Ethernet control for stone cutting machine

An all-in-one machine and motion controller is helping an innovative machine builder to set new levels of performance and economy in the stone cutting sector. Farnese Australia has been manufacturing stone cutting and polishing machines for 10 years. For its latest product, the Quantum bridge saw, the company switched to an Ethernet-based controller from Baldor. This provides all of the resources required for the real-time interpolated control of four servomotor axes, all of the I/O on the machine, plus an ActiveX interface to the unique Windows user interface that Farnese has developed over many years to simplify stonemasonry.

The new Quantum bridge saw provides X, Y and rotational motion for the fast and efficient shaping of stone kitchen and bathroom surfaces, and is believed to set a radically lower price/performance standard compared with existing machines in this market sector. Quantum provides a large cutting area of 3.7 x 2 metres. Four servomotors control the motion of the rotary saw tool – which moves over the worktable on a gantry. Two synchronised axes are used to drive the gantry along the worktable, because of the weight and rigidity of the tool that is required for precision sawing over such a large operating area. The other two axes provide transverse movement along the gantry, and rotational motion of the tool head. The latter axis eliminates any need to reposition the workpiece or tool for changes of cutting direction, and can make angular and circular cuts to radii as small as 10 mm.

The four axes employ single-phase Baldor MicroFlex e100 drives driving BSM servomotors. These axes, plus all of the sensors and actuators required on the machine, are controlled by Baldor’s all-in-one motion and machine controller, NextMove e100. This controller uses the deterministic real-time Ethernet Powerlink Network. The Baldor controller was selected for three main reasons. The first is economy – as it provides a single-box motion and I/O control solution for this four-axis interpolated machine. The second reason is expandability: Farnese makes a range of cutting and polishing machines and the Powerlink networking standard, and Baldor’s controller makes it possible to use the same platform for almost any conceivable new machine or cell – with up to 16 interpolated axes.

Baldor’s development environment – Workbench – provided the final reason. This no-cost toolsuite is provided with the controller, and includes support for ActiveX, making it easy to interface with Farnese’s existing PC/Windows-based user interface. Programming the real-time motion control was made easy by Baldor’s Mint language, which offers high-level keywords for the complex movements that Farnese requires, such as angular and circular cuts.  Workbench also provides tools that allow Farnese to provide remote support for its machines, allowing diagnostics to be run, drives to be tuned, etc.

The user interface is a key feature underpinning Farnese’s success in its home markets of Australasia. It makes selection of the right shape cutting process very easy, avoiding much of the risk of operator error. A range of pre-programmed shape cutting sequences are provided to cover common requirements, eliminating the need for skilled operator programming by the kitchen and bathroom surface suppliers that typically purchase these machines. The sequences include ready-to-use templates for the major sink manufacturers, for example.  The interface also supports more complex applications, allowing programming using G-code, as well as manual control.

Alessandro Farnese of Farnese Australia said “We’ve used Baldor controllers for many years. The latest Powerlink controller gives us a really versatile platform to help develop our machine building business. There are many performance advantages in this product, but our relationship also benefits greatly from Baldor’s strong technical support, and we know that Baldor’s worldwide network will help us as we take our next steps and expand internationally.”

“The NextMove e100 provides a very versatile and economic platform for producing three- and four-axis machines such as those from Farnese Australia,” says Jason de Souza of Baldor.  “In this case, the multi-axis control capabilities and the I/O that comes as standard provided all the control resources needed, keeping the bill-of-material costs very low. It will also operate standalone, or in conjunction with a PC host, providing great flexibility of application for the small machines sector.”

Farnese Australia is currently in the process of starting up a manufacturing plant in Vietnam, to help it produce machines for the global market. For more information on Farnese Australia and the Quantum machine, see http://www.farnese.com.au

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Emerson ‘ultra-supercritical’ power station contract in China

Emerson Process Management has received a $2.72 million contract to install its Ovation expert control system at Huadian Lingwu Power Plant units 3 and 4, which are the first 1,000-MW, ultra-supercritical units in China to utilize air-cooling condenser technology. The air-cooling condenser technology, typically used in subcritical power plants located in areas where water is scarce, is now also gaining traction in supercritical and ultra-supercritical units that are increasingly specified in response to environmental regulations.

Owned by Huadian Lingwu Power Generation Company, the plant is located in Yinchuan City in northwest China. It currently consists of two 600-MW, coal-fired units (units 1 and 2) that have utilized Ovation technology since they went into commercial operation in 2007. Units 3 and 4, expected to begin commercial operation in August 2010 and December 2010, respectively, are being built to spur economic development by serving the growing electricity needs of industry in the region.

This growth is part of the broader increase in power demand in China. China’s National Development and Reform Commission stated earlier this year that the country’s electricity consumption rose nearly six percent in 2009. According to the country’s National Energy Administration, in the first quarter of 2010 alone China’s electricity consumption rose 24.19 percent year-on-year to 969.5 billion kilowatt-hours.

As part of its automation solution, Emerson will supply a total of 67 redundant Ovation controllers, 20 workstations and more than 70 Fisher control valves to Huadian Lingwu Unit 3 and Unit 4. At each unit, an Ovation control system will perform data acquisition as well as monitor and control the air-cooled condensers, Donfang boiler, sequence control system, electric control system, modulation control system, furnace safety supervisory system, flue gas desulfurization (FGD) system, feedwater pump turbine and balance-of-plant processes. Each Ovation system will also interface to Hitachi steam turbine controls. In addition, Emerson Ovation technology will monitor and control systems common to both units using multi-networking technology. All told, the Ovation control systems will manage a total of approximately 28,000 I/O points.

