The integration between converting and packaging is under controll!

A combined research project between Fabio Perini S.p.A. and Casmatic S.p.A.'s R&D departments has led to the creation of CONTROLL: a system of control, supervision and remote management of the entire converting process.


Up till today, suppliers of converting machinery have dedicated all their project resources to the conception of machines featuring improved performances. These machines form part of a production line in which every element can and must function at its best.

Normally, it is the responsibility of operators of a given line to have a global vision of all machines in their ensemble and make the proper choices that allow them to interact in the best way possible. This non-integrated vision of the line is a direct consequence of the fact that very often the machines comprising a converting line are supplied by different manufacturers.

Typically, companies supplying the converting side do not also supply the packaging section or the conveyor belts. This entails possible problems in the interaction between machines having different basic architecture. Furthermore, up until recently, it was the actual customer who considered machine integration an unnecessary extra. But the advent of fieldbus networks technology, the consolidation of corporate communication networks and the growing attention placed on integration and globalization, have favored both the technological conditions necessary for the creation of an integrated system as well as the demand for one on behalf of the market. Fabio Perini and Casmatic have completed a research project that has brought to the creation of ContROLL, a system of control, supervision and remote management of the Perini/Casmatic converting and packaging lines and the machines comprising them.

BASICALLY, WE CAN SAY THAT CONTROLL IS DIVIDED INTO 3 PERFECTLY INTEGRATED BUT SEPARATE SYSTEMS that offer 3 different types of performances. One of control (Harmonizing System) which has the purpose of harmonizing and optimizing line operation, controlling optimal machine speed in real time. One of supervision (supervision System) for the acquisition of process data from the various machine to calculate efficiency, availability, statistics and supply a global vision of the line. One of remote management (Teleservice System) which, through an innovative network and remote access architecture based on emerging internet technologies, allows a quick and capillary control of all programmable units present on the line by the Customer Service departments of Fabio Fermi and Casmatic. But let us analyze in detail each of the three systems.

THE HARMONIZING SYSTEM. This is a system that controls all those difficult choices aimed at optimizing the production line and maximizing its productivity.

Operational choices that in a converting line, where there is an articulated ensemble of interconnected machines, are concretized in the choice of individual machine speed settings. Normally, this task is entrusted to the operators who, based on their experience and good sense, assign optimal speeds to the machines in order to best balance production flows. The purpose is to obtain the highest possible continuous production flow, compatible with the speed limitations of all the machines concerned. This procedure is further complicated by the fact that machine speeds are almost always expressed in different ways, typical of the converting stage to which they belong. Therefore, conversion from one unit of measurement to another is necessary in order to be able to compare the different machine speeds. In the same way, re-calculation of optimal speeds becomes necessary every time production flow between any two machines is modified, as, for example, in the case of machine stoppage, format change, change in the storage level of the accumulator. To carry out all these operations, expert and attentive operators are required at all shifts, and this condition is not always very easily attained. Often, the machines work intermittently and, for example, production flows are not re-balanced on alternative stages in the case of interruptions during a chosen production stage. This structural impasse in tissue converting systems is overcome thanks to the Harmonizing System which carries out the tasks of this theoretical ensemble of expert and vigil operators and becomes an automatic, overall optimization system. The creation of this system was made possible by two factors: the advent of fieldbus networks which allow a simple integration of the various machines with the centralized control system and, above all, the creation of a new management logic based on a control theory developed and patented by Perini.

Independently of the complexity of the system, this control theory can harmonize the work of all machines involved and obtain the maximum production possible. The system collects all relevant information and immediately reacts to any variation, calculating and communicating the most appropriate optimal speed for the changed conditions. The advantages that can be obtained with the harmonizing system are two and are both very important. First of all, it allows continuous operation of all the machines comprising the line. Since these are not subject to useless starts and stops, they undergo less wear of mechanical parts and less stress of electric actuators, therefore, present greater tolerance to breaks and longer life. Furthermore, the production line is dynamically controlled so as to always obtain the maximum production flow possible, compatible with the limits and physical state of the various machines, exploiting to the fullest the storage capacity of the accumulator and, if necessary, re-distributing the flow. To complete the Harmonizing System which interacts with the line, actively modifying performance to the best possible level is the Supervision System. This system continually monitors process data and can, among other things, verify and quantify the efficacy of the control logic of the Harmonizing System.

