Automation solution for modern concrete
By installing servo drives with integrated functional safety, HMIs and controllers from KEB Automation on its new production line, Concrete Canvas Ltd has reduced wiring installation costs. As a result, the British company now has greater flexibility in terms of future expansion plans for machines and additional lines.
Based in Pontyclun, Wales, Concrete Canvas Ltd is the sole manufacturer of the product “Concrete Canvas”. This new material technology is a flexible concrete impregnated fabric that hardens on hydration to form a thin, durable, waterproof concrete layer. Essentially, the product is ‘concrete on a roll’. Due to increased demand for its products, the company purchased a new facility. The continuous production line for the new prototype rolled product comprises a variety of machines, equipment and automated systems.
Graham Rose, Engineering Manager at Concrete Canvas Ltd, is responsible for developing the new production lines. He explains: “The prototype production line is quite complex. There are many different machines with parts that need to be moved at different speeds. We therefore started to search for a suitable supplier of drives that could handle this type of application. We needed the drives to be flexible and easily expandable to allow easy, rapid future expansion of the line and individual machines, with as little panel wiring as possible. Another key requirement for us was safety, so we wanted drives with in-built functional safety.”
KEB's drive solutions meet the criteria of Concrete Canvas. According to Graham Rose, there are around ten COMBIVERT S6 servo drives and some COMBIVERT F6 drive controllers from KEB operating on the production line. “The lower powered drives tend to perform lighter duties such as transporting the web material, whereas the larger drives control the conveyors and mixers for the cement, the main web forming process section and the center winding machine, as well as performing general positional and control tasks. Some of the drives are linked so that they operate synchronously, which is critical when controlling line speed set points and the intricate, varying tensions of the web material”, adds Rose. On the line a variety of electric motors are used, including synchronous and asynchronous induction motors, permanent magnet motors and servo motors. The COMBIVERT S6 can drive these types of motors – with or without encoder.
“In terms of safety, we need some of the drives to be capable of breaking or ramping down at controlled rates, so we’re already using some of the drive safety functions. In the future, as the line expands, we’ll use a lot more, as we’ll need to introduce more safety systems to the line, including safety gates, light curtains and safe interlock switches. With KEB drives, we can support this expansion quickly and easily using the KEB COMBIVIS 6 development software platform,” explains Rose.
Concrete Canvas also installed a C6 SMART controller from KEB to control and manage all the automation and safety programs. The C6 SMART is perfectly tailored to the runtime environment and real-time capability with a powerful processor for performing complex automation tasks.
Operators on the line are also benefiting from the use of KEB HMIs, which allow them to alter or control set points on the machines, visualise the complete line or individual machines, and to look at key production parameters and performance indicators.
“Our environment here is digital fieldbus and EtherCAT, so in the future I can add safety and functionality to the machines easily and quickly, with reduced panel wiring. The COMBIVIS 6 software is critical here, as it allows us to quickly add new safety features to the drives and gives our engineers a common platform for the development environment,” says Rose.