Upgrades boost efficiency of process monitoring

May 26, 2015

Capturing more data as a way to improve a processor's operations was a major theme for suppliers of process and production monitoring systems at NPE.

Developments focused on scrutinizing a range of devices in real time, including auxiliary equipment and materials handling devices, as well as the polymer itself as it is being processed.

Other advances bring a higher level of plantwide monitoring or updated components, such as human-machine interfaces (HMI) or controllers, that enhance data collection or improve remote access to the data.


Conair Group, Cranberry Township, Pa., introduced the third generation of its ControlWorks control and monitoring system, designed to provide a single point of control for upstream and downstream devices in a manufacturing cell. ControlWorks, introduced in 2006, allows users to monitor the operation of blenders, loaders, dryers, heat-transfer units and other equipment, and make changes to primary processing set points from a single device, says Bob Criswell, manager of electrical engineering. Conair introduced Web-enabled use of the system in 2012, which allows users with any Internet-connected device to view control screens and interact with the equipment, says Criswell.

The newest ControlWorks version incorporates supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) technology to monitor and control most of the ancillary equipment manufactured by Conair. The data acquisition functionality built into SCADA lets ControlWorks gather data from all connected equipment, which can be stored for analysis.  An unlimited amount of data can be stored in a single database, unlike many machine controls that have data-logging capabilities but limited data storage ability.

ControlWorks is self-loading, meaning the system recognizes a new Conair device immediately when the component is connected to it. Most of Conair's auxiliary equipment has a special identifier that the ControlWorks system recognizes.

The addition of SCADA to ControlWorks allows users to view data from more than one piece of equipment at a time, unlike many machine controls where the data is viewed and stored separately. Users can look at all of the equipment in a specific manufacturing cell or view all of one type of equipment in their plant—such as all of the blenders or all the dryers in operation on the plant floor. The system allows the user to drill down as necessary to find information on individual machines, says Criswell.

Conair also rolled out a new tablet- based machine control system designed to replace HMI panels installed on nearly all types of production equipment. A color touch-screen HMI installed on a machinery component can add hundreds of dollars to the price of new equipment. The problem is that users tend to use the HMI mainly for setup and troubleshooting, says Criswell.

Conair programs a standard tablet computer to address the controls on each piece of equipment. The tablet becomes the HMI for each piece of equipment, says Criswell. Personnel authorized to perform setup and maintenance carry the tablet into the plant and can quickly connect to the desired equipment. An additional benefit is that the elimination of the HMI on the actual piece of equipment minimizes the prospect of equipment control changes made by unauthorized personnel. Also, the Internet-enabled tablet can be used to order spare parts or to access system documentation as well as training and maintenance manuals and videos, says Criswell.


Dynisco, Franklin, Mass., unveiled a new rheometer control unit for extrusion systems that combines the rheological properties of a laboratory capillary rheometer with the melt flow index readings of a melt flow indexer, allowing users to monitor the condition of the polymer in real time as it is being processed.

The new ViscoSensor compact rheometer control unit (dubbed the e-RCU) provides a window into the extrusion process, ensuring process linearity and enabling in-process adjustments to ensure consistent batch-to-batch quality, says product engineer Kevin Craig. Sensor components placed into the extruder near the die and a special pump that pulls and returns a small amount of material work together continuously during processing for analysis.

The live look into the process that the new system provides lets a processor know instantly whether the material in use is within specifications. This in-process approach is much faster than drawing a sample for testing in a lab. The company says the system is a compact and cost-effective solution for continuous, zero-waste monitoring of melt flow rate, apparent viscosity and other key test parameters within the thermoplastic manufacturing process.

The RCU is part of a simplified ViscoSensor system from Dynisco that consists of a ViscoSensor head that connects directly to the extrusion process and samples, conditions and measures the properties of the resin. The sensor head is the same as the one in the original ViscoSensor—resulting in a new system that has a simplified control package, as well as the proven, critical sensing component. The second aspect of the new system is the ViscoSensor e-RCU, which remotely manages the ViscoSensor test parameters and provides measured and computed material properties.

The compact e-RCU is housed in a cabinet that requires 40 percent less volume than a standard RCU, and is offered with a simplified programmable logic controller (PLC) and digital and analog input/output for plant connections. The unit can communicate with external distributed control systems and can be upgraded for compatibility with a standard RCU if the system is needed in a hazardous or classified location.


Universal Dynamics Inc., Woodbridge, Va., introduced FACS-X, the next generation of its factory acquisition control systems. FACS-X is designed for plantwide control of materials handling and conveying systems and can monitor blenders, silo inventory and most equipment that is compatible with SPI standards, such as dryers, mold-temperature control units and chillers, says John Fleischer, VP of sales and marketing.

