Romeo Engineering leverages PC-based control to improve manufacturing speed and accuracy

Engineering-and-design firm doubles production throughput and quadruples speed of CNC machine while cutting costs.

By Kevin Oseguera, Romeo Engineering

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Any application, any time: Fort Worth, Texas-based engineering firm Romeo Engineering (REI) takes flexibility in manufacturing beyond the next level, developing and building sophisticated manufacturing equipment. With applications ranging from aerospace and automotive to electronics manufacturing and food processing, the company provides service and performance, while cutting manufacturing and assembly costs. Founded in 1987, REI maintains a knowledgeable staff of in-house mechanical, controls, and software engineering professionals.

“We believe that the REI principles of automation can be applied with great success across a broad spectrum of product manufacturing,” says Frank Romeo, REI president. “By utilizing standard automation components across all our systems, we provide solutions for nearly any application challenge, no matter how unique.” We have fully embraced this concept.

While our applications are rather diverse, our primary markets are waterjet cutting and special-purpose automation systems. REI manufactures waterjets year-round, providing an off-the- shelf cutting solution for industrial applications. The special-purpose automation side, however, tends to be more custom. REI can develop and build tailored solutions that are as small as a servo-powered screwdriver or as large as a full-scale pultrusion line.

Testing and debugging can be done virtually, even remotely, reducing required programming time by up to a week and a half.

PC-based CNC technology for any application

To best capitalize on our core market of CNC waterjet cutting, we design and manufacture a full range of ultra-high-pressure water and abrasive/water-cutting and cleaning equipment. This product offering combines waterjet intensifier pumps with specially designed machinery from REI, tailoring the latest in PC-based CNC cutting technology from Beckhoff Automation to match customer needs. We offer a series of precision cutting systems that make advanced waterjet technology available at a low cost. Our success in the market is largely due to the fact that REI waterjet systems are incredibly robust. To that point, many of our machines are still in service after 25 years.

Also read: Industrial Ethernet and multi-core technology

One of the more exciting applications for the PC-based automation technology and an offshoot of the CNC waterjet systems is a new, customer-specified CNC glue-application system for a manufacturer of windows in garage-door applications. Performing an important step to ensure weather resistance and product longevity, the CNC glue-applicator machine precisely applies a bead of hot glue around the edges of the frame in such a way that the operator can simply press the window into the frame to create a weather-tight seal.

As the needs of the company outgrew the previous glue-application system, the customer began to seek a faster, more efficient solution. The company approached us to create a custom machine that eliminates inefficiencies while increasing production throughput.

The old machine moved too slowly to keep up with the quickening pace of production. Instead of using CNC functionality and a gantry to move the nozzle, the previous machine required the company to place the workpiece on a table and the entire workspace moves around it. This method caused some pooling of the glue in the corners, wasting adhesive materials and costing the company money.

The glue that binds

When specifying components for this machine, we went through an extensive vetting process and found that Beckhoff provided the right price-to-performance ratio and met the required goals of the project. The motion control requirements for CNC systems are especially demanding, so designing a robust motion platform that was still cost-effective was paramount to the success of the project. Providing the foundation for the motion control is the Beckhoff TwinCAT 3 software platform that runs on a Beckhoff C6920 control-cabinet industrial PC (IPC) with an Intel Core i3 processor inside (Figure 1).

The compact C6920 is equipped with a 3½-in motherboard, and all PC connections are conveniently located at the front of the housing. Internal cooling fins and an exchangeable fan cartridge provide all the necessary cooling. A vast improvement over our previous systems, the Beckhoff IPC has proven to be excellent for our operations. The PC-based system provides significant benefits for us, both in programming and cost reductions.

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