Press automation – fast, synchronized and safe

Press manufacturer Helmerding focuses on high-speed plants with integrated automation from the coiler to the press, and to the downstream I/O devices – all using automation technology from Siemens.
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Challenge

Problem and potential

Operators of press plants around the world are under pressure; staying competitive means reducing cycle times and managing ever more complex tasks by increasingly interlinking working steps.

The new management team that took charge of Helmerding hiw Maschinen GmbH, in Bad Oeynhausen, Germany, in 2016 quickly saw the need to fulfill these requirements and restructured this traditional company accordingly – with automation solutions for its established presses and renewed focus on the fully automated integration of upstream and downstream processes.

Press specialist Helmerding focuses on high-speed plants with integrated automation from the coiler to the press, and to the downstream I/O devices. A key to enabling shorter cycle times is real-time motion control using SIMOTION controllers and a consistent, seamless automation solution with a powerful SIMATIC S7-1500 CPU. For the first time now, a Helmerding transfer system was automated in this way, implementing a complete C-frame press with coiler and conveyor system using Siemens controls and drives.

“Even in high-wage countries like Germany, a surprising number of people are still needed around the presses to move the various components back and forth,” says Jakob Dirksen, managing partner of Helmerding, summarizing the challenge that many of his customers face. The pressure to streamline operations is resulting in growing demand for automation solutions. This also applies to the integration of processes downstream of, between, and upstream of the presses. Many companies have realized they can give their value chain a decisive boost if they use their press plants not only to stamp parts; there are also benefits, for example, in automatically interlinking their plants. “The advantage is that the end customer has just one part number and one supplier. This allows our customers to secure their market shares in the face of growing competition,” adds Dirksen.

Solution

A range of benefits

The press manufacturer is so impressed by Siemens’ portfolio that it is using the company’s products on two projects.

Safety integrated

As a pilot project, the developers at Helmerding implemented a transfer system in which conventional PLCs were replaced by a SIMOTION D controller. This resulted in a sharp rise in process speed. “We were previously experiencing 60 to 70 cycles, and are now running with up to 100. The drives are braking much quicker and everything that required more complex programming is now operation in isochronous mode,” says Jan Reimler, responsible for integrating Simotion at Helmerding. In addition, the former SIMATIC S7-300 controller was replaced by a SIMATIC S7-1512F controller that, alongside general automation tasks, is also responsible for safety functions without the need for complex interfaces.

When engineering the plant via TIA Portal, the specialists at Helmerding saved time and money by using blocks from the Simatic press safety library. “This offers the added benefit that the technology objects are already certified through Siemens by the trade association,” says Jörg Stateczny, Head of E-Manufacturing at Helmerding. “If I develop my own safety controller, I need to have it externally tested, which involves cost, time, and of course a risk that it may turn out to be faulty.” The SIMOTION solution also offers end customers key benefits, as Stateczny notes: “Our customers are very happy with the outcome, particularly with special applications such as the VIBX package (VIBration eXtinction). Considering the weights that are moved around at high speed in our processes, this method of vibration compensation is significant for part production and availability.”

Completely integrated solution
On another project, the 250 t KDH 200 C-frame press, Helmerding relies on a complete Siemens solution – from the control system to the frequency-controlled drive to the associated technology objects. This solution also uses SIMATIC S7-1517F as its main controller, which, for example, can control the slide adjustment through a SINAMICS G120 frequency inverter, thus allowing the required precision to be easily achieved down to the hundredths. In addition, a SIMATIC S7-1512F controller controls the coiler and conveyor system integrated in the plant.

For the engineering work, the developers again used tried-and-tested expertise: the technology objects already available on TIA Portal, in this case the functions of the SIMATIC SimaPress application, only needed to be adjusted to match the specific requirements of the press. As a result, the KDH 200 with a brake-coupling combination now features all the functions of a servo press, such as automatic stroke adjustment, fully automated slide adjustment, a complete safety package, and options to connect to upstream and downstream processes via PROFINET.

The control options available when using SIMOTION are enormous.
Jörg Stateczny, Head of E-Manufacturing at Helmerding
Benefits

A look to the future

At Helmerding, this integrated solution with a cycle time of 1 ms is considered the way forward – especially with regard to plant interoperability.

“Put briefly, the data transfer speed must not influence the cycle time of the overall plant, which is often the case when using solutions that feature various interfaces. This is hugely important in the face of growing competition and with speeds of several strokes per second,” says Dirksen. Stateczny summarizes the situation: “The control options available when using SIMOTION are enormous. We are extremely interested in using them to develop comprehensive automation solutions relating to all aspects of our presses for our customers; after all, there is huge demand in this field.”

References

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