FACS-X is a distributed-control process-management system comprised of a two-wire power and communications network that, in conjunction with Microsoft's Windows software platform, is simple to install, set up, operate, reconfigure and expand. Users can import drawings and pictures to show system configurations or locations of equipment either through PC control, or they can use FACS-X to monitor system performance either from the plant floor or remotely, says Fleischer.

Display screens are easy to navigate and offer monitoring and full graphing capabilities for process chain analysis and verification. They also display process variables and troubleshooting alerts for many SPI-compatible devices. FACS-X has full graphing capabilities and a built-in structured query language (SQL) database to process and store information with a complete set of reports for immediate or future use, says Fleischer.

Features such as process chain analysis and verification make it possible to set up, monitor and record set points, equipment performance or material flow paths with a single command.


Seven other firms disclosed their NPE process and production monitoring developments in a special report in the March issue of PMM. They include:

Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd., Bolton, Ontario, developed a new energy module for use with its Shotscope NX process and production monitoring system that measures power on any type of equipment, identifying and tracking energy efficiencies in a production facility. The energy monitoring module is scalable, allowing the user to measure a range of data points, including screw position, cavity pressure or hydraulic pressures. The tool can reveal to a molder the ideal energy consumption for each device in a molding cell and can help a processor determine which specific molding press or molding cell processes a particular job best. An algorithm in the module determines energy efficiency based on kilowatt hours per kilogram of material processed.

IQMS, Paso Robles, Calif., developed a RealTime process monitoring package that now operates on the same platform and equipment used for its RealTime production monitoring system. The integrated process and production monitoring data can be fed directly into IQMS' plantwide enterprise resource planning-management system. IQMS also introduced the PMIU88, the company's own PLC, created as a low-cost option for collecting process and production data from a machine controller. IQMS also rolled out its RTStation touch-screen workstation, upgraded with a larger 10.1-inch display and designed as a low-cost replacement for a machine-mounted tablet. Process parameters, including part counts and cycle speed, as well as production details like machine downtime or a logging of rejects, also are tallied.

Kistler Instrument Corp., Novi, Mich., developed its CoMo DataCenter 2.0 data-management system, which combines process and quality-related production data into a single database. CDC 2.0 can be integrated into Kistler's CoMo injection system to create an in-line quality-control check for manufacturing processes.

Priamus System Technologies LLC, Brunswick, Ohio, developed a data export function for use with its FillControl monitoring software that allows molders to select a range of molding cycles that can be layered and displayed as a simple approach to determining process stability. A new user-management production monitoring tool allows only authorized personnel to make changes, and the system keeps a detailed log of all changes. Priamus developed a new voltage module that can measure machine hydraulic pressure, screw speed or other machine signals to determine whether the machine is operating the way it should.

The eDART process monitoring and control system from RJG Inc., Traverse City, Mich., has new hardware and software tools to monitor more components, raising its overall efficiency. A new strain-gage sensor can measure mold deflection at different points in the molding cycle. The sensor can be placed behind the ejector pin, while a flush-mount sensor design can be positioned directly on the cavity surface of the mold. RJG's newest Version 10 software for the monitoring system features touch-screen functionality and new display screens that let the molder view the status of the machine more easily.

Syscon-PlantStar, South Bend, Ind., says molders looking to monitor new types of data points on the shop floor are tying its SnapShot, Portrait and Panorama shop floor-management systems into a wider array of devices. The company enhanced the capability of its SnapShot entry-level shop floor-management software for high-speed manufacturing applications. Syscon-PlantStar also developed an interface communication protocol for the Gammaflux line of hot-runner temperature controllers. The interface allows the monitoring system to recognize the mold and hot-runner temperature controller immediately as the tool moves from machine to machine. Syscon-PlantStar also developed a new monitoring module for use by the CNC tool machine industry.

Eurotherm by Schneider Electric, Ashburn, Va., updated its OptiPak II controller, designed as a cost-competitive, application-specific PLC system for injection molding. The controller features functionality similar to Eurotherm's flagship machine control system, the MACO Compact series, but has a finite number of inputs/outputs. It is designed for small- to medium-sized machines.

Mikell Knights, senior correspondent

[email protected]


Conair Group, 724-584-5500, www.conairgroup.comDynisco Instruments, 508-541-9400, www.dynisco.comEurotherm by Schneider Electric, 703-724-7300, www.eurotherm.comHusky Injection Molding Systems Ltd., 905-951-5000, www.husky.coIQMS, 805-227-1122, www.iqms.comKistler Instrument Corp., 248-668-6900, www.kistler.comPriamus System Technologies LLC, 877-774-2687, www.priamus.comRJG Inc., 231-947-3111, www.rjginc.omSyscon-PlantStar, 574-232-3900, www.plantstar.orgUniversal Dynamics Inc., 703-490-7000, http://unadyn.piovan.com