Control platform aids injection, extrusion

June’s OEM Spotlight shines on a manufacturer that recently added a new control platform, including an intuitive data screen, pushbuttons for machine movements, and operation-software wizards, to its machines that make plastic-composite decking.

By Jim Montague, Executive Editor

Operators don’t hold their noses and blow plastic out of their ears. That’s why builders making plastic and composite injection molding and extrusion machines concentrate mostly on improving their equipment and processes. Very logical.

However, even though raw product materials don’t pass through their bodies, operators are as crucial to their firms’ applications as the machines they setup and run. To help them improve their products, Cincinnati Milacron recently added its new Mosaic control platform to its machines, such as its TC 86 conical twin-screw extruder, which makes plastic-composite decking. Milacron reports that Mosaic’s setup ergonomics includes an intuitive data screen, pushbuttons for machine movements, and operation-software wizards.

     PUTTING PIECES TOGETHER

Milacron’s Mosaic control platform includes setup ergonomics, intuitive data screens, pushbuttons for machine movements, and operation software wizards.

“Traditional extruder control is a discrete system with, for example, four barrel zones, eight dye zones, 10 turn speed points, a screw oil zone, temperature controllers, and individual meter readouts. These all take up a lot of panel space,” says Tom Brown, Milacron’s sales and marketing manager. “Customers have long wanted to simplify, and so we’re providing larger, user-friendly, color touchscreens that are easy to understand, follow, configure, setup, and run.”

Mosaic’s operator station includes a thin, 15-inch TFT touchscreen and surrounding keyboard on a swing arm. The panel is driven by a computer with a 600 MHz Intel Celeron processor and a 1 GB flash drive, so no hard drive or uninterruptible power supply is required. Operator buttons correspond to machine functions, and users can add hardwired buttons, too. Digital linear position feedback devices are used for accuracy and repeatability, providing up to 0.0015-in. resolution.

To develop Mosaic’s operating system, Milacron sought help from B&R Industrial Automation Corp.’s programming software. Mosaic also uses B&R’s controller and slice I/O. “We were at a real fork in the road. Do we put more resources into our existing control system, or do we design a newer, more user-friendly system?” asks Brown. “B&R gave us better operating software support, which let us focus on users’ extrusion control application software.” 

Brown says Mosaic presents unified reports on one screen, which aides data acquisition and monitoring. This improves their response and control of 25 extrusion variables and parameters, such as barrel, die and die oil temperatures, screw rpms, and head and pack pressures. “Operators that previously used discrete sheets to check variables now can use the machine’s microprocessor to do it, and Mosaic can plot them over time.” explains Brown. “Mosaic also can store up to 40 die profiles, run conditions, and temperature and speed set up conditions, which can save time at changeover.”

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