Sikel invests in new high technology automation
At Sikel, corrosion sensitive steel strips for the motor industry are provided with a thin zinc layer. Steel is indeed sensitive to the influence of natural elements. If car makers must offer nowadays a 10-year or longer anti-corrosion warranty, their products must be particularly well protected against corrosion. Steel manufacturers therefore subject their cold rolled soft steel to a special treatment before car body parts are pressed out of it. The treatment is called zinc plating or galvanization.
At Sikel, galvanizing takes place by using large quantities of electric current. The steel strip is guided between two anodes at a speed of 190 metres a minute, while the zinc layer is electrolytically applied. Thanks to the electrolytic process, the zinc layer can perfectly be adapted and we can, for example, vary the thickness according to the specifications of the client. The steel can be galvanized on one side if necessary. The galvanizing process takes place fully automatically and computer-controlled.
Modernizing the process automation
In 2004, Sikel started with a project to modernize the process automation. This project fitted in with our endeavours to improve our production quality. Thanks to this cutting edge technology in the field of automation, we can better satisfy the ever higher quality requirements of our clients. By using safety machines, the safety of our production line is increased at once too. More powerful diagnosis tools ensure production disturbances to be further limited. At the same time, we strive for a higher traceability of our product via the online observance of the product conditions.
Architecture of the existing automation system
Control of the Sikel electrogalvanizing line takes place on the basis of traditional architecture. It defines a number of layers.
A number of these layers such as the process computer and the screen system (SCADA) are to be fully replaced. We are also starting the systematic replacement of the automatons and AC controllers for the alternating current motors.
This modernization will only cause a minimum of disruption to normal production. During the transitional phases old and new technologies must work with each other without problems.
Extent of the investment
Our production line already runs fully automatically: 41 automatons and a process computer work together to achieve this. The optimization we are now implementing is more intended for the introduction of a number of modern automation resources than increasing our degree of automation. These automation resources include:
- logging of each I/O-change in our automatons,
- error analysis systems.
These new automatons have a number of significant advantages.
Programming and development
- New development environment under Windows XP with online monitoring and adaptation of the active programs.
- Reuse of program modules by using object-oriented programming.
We use networks and protocols complying with open industrial standards, such as Profibus, Can-bus, Ethernet TCP/IP and OPC (OLE for Process Control).
This means we can simply link all the systems to each other to ensure the better integrated working of our control task.
PerformanceThe cycle time or calculating capacity of the automatons will be increased by at least factor 10. Error analysis
One of the difficulties of a fully automatically controlled line is to find out the correct causes of faults. We also call this root cause analysis. We need modern error analysis systems for this. The modernization will also entail setting up the web-based logging of all analogue and digital signals from the automatons.
This system must enable a decrease in the number of production outages.