Metal stampers seek efficient machine and equipment performance. This is a given. Therefore, they often gravitate to presses with easy changeovers, shorter downtimes and high reliability that can drive a productive and profitable stamping press operation. Press control automation is a part of achieving that efficiency, too.
“Everyone wants to make their stamping press operations more efficient and more automated,” says Jim Finnerty, product manager, Wintriss Controls Group. “The way to run more efficiently to achieve more productivity from your stamping press is to automate as much as possible.
“The metal stamping industry has contracted so there are fewer stampers running more diverse jobs,” he adds. “The control system for the press has to have the ability to run presses of all sizes, such as on a small 20-ton high-speed press all the way up to a 3,000-ton transfer press running side panels of a car.”
However, with greater automation comes greater complexity. Luckily, those seeking press control capability have Wintriss’ SmartPac Pro press automation controller, which centralizes all the control requirements of the stamping press as a solution.
SmartPac Pro helps to automate the core functions of the stamping press. Standard automation includes a WPC 2000 clutch/brake control to measure braking performance and alert operators to safety issues, WaveFormPac tonnage monitoring to ensure part quality and protect the press, a DiProPac die protection system to protect against unexpected events and ensure the press is running correctly and a ProCamPac programmable limit switch to provide synchronized machine timing.
In addition, stamping presses are combined with ancillary equipment such as feeders, pick-and-place robots, quick die-change equipment and lubrication systems, all of which have their own user interface.
“The problem is when you start adding automation, every piece of equipment requires a user interface,” Finnerty says. “This makes it very difficult for the operator to run the press. We’ve heard this complaint from customers on many occasions because the last thing anyone wants on a stamping press is another screen.”
The solution is the Wonderware software option, which allows the SmartPac Pro controller to replace the user interface for ancillary equipment, thus significantly reducing the number of additional screens on the stamping press. It enables SmartPac Pro to run independently created third-party HMIs for associated automation.
“The Wonderware option allows centralization by enabling people to create one user interface for almost any electronic industrial device,” Finnerty says. “There are literally thousands of drivers for Wonderware. You get the drivers you need, create the interface in Wonderware and have a single, unified interface that runs on the SmartPac Pro and brings it all together.”
A main focus of the SmartPac Pro development team was on communication options. The SmartPac Pro architecture supports connectivity features such as remote access from PCs and mobile devices, email messaging and compatibility with Wintriss’ ShopFloorConnect production reporting and OEE tracking software.
This software automates on-line collection of operating data from virtually every machine in the plant, providing an excellent Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solution.
“One of the goals with the SmartPac Pro was to make it IIoT-compatible,” Finnerty says. “Communicating with the outside world to tell everybody what’s going on with the stamping press and also communicating with all the other intelligent devices on the machine. SmartPac Pro provides real-time production data.”
ShopFloorConnect communicates with SmartPac Pro on the stamping presses and also communicates with a data collection machine interface that can be put on any machine.
“We can be the real-time data IIoT solution for any factory,” Finnerty says. “We provide current machine status, machine production counts and efficiency data. If there is a problem, SmartPac Pro knows why it’s stopped. If not, we provide a popup menu that allows the operator to specify the downtime reason. It is constantly updating the status of the press.”
Also under the IIoT information sharing umbrella is the ability to share setups among networked SmartPac Pro units.
“In the past, when users created all the information to be able to run a job on a stamping press, they had to recreate the data in every other press that had to run that job,” Finnerty says. “And that was a huge responsibility.
“Setup information should have the ability to be shared from machine to machine,” he continues. “When SmartPac Pro brings all those ancillary user interfaces under one interface, it makes it very easy to share that over the network. After you perfect the setup for one job on one machine, you can share that with the other SmartPac Pro-equipped machines.”
This saves a lot of time when developing the setup for the stamping press.
“The operator can use that setup from one press to another and it’s not like going from one completely different user interface to another,” Finnerty says. “Therefore, they already know how to run that job regardless of what press is running it. There might be a few tweaks after moving a setup over, but it is orders of magnitude less time and, after it’s done, it’s the same experience for the operator going from machine to machine. That’s huge.”
Other features in the SmartPac Pro controller also contribute to improved metal stamping operations. The dual-core processor allows the SmartPac Pro to do more processing, for example, going from 16 to 32 programmable limit switches and increasing the maximum number of die protection sensor inputs from 32 to 64.
Also, with increased capacity in the controller, operators can store an unlimited number of tool setups.
Finally, user-configurable dashboards allow operators to create custom home screen “dashboards” to display the information they use most often, what is relevant to the current running job and so forth. The dashboards can be named and saved in the favorites menu and quickly recalled.