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Mitsubishi Electric has supplied a Q03 PLC for use in a data-logging system developed especially for precision mixing of polyurethane compounds.

CTM Equipment in Barnsley specialises in building machines for mixing polyurethane foam, elastomer and epoxy resins.

It exports its systems all around the world and supports the machines throughout their working lives.

The company’s data-logging project started when a client in the offshore industry needed help with mixing very exact recipes to ensure the mechanical properties of insulating foam.

Engineer Chris Sykes, who led the development project at CTM, explains: ‘Our client makes bespoke pipe lagging for very demanding applications.

‘It makes insulating jackets for pipework on offshore production platforms.

‘An exact mould of each length of pipe is taken and used to cast a made to measure jacket that covers all the bends, flanges, joints and valves.

‘For the jacket to work properly it must expand and contract with temperature at exactly the same rate as its host pipework.

‘This is achieved by individually blending each polyurethane mixture to an exact recipe.

‘Our control system maintains process accuracy to within one per cent and the data-logging function stores every parameter of every mix.

‘We can interrogate it in real-time from our facility in Yorkshire without having to fly off site.

‘It also has other functions such as safety and report preparation,’ he added.

Originally, Sykes thought he would have to use a Scada (supervisory control and data acquisition) system to achieve all of the required functionality.

He was worried that the PC at the heart of such a system would not be robust enough for the journey to site or for use in the developing nations where many CTM machines operate.

However, a conversation with Mitsubishi Electric’s Jeremy Shinton shifted the concept to the use of a single high-performance PLC (programmable logic controller).

‘We could achieve the desired functionality with a Q03 PLC,’ said Shinton.

‘This unit has dual CPUs and twin racks onto which specialist modules fit to define a bespoke system for any application,’ he added.

The key module for CTM was the data logger, which is connected via Profibus to several drives flowmeters, temperature gauges and pressure monitors so that it is constantly collecting and storing all process data.

The PLC also connects to an Ethernet hub and onto two Mitsubishi E-series HMIs (human – machine interfaces), one at the mixing head, the other 20m away at the casting station.

Operators standing at either of the two workstations can monitor – and to some extent control – the machine’s operation.

Ethernet is also used to connect the data logger with a GPRS so that it can access the mobile phone network and communicate with CTM engineers back in Barnsley.

This real-time communication is further enhanced by the fact that the Q03 PLC is internet enabled, so can be interrogated and reset from 1,000 miles away.

‘We now have the capability to produce detailed manufacturing process reports, aiding quality control, improving fault finding response time and maintenance scheduling, which we believe will be of great benefit to managerial decision making,’ said Sykes.

Mitsubishi Electric Automation Systems

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