Can Intelligent Press & Automation Controls Improve Operations? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

Intelligent press and automation controls give manufacturers a real-time window into their production process to create a safe, productive, and efficient integrated stamping operation. These customizable controls will become increasingly important with growth in automation and robotics, IOT connectivity, and shop floor data collection.

Intelligent press and automation controls can address press production system requirements to:

  • Reduce changeover time by recalling previously-stored job settings
  • Monitor and protect presses and dies and reduce scrap
  • Reduce downtime with intelligent diagnostics
  • Integrate auxiliary equipment where possible
  • Offer on-screen help for setup of functions
  • Identify productivity issues via shop floor data collection
  • Allow additional functionality as production demands change or increase

Here are five questions to ask yourself about how these controls can help improve your overall pressroom operations.

1. Are your current controls engineered for your specific press applications?

Pressroom operations vary from manually-fed presses for short runs to large-scale, highly-automated and integrated systems with multiple presses and other machines for large-scale production. An intelligent press and automation controls system will maximize the ability of multiple components working together, which results in greater functionality than individual subsystems working independently.

An engineered solution for intelligent press and automation controls should include considerations such as:

  • The preferred physical layout on your shop floor for equipment and operation controls.
  • Unique requirements from having multiple suppliers in a project.
  • Specific company standards that must be followed for a project.
  • Special sequencing requirements or modes for your processes.
  • Support available during and after startup.

A collaborative approach with a seasoned press control and automation solutions provider can identify solutions for specific issues and unique opportunities.

2. Are your current controls helping you meet OSHA and other compliance requirements?

Intelligent press controls can deliver control reliability via cross-checked, dual micro-processor systems and diagnostic coverage of the safety-related parts of the control system, complying with OSHA, ANSI, and CSA requirements. This includes OSHA 1910.217 for the design and construction of part revolution mechanical power press controls, specifying “control reliability,” which cannot be achieved with a simple single PLC.

These controls are easily accessed via an operator control panel, allowing operators to more easily monitor current running status, press speed, stopping time, and comprehensive error diagnostics. These intelligent controls not only ensure safety and compliance, they give operators a “window” into the production process to identify problems in the press line or other issues inhibiting production.

3. Would your press operations benefit from integrated controls for your specific process and equipment?

The potential benefits of control integration are extensive. Do your pressroom operations include the following?

  • A central HMI that allows for viewing of the complete system status — including transfers feeds and other press line equipment.
  • A standardized interface that reduces operator training requirements.
  • Control of who can access critical parameters and machine functions, either by individuals or job classification.

Press size can vary greatly, as can subsystems and feeds, robotics, and transfers. Controls specifically engineered for press applications have been designed and tested to work in these complex and diverse configurations.

4. How much time does your staff spend on diagnosing press issues and damage from human error?

Intelligent controls centralize and prioritize the reporting of events, status and other critical information. This provides comprehensive and easy-to-understand advanced diagnostics, which allow personnel to quickly and accurately identify the cause of the problem.

Other system benefits include:

  • Integrated die protection to prevent crashes before they occur.
  • Tonnage monitoring for machine protection and setup consistency.
  • Programmable limit switch for automation and sequencing.
  • Automatic setup of counterbalance, shut height, and other systems.
  • Easy to access on-screen displays.
  • Modular designed components so that parts can be easily swapped out in the event of failure without rewiring or reprogramming.

For more difficult cases, the availability of knowledgeable and experienced support from your controls partner should be a key consideration.

5. Do your controls give you the ability to expand your press capability and easily integrate automation?

Your Servo feed integration may be as simple as mode interlocks and a programmable limit switch signaling the start of a feed progression. But transfers and robotics can be more complex to integrate.

Some metalforming processes may require additional integration. The press control may need to send information such as feed length, speed, and acceleration on a per-job basis. Mode interlocks, request-to-run, ready-to-run, stroking-enabled, and ramp-to-speed may be necessary for proper integration of more complex systems. Intelligent press controls provide fieldbus protocols that can be used to link the transfer or other auxiliary equipment and the press control for enhanced diagnostics and seamless job recall.

This integration capability can open the door to increased automation and press system expansion. Consider an application where 100 percent inspection of certain critical part features is required. For dies designed with the proper integration capabilities, rather than using a separate process for part inspection, the use of in-die sensor-based measurement along with part tracking for automatic rejection of non-compliant parts can help meet the contract specification in a cost-effective way.

Controls specifically engineered for stamping processes have been built and tested for common integration and automation challenges faced by metal stampers – reducing implementation effort and time. A controls system with modular design and distributed processing also allows additional modules to be easily added.

Intelligent press and automation control products can be custom engineered with practically unlimited expansion capabilities.

Servo feeds, transfers, robotics, scrap removal systems, and other quick automation solutions enable metalformers to meet ever-increasing production demands. With the growth in automation and robotics across every sector of the metalforming industry, and with the advent of more easily implemented shop floor data collection technologies, it is now possible to have a real-time window into your unique production system.

Download this white paper to learn how intelligent controls can help you maximize efficiency, reduce downtime, ensure proper preventative maintenance, and improve your bottom line.

If you're looking to take the next step, contact us to discuss how we can engineer a highly configurable solution for you that improves press productivity, safety, and efficiency.