’s Product Manager for Electric Drives, surveys interesting developments making life easier for design engineers.

While the subject of machinery safety is not new, it continues to play a key role in machine and plant construction. But, there are many different approaches and a great deal of uncertainty amongst machine builders in how to handle these issues and what degree of complexity and cost they need to go to, to adequately minimise risks; it isn’t surprising many machine builders and end users seek advice and support.

A fully integrated approach that monitors both the axis of a machine and allows safety-related clamping or braking is the best, safest solution!

A fully integrated approach that monitors both the axis of a machine and allows safety-related clamping or braking is the best, safest solution!

In applications that are not protected by physical safety guards, but where personnel can come into direct contact with plant components, the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC indicates systems must provide adequate risk reduction through integrated safety functions.

In many cases an overall safety concept, requires the monitoring of moving axis, as well as safety-related clamping or braking, depending on the expected conditions. In higher risk applications two independent channels are required. In the past, machine builders would often design in their own safety solutions that took the safety switching device and wired in the STO, or Safe Torque Off, function. Frequently servo motor have been replaced by a motor and brake combination in vertical applications.

Now there are several problems with this approach; they do not take into account all the possible failure states – a coupling assembly breakage or slippage or a broken toothed belt in a parallel mounting kit could render the brake useless. These faults could still allow the carriage and load to fall, causing damage or injury.

A fully integrated approach that monitors both the axis of a machine and allows safety-related clamping or braking is the best, safest solution and this is exactly what Festo’s electric axis EGC unit does, it has an optional second channel displacement encoder and one or two channel clamping unit. The mechanical system can be monitored by both a motor encoder (first channel) and the linear displacement encoder (second channel) mounted on the axis providing two channel monitoring.

The axis can also be specified with single or dual-channel clamping units EGC-HPN which are suitable for holding a position, collision protection and, due to their emergency braking features, enhance safety in any vertical axes, for example, those which are typically used in lifting and stacking applications.

Of course legislative safety is not the only use of such features as additional encoders and mechanical braking systems. External encoders offer direct input into Festo servo controllers to allow unsurpassed positional repeatability on mechanical axis. For instance, it is now possible to achieve 10 micron positional repeatability on a standard belt drive when configured with a simple low cost encoder option, giving machine builders belt drive performance with ballscrew accuracy. Similarly vertical loads can be held safely for long periods without the need for high current usage on servo motors, by choosing a simple mechanical clamp option.

With today’s safety standards it is a more complicated task for designers to gather together all of the data from different manufacturers to calculate and document their own designed safety solutions. The Festo EGC axis provides a cost effective solution for compliance to the requirements of the Machinery Directive in a neat and self contained assembly and a single part number. Festo provides information on a wide range of electric and pneumatic safety functions through a Safety Guidelines manual that can be downloaded from their website and distributed through the Machinery Safety Alliance seminar program.