Husky Builds Flexible Network with OPC

May 1, 2006
This supplier of injection molding equipment uses OPC tools from MatrikonOPC to provide turnkey solutions for plant and equipment monitoring.

Husky Injection Molding Systems is a leading supplier of injection molding equipment and services to the plastics industry. Many companies use Husky’s equipment to create a wide variety of plastic products for the food and beverage, medical, automotive and consumer electronics markets.

Throughout its 50-plus years of experience in the industry, Husky introduced new generations of injection molding equipment to deliver improved performance and functionality. A new generation would often include a new controller platform with different protocols. Customers were required to create new communications drivers between the new Husky controller and their existing control and monitoring applications. This was time-consuming and expensive for customers, who relied on third-party vendors to create the interfaces. Another downside was that end-users were locked into those vendors’ software solutions. Without the resources or expertise to write their own drivers, they could not change their monitoring software without losing their connectivity to the Husky equipment, and so were limited to the solutions their vendors could offer.

Customers found that connecting additional Husky equipment with new controllers to their existing control and monitoring applications was increasingly complex and expensive. Husky’s Carlos Sanchez stated, “Our customers were suffering from problems with the third-party interface.” To address this, Husky developed a protocol to interface applications with any type of Husky equipment. “Husky Host” was a big success with customers, as it eliminated many adoption headaches, reduced integration costs, made it easier to upgrade their plants, and alleviated Husky’s need to support problems caused by third party interfaces.

Providing maximum value

Customers began asking Husky for complete turnkey solutions that would provide both equipment and plant monitoring capabilities. Plant monitoring software would provide customers with many benefits, including the ability to access real-time equipment status, display trends, receive equipment notifications, visualize processes, view machine performance reports and gather data for analysis. Rather than write a comprehensive monitoring application, Husky chose to use an existing application from Matrikon. An exhaustive review based on corporate culture, company commitment and performance, led Husky to Matrikon’s ProcessNet Web-based monitoring application. Branded as Husky SmartLink, it would provide the control and monitoring software component of Husky’s turnkey offering.

To complete the solution, Husky needed a way for customers to connect their different generations of Husky equipment to SmartLink. The proprietary Husky protocol would not allow them the necessary open connectivity into the application.

Again, after researching alternatives, Sanchez, who is Husky Project Manager for SmartLink, chose MatrikonOPC, based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, to provide the connectivity. OPC is a standards-based software communications protocol that provides a common data exchange method between industrial devices and applications. With SmartLink’s built-in OPC capabilities, OPC was a natural choice.

While newer controllers found in Husky equipment had built-in OPC connectivity, the majority of users had legacy equipment that had none. And Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM), the underlying technology used to carry OPC messages, presented configuration and security issues that made it very difficult to network the equipment together. To resolve these issues, Husky asked Matrikon to develop the MatrikonOPC Server for Husky Host.

“MatrikonOPC was very responsive and supportive in designing and building the OPC server. The server has been successfully deployed in plants throughout the world over the past two years, and is working trouble-free from Australia to the Americas and Europe,” says Sanchez.

With MatrikonOPC server for Husky Host, the company continued using Husky Host to reliably connect legacy equipment together, avoid the DCOM setup and security issues, and have the data available to SmartLink. With SmartLink and the OPC Server in place, Husky had a complete turnkey solution that offers the benefits of SmartLink with the flexibility of open connectivity for their customers’ other equipment. Husky’s customers can now rely solely on Husky to provide all the services required for communication, data gathering and display without the complication of third-party headaches.

Customer sees the benefit

Amcor PET Packaging, a customer of Husky’s, is one of the world's largest manufacturers of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) packaging. The company produces a wide variety of rigid containers ranging from PET beverage bottles to packaging for the food and personal care industries.

Robert Cooper, Manager of Controls Engineering for Amcor’s North American office, led an initiative in 2003 to integrate all Amcor plant equipment into a factory-wide supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system for improved operational efficiencies. At the time, there was no commercial solution for providing connectivity from its SCADA system to Husky machines.

Amcor considered two different solutions. First, create a hardware interface to each different controller platform that would funnel data into a stand-alone system. This solution presented a number of drawbacks:

The hardware-based system required special programming for each machine

It would be difficult to deploy the solution to other plants

The solution was not supported by Husky

Because it was hardware-based, it was more costly than a software solution, and required different hardware configurations for each generation of Husky machine.

Amcor also considered using Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) offered by a third-party company as part of its visualization software package. However, DDE was known to be problematic when deployed over a network, and using a non-standard visualization tool did not fit with Amcor’s policy.

When Husky released its OPC solution, Amcor began testing it using the built-in OPC connector in the SCADA system, and within months, decided to standardize on this approach. The OPC solution provided them with a number of benefits, including:

A standard Ethernet interface

The solution was fully supported by Husky

Amcor could employ central data amalgamation, with full network integration

OPC was easily deployed to other plants

OPC with Husky Host connected different generations of Husky machines with no additional effort

No added hardware was required.

Amcor’s Cooper comments, “Amcor’s development approach is to build modularized object-oriented SCADA systems utilizing industry standards such as OPC. Based on the Husky Host Interface with the MatrikonOPC server, we have developed an Automation Object that has all the communications, logic, scaling and interfacing required to connect to a Husky Injection Molder housed in a single container, and it can be dropped into our SCADA system like a plug-in component.” He adds, “We were impressed by the benefits offered by OPC, and have standardized on the technology corporate-wide for all of our connectivity.”

The success that OPC has delivered for a major customer has helped galvanize the importance of standards-based OPC at Husky. The MatrikonOPC server is offered on its own and has attracted business that otherwise would have gone to a third party. Sales of the turnkey solution SmartLink have been increasing.

For free downloads or more information about MatrikonOPC, visit