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Improving plant connectivity with digital automation

21st February 2013


As manufacturers seek more powerful automation and production systems, suppliers are developing new information architectures to improve connectivity between production equipment and the rest of the business enterprise. Sean Ottewell outlines the latest developments.

Rockwell Automation has introduced the latest version of its Integrated Architecture production control and information system with more than 30 new capabilities for end users and machine builders.

Featuring the company's Automation Stratix family, advanced process control and safety functionality, plus three new Logix programmable automation controllers (PACs) for midrange machine builders and end users alike, this expansion is designed to help improve integration and performance within the manufacturing and IT infrastructure (Fig.1).

The Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture is a production control and information system allowed by fully integrated control, network, visualisation and information technologies. The Integrated Architecture platform addresses a full range of control and information needs for discrete, process, batch, motion, drive and safety applications, and addresses enterprise performance information needs including quality and compliance, production management and asset management.

"We've been uniquely successful in integrating control and information system functionality to reduce complexity and costs while providing innovative system features that help improve productivity and time to market," said Steve Eisenbrown, senior vice president.

In terms of new advanced process control (APC) features, these include runtime partial import/export functionality, APC function blocks and controller online change logging.

Runtime partial import functionality helps reduce downtime risks and improve productivity during deployment and maintenance operations, allowing the addition of new programs, routines and add-on instructions, as well as replacement of existing programs and routines.

New APC function blocks allow for long, dead-time processes and provide simpler multivariable control with automatic tuning built in. The controller online change-logging feature allows users to be notified when application changes are made. Regulated industries benefit from tighter control and evidence of validation for industry certifications. Especially for the process industries, there are also new Allen Bradley ControlLogix L65 PACs with increased memory capacity.

These PACS also offer a suite of ten specific metal-forming instructions certified by German-based Berufsgenossenschaften as compliant with leading safety standards. These instructions - associated with clutch/brake, control and safety, valve control, and cam and crankshaft monitoring - improve ease of use, simplify diagnostics and streamline maintenance to canning applications and other metal-forming press-control and safety applications. The new GuardLogix L63S PAC is also available. Because GuardLogix controllers are designed to help perform safety and standard functions, the amount of time required for programming, validation and testing is reduced. Using the same controller for both safety and standard control also helps reduce wiring costs.

Rockwell is also focusing on new information capabilities with its new releases. Together with Cisco, the company has jointly-developed a line of managed switches with attributes that it says will add value to both IT and automation control professionals. Other product lines in the portfolio include Embedded Technology, as well as lines of fixed managed and unmanaged switches, and physical media. The entire portfolio uses standard, unmodified Ethernet and is optimised for use in EtherNet/IP applications and the Integrated Architecture system, while the Cisco operating system, user environment and feature set is exclusive to the Stratix8000 line.

Machine builders are also considered as the CompactLogix L23 PACs are designed to provide the capabilities of the Integrated Architecture system in a small compact package.

Offering three I/O and communication configurations to help meet machine builder needs, the new controllers can be expanded using Allen-Bradley1769 Compact I/O. Also available with this release is multilingual project documentation with language switching. Aimed at users with the same applications running at international locations, the improvement helps reduce engineering costs by allowing customers to globally deploy a single project file with user documentation in multiple languages.

"These Integrated Architecture system improvements are a direct response to manufacturers who seek a new generation of more powerful automation and production systems to automate and standardise their work processes more effectively," said Craig Resnick, research director, ARC Advisory Group.

"Manufacturing organisations are becoming increasingly dependent upon the availability of real-time information from all aspects of their production operations. Thus, it is incumbent upon manufacturers today to deploy information architectures in the production environment that facilitates transparent connectivity between production equipment and all aspects of their enterprise."

Currently being shipped, these new releases are aimed at machine builders, plus end-users in food and beverages, life sciences, and other industries that rely on manufacturing information from an integrated process control environment.

A demanding start-up

Following on from its success at the Svilosa pulp mill in Bulgaria (Fig.2), Emerson Process Management has helped Celulosa Arauco strengthen its world class pulp supply capability by digitally integrating the world's largest 'smart' pulping mill built by the industry leader at Nueva Aldea in central Chile.

Digital automation allows mill personnel to readily access more data, allowing for easier calibration and greater mill-wide visibility, efficiency, and management.

Combining its expertise and PlantWeb architecture, Emerson digitally automated the entire Smart Mill, resulting in an unusually fast start-up while meeting Arauco's critical goals of environmental protection and personnel safety, and quality production.

"We automated the whole plant from the moment we feed the logs into the chipper until a bale of pulp emerges at the end," said Alejandro Erazo, distributed control systems project engineer for Arauco. "Our objective was to use the most modern technology in the market and use it in the best way possible, to make each part of the project easier, from engineering to configuration to start-up of the plant.

"The entire plant was optimised from wood feed at the front end to pulp shipment at the back end which substantially reduces costs and start-up times. The calibration time of each instrument was reduced by one-third and configuring motor control centres for 30 motors now takes half a day or so rather than two weeks to a month as was the case without intelligent motor controls. Valve configuration time has also been substantially reduced. On previous projects we typically spent half a day trying to move the valve to the chosen setpoint. Today all we have to do is push a button and it self-calibrates," he added.

"Despite the huge scope of this project, it was completed on time largely due to the excellent support we received from Emerson," said Gunars Luks Guzman, mill manager of the Nueva Aldea mill. "We were successful in achieving all of our objectives. The plant is designed to turn out 856000 tons of Kraft pulp a year. In only six months after start-up, we had reached 93.8 per cent of that target, on a monthly basis, and have since ramped up to full production according to plan."

Celulosa Arauco is one of the world's largest forestry companies measured by plantation area and production of Kraft wood pulp and sawn timber and wood panels. The pulp mill construction project represents an approximate US$850 million capital investment (Fig.3).

Emerson automation and service experts from Argentina and Chile worked with Celulosa Arauco to provide a completely integrated Smart Mill solution built around PlantWeb digital architecture, including DeltaV systems and FOUNDATION fieldbus networking. Emerson wrote a Functional Description Specification (FDS) for managing the automation of the project. Arauco delivered the FDS to vendors who returned their digital configuration data for entry into the DeltaV digital automation system. This proved valuable in efficiently integrating the work of a number of suppliers.

Training, simulation, start-up and commissioning were managed through Emerson and Arauco teamwork.Pre-start-up off-line testing using complete high fidelity simulation of the operating pulp mill by the DeltaV system enabled validation of operations and configuration across all vendor equipment, avoiding trouble at start-up.

Digital technology enabled centralised access to all mill data, while wireless networks enabled technicians to roam the mill doing local testing, all contributing to flexibility and reduction in commissioning time.

"Celulosa Arauco has taken advantage of the latest digital technology to achieve the highest operating performance mill with the best possible environmental performance, safety and throughput," said Leo Rodriquez, president of Emerson Latin America. "The success of this project demonstrates that building your facility with digital automation architecture will deliver unprecedented project benefits including lower risk, shorter project cycle, and lower total installed cost plus provide a platform for benchmark setting operational performance," he concluded.







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