“We already know firsthand about the advantages of Ovation technology, based on our experience at units 1 and 2,” explained Lead Engineer Wu Lianwen, Huadian Lingwu Power Plant. “We based our decision to select Ovation for units 3 and 4 on our personal experience with the technology, as well as Emerson’s extensive expertise automating 1,000-MW, ultra-supercritical units, and their significant resources in China.”

Emerson is the global leader in the automation of large ultra-supercritical and supercritical power generating facilities. In fact, the Ovation system has been selected to automate 30 of the 50 1,000-MW, ultra-supercritical units in China. Ultra-supercritical plants use advanced technology that allows operation at elevated steam temperatures and pressures. Ultra-supercritical technologies have become more prevalent in China because they can boost the efficiency of coal-based electricity generation by more than 45 percent, while maintaining superior environmental performance.

“Emerson’s involvement at the Huadian Lingwu Power Plant demonstrates how we bring our global resources and industry-leading technologies together for the benefit of our customers,” said Bob Yeager, president of the Power & Water Solutions division of Emerson Process Management. “We are gratified by the organization’s continued confidence in Emerson’s people and technologies.”

Edwards wins £3.5M in vacuum orders

Edwards has received six major orders for industrial coating systems from Taiwan and China in the last six months, totalling over £3.5 million in value. These orders have included the supply of a variety of primary and secondary vacuum pumps for different applications, including coating architectural flat glass and display coating of materials onto devices such as mobile phones, PDAs and hand-held devices.

The pumps create accurate vacuum conditions in the process chambers.  The actual pumps involved include Edwards primary pumps such as dry GV pumps, EM rotary vane pumps and EH mechanical boosters together with secondary pumps such as magnetic bearing turbomolecular STP 1303C, STP 1603C and STPiXA2205 pumps.

“We’re delighted to have received these orders, which highlight the growth of the industrial coating sector,” says Neil Lavender-Jones, president for the asia pacific region within Edwards.  “As a global company we have manufacturing facilities and offices close to customers in all regions and through combining our local knowledge and technical expertise we are able to deliver high quality products that play a key role in these applications.”

Edwards has been providing the industrial coating market with equipment for more than 25 years.  The company works closely with its customers to fully understand their requirements and to optimise their processes to increase efficiency and minimize costs and energy use.

Emerson to buy Chloride: ABB backs out

5 June: The Emerson bid to acquire Chloride in the UK originated with talks in early 2008, that came to nothing. However, Emerson sees Chloride as the European lead HQ for its network power systems business, and is still persistent,  despite the rejection of its £723M offer, 275p a share, made at the end of April. But all the plans of David Farr, Chairman and CEO at Emerson, fell apart, when Chloride reported underlying profits at the top end of city expectations: but surely Farr knew that they were in this good position and should have been delighted to see his expectations confirmed! Chloride has been growing fast in supplying un-interruptible power supplies to provide security to keep major companies operating through power cuts. This is not just a growing market in the developing regions, like India and China, but also happening across the US and Europe, as power supplies become less reliable, and continuity of supply more important.  But Chloride has also expanded with new offices in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Vietnam, South Korea and the Philippines.

While Emerson canvasses major shareholders to assess what price would be attractive, the share price continues upwards, past 286p, and even at this level the institutions are still buying in. So Emerson will have to dig deeper, unless the pressure on the pound generated by anti-British sentiment in the US over the BP problems comes to their rescue.

8 June: ABB joins the party! Or should that be the fray? ABB have made a counter offer to buy the Chloride Group, pitched at 325p a share, giving a total offer value of £860Million and topping the Emerson bid. This offer has been recommended for shareholder acceptance by the Chloride Board. The stock market obviously expects another bid, with the current share price standing at 342p.

15 June: It seems that industry analysts predict there will be no counter-bid by Emerson to top the ABB offer, so it seems that the stock market appetite for a battle was just the over-enthusiasm whipped up by greedy investors.

30 June: A new offer from Emerson of 375p a share, almost USD1.5 billion, sent Chloride’s share price up 37p to 385½p, amid expectations ABB will hit back with a higher offer.

1 July: ABB announce that in the interests of taking a disciplined approach to such acquisitions, a higher offer from ABB would not be appropriate.

New process control workstations from CGM Sweden

CGM of Sweden specialise in the design and production of operator control room solutions for 24/7 environments, whether for emergency centres, railway control, power stations, air traffic control or process plant environments. Attending the recent ABB Automation and Power World event in Houston, Pierre Schäring, Managing Director of CGM, was showing the EOW-x workstation, which is used by ABB for System 800xA based control rooms, typically with three 52″ industrial LCD panels. The version on show actually offered two such large display screens. These consoles are fitted with the latest in technology to improve operator performance, offering height and tilt angle adjustment on the large panels, as well as on the multiple smaller monitors available at console height. This console table height, and distance to the monitors, is adjustable, and the lighting and sound system around the operator is adjusted to preset preferences, individual to each operator. This allows rapid personalisation of the work station at shift changes. The single keyboard controls all displays, and has hotkeys for frequently used 800xA functions.
Integrated into the EOW-x system, a multi-pixel camera and high quality microphone allows audio-visual communications between plant operators, with the video shown on one of the back LCD panels. The console also allows for a micro-climate control system, again personalised, enabling the operator to maintain comfort and alertness.
The skill and knowledge developed in CGM has led recently to the Swedish Government providing some funding for a research centre on control rooms to be established by them, to improve operator effectiveness. Schäring is now working hard to involve the important suppliers and research institutes in this project, to make the centre a reality.