Special Report: Syscon-PlantStar enhances process, production monitoring

April 1, 2015

During the last five years, molding firms of every size have been demanding monitoring and control systems that bring complete transparency to their operations, for traceability and validation on the high end, or simple, but meaningful, improvements in overall equipment effectiveness on the other, says Gary Benedix, with Syscon-PlantStar (NPE Booth W1976), South Bend, Ind.

New types of data points on the shop floor are being correlated to machine process and production data, incorporating a range of upstream materials handling and downstream secondary operations. Customers of Syscon-PlantStar are tying the company's SnapShot, Portrait and Panorama shop-floor management systems to a wider array of devices. 

Molders are looking to capture data on anything and everything that can influence molding conditions. Dryers, chillers, labeling and printing devices, sonic welding equipment, spin welding equipment, gluing operations, vision systems and hot runners are a few sources, says Benedix. Equipment and components once considered less critical, and even equipment not immediately thought of as plastics-related, are becoming important. 

"There are clients that have put sensors on the ceiling of their molding plant to monitor ambient temperature and humidity levels in the molding room, mapping the data back to each and every machine to see the influence of climate change in the building and in the quality of the product. A molder that produces roofing products asked us to monitor the downstream equipment that bundles the products on a skid before shipping, because it is running in a plastics plant," says Benedix.

Part of the larger movement toward more connectivity was driven by a protocol committee formed by the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI), which discussed communication protocols between primary machinery and secondary equipment. 

Syscon-PlantStar President Townsend Thomas was a member of the SPI protocol committee that discussed a common communication protocol, called open process control (OPC), says Benedix. 

"The push for a common communication protocol was accepted by a number of auxiliary equipment manufacturers years ago," says Benedix. Now the programmable logic controller (PLC) industry is making a push for use of OPC as the common communication protocol. Molders and suppliers can learn more about it at www.opcfoundation.org. Most machinery OEMs still use their own proprietary communication protocol, yet ancillary equipment suppliers continue to add OPC so their machines can talk to other machines.


Syscon-PlantStar announced last month that it has developed an interface communication protocol for Gammaflux temperature controllers. The interface can be used with PlantStar's Portrait and Panorama plant data acquisition systems. Gammaflux uses its own proprietary communication protocol, so the company has written a software interface to pull the data off of its controller. Process and production data appear on the same screen, including nozzle temperatures, pressures and screw recovery time as well as the zones of hot-runner control, says Benedix.

The interface allows the monitoring system to recognize the mold and hot-runner temperature controllers immediately as the tool moves from machine to machine. Syscon-PlantStar systems can still be connected through analog signals, a serial interface, Ethernet and OPC.

A barcode and label printing program that is part of the family tool module for Portrait and Panorama shop floor systems is now able to track up to 12 unique part numbers in a single tool and generate labels for each of those parts. This type of functionality is useful to medical molders facing more stringent Food and Drug Administration requirements for traceability to every part. The new labeling format calls for the same style and format of labels throughout the course of part manufacturing. "Every piece of equipment is a source of data having input into the quality of the final part," says Benedix.

Syscon-PlantStar is also developing a new monitoring module for the CNC tool machine industry. The module will bring shop management capabilities to a market segment underserved by production monitoring developments, says Benedix.

The company will also enhance the production monitoring capability of its Snapshot line of entry-level shop floor management software for higher-speed, shorter cycle applications. High-speed manufacturing operations like bottle cap production — operating at several strokes per second — can be monitored. 

Mikell Knights, senior correspondent

[email protected]



574-232-3900, www.plantstar.org