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ProcessMonitoring: How does it work?

ProcessMonitoring can be understood to be the monitoring of production processes in the machine and tool construction industries. The entire process is based on the regular and permanent acquisition of the machine status in the form of measurements and analyses of significant physical parameters (such as vibration, temperatures, position/approach proximity, etc.). Machine and tool loading on the production line is measured by means of various sensor systems and compared with reference measurement curves determined empirically.

The use of ProcessMonitoring serves two different purposes:

  1. to increase reliability
  2. to improve machine efficiency

Cause variables are:

  • Material thickness (it may vary)
  • Machine settings (they may vary, or maintenance may be necessary)
  • Tool wear
  • Coolant (well or poorly cooled? this effects tool conditions)
  • Operator (is the operator motivated? Is he well or poorly trained? How does he handle the presetting?)

All this belongs to the process, with the sum of parameters influencing product quality. And: The operator can rely on his own senses. But these are not good enough for this purpose. He does not have x-ray vision (in many processes, one can hardly see what is happening inside the machine) and, in a loud production hall, it is also a challenge to hear whether the tool in the sound-insulated machine has malfunctioned or not. The operator, thus, cannot see, hear or measure everything. This results in the need for special measuring equipment.

BRANKAMP offers just such measuring equipment. A sensor mounted close to the process records all process-relevant parameters. If the sensor data analyzed in real-time indicates that the critical values have been exceeded, the ProcessMonitoring system shuts down the machine in a fraction of a second (Emergency switch-off, or „trip“).

Comparable systems such as simple vibration sensors in so-called „earthquake“ switches are usually not precise enough and do not compile data sets, from which subsequent conclusions may be drawn as to the cause of the problem. The economic advantages for the production process are that expensive machine collisions are prevented and, when problems do arise, the disruption factors can be subsequently analyzed.

The most important parameter for this is process quality, which is called PQ-factor at BRANKAMP. This PQ-factor is displayed on the monitoring unit. In this manner, the operator can draw conclusions as to process progression. Through visualization of the process (LCD on the monitoring unit), the operator can respond quickly in the event of undesired process changes. He gets to know the machine and the process much better.

What are the benefits for a company using ProcessMonitoring? A human operator can never react as quickly as such a system operating with pressure and acoustic sensors or light barriers, etc. Through the use of ProcessMonitoring, the costly consequences of spontaneous shutdowns are limited or prevented. During the valuable seconds that transpire before the „Emergency-Stop“ is actuated by the human operator, immense forces occur that can damage expensive raw material batches such as stainless steel or aluminum to the point where they are no longer usable. Even worse: Valuable tools installed in the machine are exposed to such intense loading that they must be replaced. Damage in the thousands of Euros, even up in the six-figure range, can ensue rapidly because common automatic industrial systems work at stroke rates from several hundred to thousands of cycles per minute. Only a switch-off system that can respond within milliseconds of a malfunction and shutdown the machine accordingly offers a suitable remedy. Experience shows that the continued operation of a defective machine will result in higher costs than the actual first defect.

Plus points can also be given for economic efficiency, and thus the operation, resulting from process observation: From accelerated familiarization periods during commissioning of new machines to higher machine utilization rates due to reductions in downtimes, repair times and conversion times, as well as the reduction in repair and tool costs.

The optimization of process parameters leads to more stable processes, while more stable processes enable multi-machine operations and run-time extensions through further production. The concrete benefits for the operator through visualization of the process are:

  • Machine protection due to permanently programmed safety limits. Consequential damage prevention.
  • Tool protection through adjustable warning and shutoff limits. Consequential damage prevention.
  • Economic efficiency due to pause throughput and additional shifts with thinned down personnel (BRANKAMP refers to this as the Ghost Shift®).
  • Quality assurance through process controls during the manufacture of each part.

ProcessMonitoring is worth actual money in the area of machine efficiency: Because the production process is monitored, it can be more efficiently designed. For example, because of fear for the damage referred to above, many companies produce with only half power. The use of ProcessMonitoring systems enables the running of the production lines at higher speeds. The use of such systems therefore can give companies a competitive edge.

It is also a prerequisite for „condition-oriented maintenance“. This helps to prevent downtimes, a concept which is missing in classic „reactive“ maintenance. In this form of maintenance, as with a car inspection, the machine is taken down at regular intervals and thoroughly checked. ProcessMonitoring tools, on the other hand, enable specific problem identification during on-going operations. Occasionally, a shutdown can be avoided because a problem can possibly be solved while the machine is running; at the least, idle times are shortened.

 

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