Retrofit of Plating Line

Kelsey HillCase Studies

Quantum Design performs a retrofit for a plating line upgrading PLCs and HMIs.

What is the significance of the project?

The PLC5 controls and HMI were discontinued by Rockwell Automation in 2017, making it risky to continue running lines using those controls.  Replacement parts are no longer readily available for the PLC5; customers must resort to Ebay and similar sites to search for replacement parts.  If something were to go down, it could take days, weeks or months to resolve losing precious production time and countless dollars.  Some parts may never be available which would lead to a time-crunching upgrade that many companies can’t afford.

Relevant Industries

  • Any Manufacturing

Engineering Specialties Utilized

  • Retrofits/Upgrades

Technologies Utilized

  • Rockwell Studio 5000
  • Rockwell FactoryTalk View ME
  • Ethernet

Details of Project

A local plating manufacturing facility near Rockford, Illinois who specializes in Zinc based coatings primarily serving the automotive industry was looking for a Systems Integrator to perform a retrofit on one of the plating lines in their plant.  The plating line is a barrel electro plating line that plates zinc nickel finish fasteners consisting of 39 tanks; some plating tanks and some cleaning tanks. There are two hoists in the system that work together to move the barrels with the parts to and from the preprogrammed tanks.

The PLC on the line was an older technology and recently made obsolete. The goal in this retrofit was to eliminate three PLC’s used to control the plating line and the barrel rotation motors. The HMI in the system was also obsolete and not available for replacement.  The plant was having difficulty finding spare parts as they are not readily available for the PLC5 and the risk of keeping the line outdated was growing daily.

Quantum Design was approached to complete the upgrade as this plant had worked with Quantum several times in the past.  Having seen these types of outdated systems before, Quantum knew the only option was a full retrofit on the existing line upgrading the PLCs and HMIs.

The plating company had a few other requests in addition to the retrofit; better control on some of the barrel rotation motors and better hoist location feedback.  To address the barrel rotation motors, Quantum moved them on to a VFD. To increase the hoist location feedback, two lasers were added to the system for position feedback, one for each hoist.

Next Quantum replaced the three existing PLC’s with a single Rockwell Compactlogix PLC. The obsoleted HMI was replaced with a new Rockwell Panelview Plus 7 Performance color HMI.  Quantum eliminated the old Remote I/O connection between the PLC and the HMI and put in an Ethernet Network for the HMI to communicate with the new PLC as well as the new lasers and VFD. Finally, Quantum provided the VFD packaged in a new Fiberglas enclosure with main a disconnect ready to be mounted and wired to the existing motors. The VFD communicates with the PLC via Ethernet.

There are a total of 36-barrel rotation motors on the line, 29 of those motors were put on the VFD with individual overcurrent protection on each motor. Quantum also installed a Sine Wave Filter on the output of the VFD to correct the wave shaping to not damage any of the 29-barrel rotation motors being driven from the VFD. Using the VFD allows the operator to set the speed the motors run at to maximize the rotation for better plating.

The Leuze position feedback lasers were installed which communicate with the PLC via Ethernet. The use of the lasers allows the customer to have constant feedback of the position of the hoists. This is better than the limit switch method as there is no lag time in the position monitoring and the location of the hoists is always known. The tank positions are configurable from the new HMI so maintenance can fine tune them anytime there is a need to.

The largest benefit to this project is the primary control components; PLC, HMI, VFD, and Lasers are all new and currently available and supported, and result in much less frequent breakdowns. The older system would have taken quite a bit of time to address should there be a catastrophic failure and frequent breakdowns were taking place. The upgrades Quantum Design completed has made the system more operable and reliable.  In addition, Quantum offers after-market support that the customer finds valuable, especially having worked with Quantum in the past.  Quantum looks forward to supporting this plating line for years to come.