Canadian Plastics

Controls For Dummies

By Mark Stephen, Managing Editor   

"D ying is easy, comedy is hard," were supposedly the final words of a famous 19th century British comedian.

“Dying is easy, comedy is hard,” were supposedly the final words of a famous 19th century British comedian.

Updated to reflect the concerns of today’s plastics processors, he might have said, “Times are hard, controls should be easy.”

With competition on the rise, and important markets in decline, manufacturers definitely don’t want difficult control systems adding to their troubles. Fortunately, suppliers continue to introduce more user-friendly control equipment — that can easily be retrofitted — as well as software with simplified and easy-to-integrate processes.



One way of simplifying controls is through greater integration with the Microsoft Data platform. “Customers want to be able to enter data into a spreadsheet and seamlessly download it into the control system,” said Steve Wyatt, an application specialist at Omron Canada Inc. “They also want to be able to upload data from the system and collect data for production, alarms, and quality control in a Microsoft environment, such as Excel or Access.” Omron’s SPMA system (single point multiple access) allows for a single Ethernet or serial connection to the PLC/HMI/temperature control, providing access to all machine data, Wyatt continued.

The heart of the control system for plastics machinery is the temperature controller, and Omron has now made it simpler for workers to access all-important temperature control data from a single information source. “With Omron’s DeviceNet or PLC I/O cards, the temperature data is now in the PLC without any programming,” Wyatt said. “The Omron CS/CJ PLC family has been improved to support more protocols for communication to their own and third party devices, bringing all machine variables into a single location.”

The traditional temperature controller is a DIN size panel mount unit that closes the loop containing the sensor input, PID chip, local display, and heater output with optional communications modules of special protocols. Omron’s E5ZN and EJ1 modular series temperature controllers are DIN rail mounts that go in the back of the panel, saving panel space, labour for wiring, and the cost of a display on every loop, or zone. Also, the temperature loop is closed locally in the units and the data is communicated via DeviceNet, allowing the temperature control loop to be independent of the communication and operate even when the PLC/HMI are in service or turned off. “The EJ1 benefits from a new output SSR stage called the G3ZA, which can adjust output power in milliseconds,” Wyatt said.

Another Omron development relates to the coupling of the temperature control onto DeviceNet. “We offer screwless flat cables that can be snapped in and connected in seconds, and which can be used with the DeviceNet cable network,” Wyatt said. “Not only does this save the installer thousands of dollars in retrofit costs, but they’re much simpler to use. Instead of having to purchase and maintain a series of components, there’s only one device necessary.”

Additionally, most of Omron’s temperature controllers have access to the auto-tune temperature control program. “With the auto-tune system, an operator simply switches on a machine, presses a button, and all of the important parameters will be automatically set and maintained,” Wyatt explained.


Equally important to a processor’s control system is the HMI, a window into the PLC memory map, where all of the real-time machine variables exist. “The HMI has been chosen by the industry as the single point where information goes,” Wyatt explained. “Omron wanted to make the HMI as user-friendly as a bank machine, which everyone understands how to use. It’s a simple point but it makes a big difference. The goal has been to adjust the controls to suit the operators, and not the other way around, because if the screen doesn’t look like something the operators are used to, they may reject it.” Omron’s NS series touchscreens can be programmed to look virtually any way the operator chooses. Wyatt said. Additionally, improved TFT screens and the company’s new Hi Brite adjustable backlights allow for easier visibility. “The NS touchscreen family also supports high-end features such as trend graphs, datalogging in CSV (comma separated variable for Excel), and recipes,” Wyatt said.

Omron controls are also simple to retrofit with older machinery, Wyatt continued. “The DIN rail temperature controllers have a smaller footprint and can be installed quickly,” he said. “Also, the Omron PLC is very easy to interface with third party equipment because of its communications and I/O options.” The company also offers a PLC/HMI combo known as the Visual Hybrid Controller, Wyatt continued, which reduces footprint, as well as cost and installation time. “Many retrofitters installing this equipment have reported retrofitting the entire control system in as little as one day,” he said.


Rockwell Automation recently expanded the platform capabilities of its FactoryTalk Integrated Production and Performance Suite to support a new generation of industry-specific applications for the automotive, packaging, and pharmaceutical industries. According to the company, the platform now includes configuration tools and capabilities designed to help manufacturers reduce deployment costs and time.

