It's easier these days to coordinate the PLCs, he says, because of the tools that Rockwell has integrated into its controllers. CIP Sync, for example, is a time-stamping synchronization technology that enables motion to happen at specific time points. "There are new tools and new products that allow us to control that timing relationship easier," Myren says.
Last fall, one of Aagard's machines was used to demonstrate machine-mount ArmorBlock I/O at Rockwell's Automation Fair. "That in particular had CIP Sync," Myren notes. "That's what allowed us to precisely locate product so the robot could accurately pick up that product and place it on the other products."
CIP Sync is accurate down to the microsecond level, Myren adds. "We don't receive product location data every microsecond because the controller is not able to handle the scan time. So we receive it at a later time, but we know exactly when the product passed the photoeye. This tells us the time when the product was at a certain location. With our knowledge, knowing how fast a conveyor is moving, we know exactly where the product is when we receive the data."
Taking motion to the next level, Aagard has recently implemented an automated motion generation technology that fits in with its modular design methods. It's the motion that typically changes a lot, depending on speeds and distances required, Myren notes. "Calculating the motion through formulas allows us to reuse the formulas without rewriting the code," he says, explaining how each module could have specific types of motion. "You generate the speeds and profiles of that motion with formulas or calculations. The input to that formula is what changes. So with product size or mechanical changes, it generates the profile that's necessary to run the product. With that, we don't have to change the code, just the input parameters into the code."
Aagard continues to look for new ways to improve its machinery. On the company's wish list from suppliers would be the ability to integrate more of its own design tools into the automation platform, Myren says. "From our standpoint, we want to further our automatic motion generation and continue to develop that so that our customers receive machines where they enter in product characteristics and the machine automatically generates motion for that product."
VanderTuin adds, "This gives them more flexibility in the long term, as they develop new products that they didn't yet know about when the machine was ordered."
Aagard recently made a foray into a new area, developing a stretch wrapper to be integrated into palletizing functions. "The customer came to us with a case packing and palletizing project," VanderTuin relates. "The cases were very unstable on the pallet because of the weight and size of them. So we developed a stretch wrapper within our palletizer, containing each layer and stretch wrapping as we go."
The full system, including four case packers, was implemented using Rockwell's Rapid integration solution. "The case packers are all running different recipes, so control is very important," Myren explains. "It was very easy to implement the Rapid integration solution into our system because the systems were all designed using the base architecture of Power Programming."
Because of the wide variety of products this particular customer runs, it was here that Aagard recently created and developed the automatic motion generation. "It's the first project where motion is completely automated," Myren says. "They had been here for just a couple days, and they created their own recipe and set up a brand new product by themselves because all they had to do was enter product dimensions."