Speed machines to market with powerful software tools

When you’re racing to get to market with a new machine ahead of the competition, you need all the help you can get. But equipment makers often face time-consuming hurdles dealing with the complex task of writing software code for the programmable logic controllers that guide the workings of most machines.

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The automation industry has been working for more than two decades to simplify the code-writing process, first by setting standards for programming languages and methods, and then developing specifications for creating basic function block libraries. But applying these techniques to a specific machine still requires a great deal of engineering expertise and customization.

While today’s customers demand ever-greater degrees of customization and flexibility in new equipment, OEMs and end-users alike find themselves hindered by the lean operating principles that have slashed the number of in-house engineers. The problem is how to develop and update the software code that controls electromechanical systems without major investments in software development.

To address this challenge, Mitsubishi Electric has introduced a controls software platform, named iQ Monozukuri, after the Japanese word for manufacturing, that aims to simplify the design, commissioning and maintenance of machinery. First introduced for packaging machines, the platform’s latest iteration will be focused on converting equipment.

iQ Monozukuri Packaging, which is available for a 60-day trial, combines a comprehensive library of packaging-specific function blocks, written and verified by Mitsubishi engineers, with sample programs and HMI screens for specific applications.

The iQ Monozukuri platform is designed to meet the requirements of customers who want to change package sizes, alter product form factors and do it all in minutes rather than hours or days. It’s optimized for small- and medium-sized machines.

“With Mitsubishi’s expertise in many different industries, we’ve been able to develop a set of helpful tools that will dramatically reduce the amount of engineering time required to develop machine controls,” explains Elaine Wang, senior product marketing engineer.

“The platform allows packaging OEMs to easily create projects based on cam profile function blocks, software templates and sample graphical operator terminal (GOT) screens. This modular approach,” she says, “minimizes the amount of software that an OEM or end-user needs to code.”

Instead of writing or customizing function blocks, OEM engineers just need to enter parameters on a screen. The packaging function block library includes cam auto-generation, mark compensation and alignment conveyor. Creating cam profiles requires minimal cam knowledge and no cam calculations. Cams are auto-generated for rotary cutter, flying shear, box motion, long dwell times and mark detection applications.

“Since different types of packaging machines can share a single programming template,” Wang adds, “OEMs can adapt these reusable and scalable sample programs to different types of machines much more quickly than if they were developing their own code from scratch.”

The iQ Monozukuri portfolio of tools also addresses the needs of engineers who must incorporate additional disciplines, such as motion and visualization, to complete their machines. These disciplines generally require learning yet another semi-complementary programming language.

Simple motion modules, for example, make it possible to boost production throughput through faster processing. These built-in modules, which are available for both iQ-R and iQ-F motion modules, enable highly synchronized motion control for more accurate and consistent operations.

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