The FactoryTalk platform is intended to leverage a service-oriented architecture for cost-effective, flexible, plant-wide integration to legacy systems. According to Darren Riley, market development manager for Software and Applications, FactoryTalk’s object-oriented design makes it easier to build and modify applications, as well as roll them out across multiple sites in a consistent form, ultimately helping to establish best practices for manufacturing operations and regulatory requirements in discrete, hybrid and process industries.

The industry-specific applications include a new workflow engine that allows a business process management approach to implementing operational improvements by introducing an agile and flexible capacity for managing change. “For example, a contract manufacturer can manage workflow changes associated with cross-organizational customer order procedures,” Riley said. “Reconfigured manual or automated execution processes are then reflected within the current instance of the application.”

In addition, the FactoryTalk industry applications incorporate a new user interface into the presentation layer to provide task-based, operator-workflow views, making it simpler to direct and shape what the operator is performing on the shop floor. “For many manufacturers, developing, implementing, and monitoring customized production execution software can be difficult to cost justify and maintain,” Riley explained. “Our platform-based applications leverage reusable vertical libraries of capabilities and activities to provide manufacturers with configurable, off-the-shelf software. Solutions based on industry best practices for operational and enterprise process workflow not only help reduce total cost of ownership and deployment times, they also support and enable strategic enterprise initiatives, such as lean manufacturing, real-time operations and asset performance management.”

Rockwell’s FactoryTalk Pharma Suite, the first of the series to be launched, comes as a pre-validated software package comprised of standardized weigh-and-dispense workflow. It includes a set of user interfaces, work order management, work-in-process tracking, and inventory management. While it can be used as a stand-alone system, Riley said, FactoryTalk Pharma Suite is designed with predefined interface scenarios for simplified integration with enterprise resource planning and other business systems, such as laboratory information management systems.

In addition to weigh and dispense features, future versions of FactoryTalk Pharma Suite will include such activities as electronic batch
recording, corrective action/preventive action management, scheduling integration and comprehensive validation documentation, Riley continued. Future releases on the FactoryTalk platform also will include industry-specific applications for food, beverage and automotive manufacturers, as well as key production execution and performance management features for faster time-to-value and mobilization across discrete, hybrid and process industries.


Siemens Energy & Automation, Inc. recently introduced two new Simatic power management software solutions designed to combine energy savings with improved user-friendliness. Simatic WinCC Powerrate and Simatic PCS 7 Powerrate are additions to the Simatic WinCC visualization family and Simatic PCS 7 control family as premium add-ons.

According to Siemens, both Powerrate solutions provide a uniform power management solution that enable users to locate potential savings by examining the power behavior of different operating units and obtaining information on the plant status. By consolidating energy usage data into a single software solution, users are said to get a comprehensive yet simplified view of information on energy consumption.

Additionally, the Powerrate solutions are said to help minimize training costs by providing operators with a familiar system environment for comprehensive data management and visualization. Individual functions, such as measured value acquisition and processing, cost centre management, and load management are implemented via ready-made S7 modules, faceplates and Excel macros.

Siemens is also offering new faceplates for integration of the PAC 3200 power monitoring device into Simatic PCS 7 systems as a part of the device list, including maintenance view to maximize the pre-engineered solutions for power monitoring.

The company is also expanding its Tiastar Smart Motor Control Centre (MCC) product offering to provide simpler integration of this line into customer sites with competitive control systems. According to Siemens, the gateway solutions are factory installed and programmed in a 12-inch MCC bucket. Additionally, the company has developed a series of PLC card solutions, which enable easy integration of the Smart MCC to run Profibus-DP through Rockwell or Modicon PLCs. Both solutions have been tested on the full suite of Smart Components in the Tiastar Smart MCC. Tiastar Smart MCCs are intended to deliver detailed diagnostics and control by communicating with the starter units via PLC/DCS, enabling the overload relays of the starters, linked to the PLCs, to deliver detailed motor management data at improved speeds.



Omron Canada Inc. (Toronto);;416-286-6465

Rockwell Automation Inc. (Milwaukee, Wis.);; 414-382-2000

Siemens (Alpharetta, Ga.);; 800-964-4114


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