THE SUPERVISION SYSTEM. Based on well-known and universally accepted software platforms, it manages and monitors an entire production system. In particular, it supplies the information necessary to detect possible inefficiencies and verify the overall productivity of the system.

The main functions of the Supervision System are:

SYSTEM SYNOPTIC: this function is intended for the line supervisor and operators who, from a central location, can detect possible alarm situations and monitor in real time the parameters that control the correct functioning of the single units. Within the system synoptic, two other functions are present:

LINE SYNOPTIC: reports the layout of the entire system, the operational status of all the units present, supplies information on production in course (e.g., code number, product) in synthetic format.

MACHINE SYNOPTIC: reports the single machine section in greater detail with respect to the line synoptic, and all elements indispensable for analyzing and controlling modes of operation.

Alarms and machine status management: in this section are monitored all alarms that can intervene in a system. Alarms currently present are highlighted and memorized in a databank to allow their statistical processing.

PRODUCTION MANAGEMENT: this function allows to manage and plan production as it memorizes product data and calculates line efficiency. It is directed to production supervisors because it supplies elements useful in evaluating line operation (how the line has produced) and keeps product data (what and how much it has produced).

MAINTENANCE MANAGEMENT: this function controls any maintenance required by the system and is thus directed to the relative department. In particular, it generates calls for periodic interventions requested on the single parts and is completely patterned by the user. The system supervises all defined interventions and generates intervention calls as established deadlines are approaching (or if expected limits are exceeded). When a new production is activated, it highlights the objects that must be reconditioned and/or that would exceed maximum allowable limits during the next n. hours. Warnings are generated automatically and transmitted to the maintenance department through e-mail. The system supplies the complete calendar of all maintenance work to be done so as to optimize interventions and reduce machine downtimes to a minimum.

THE TELESERVICE SYSTEM. This system is born from the need for a quick, efficient and economic alternative to the traditional technical assistance service supplied by machine manufacturers. In the past, efforts to offer efficient teleservice have had to tackle with the inadequacy of the technological means available. Just a few years ago, most programmable logic controls (PLC), axes controllers and human-machine interfaces present on converting line machines typical addressees of teleservice interventions - had scarce or undependable means of communication, even with their respective programming devices. Only recently, with the advent of fieldbus networks, have things started to change. Still today, teleservice systems offer limited solutions, appropriate only if referred to particular contexts of intervention. Where a very limited number of programmable units (2 or 3) must be remote-controlled, even if these are of different typologies, the so-called point-to-point solution is adopted, for example. In this technique, every unit is connected to a specific modem. In another example, a very high number of programmable units must be remote-controlled, but they all of the same nature (typically PLCs). Here, we can successfully adopt the solution of having one PC endowed with a modem and a remote control program (for example, PCAnywhere), connected to the units through a fieldbus network. But today Fabio Perini and Casmatic have developed a newly conceived teleservice system that allows complete control of all programmable units present on the line. The architecture of this system is comprised of an ethernet TCP/IP network to which are connected all programmable units (PLC, Robox, PC, Webcam, ...) present on the line, and of a centralized remote access device. The latter, through high speed ISDN communication lines, allows the Fabio Perini and Casmatic Customer Service Departments to connect themselves, even simultaneously, to the network and thus access in direct transparency to all the units connected. Besides the classical remote control of all programmable units typical of traditional teleservice systems, the adoption of technologies based on the internet has allowed to offer a series of additional services. These increase the degree and means of interaction between remote user and system, and have filled the gap that existed in terms of efficacy and applicability between a teleservice intervention and a direct service one. For example, the use of webcams allows the remote user to visibly examine the machines and their operation, to better understand the nature of the problem that might exist and therefore, to make the most appropriate decisions. Another example of Internet technology applied to this remote assistance system is the e-mail service. Programmable units present on the line, such as latest-generation PLCs, Robox and PCs, can decide, according to preset logic, to send warning e-mails to the Customer Service Departments of Fabio Perini and Casmatic through temporary connection of the remote access device to the Internet. These can also be sent to the customer's Service Department through direct connection with the company's commercial network. This allows authorized departments to utilize the services made available by the teleservice system such as: remote control of the programmable units present on the line, access to data supplied by the supervision system, access to video cameras and to the e-mail service. This teleservice is an open and flexible instrument on whose architecture the other two components of ContROLL, the Harmonization System and the Supervision System, are perfectly integrated.

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