Symbolizing the quality and reliability of its farming and construction equipment, John Deere's green and yellow logo is instantly recognizable everywhere in the world. Therefore, ensuring that John Deere's signature colors look exactly the same on every piece of equipment time and again is important - almost as important as ensuring the safety of the methods used to apply the paint. With newly installed CIMPLICITY® industrial automation software from GE Fanuc for monitoring and controlling its paintline, John Deere Welland Works (JDWW; Ontario, Canada) is able to produce consistently high-quality finishes while increasing worker safety and production speed.
Painting the Picture
A manufacturer of rotary cutters, front-end loaders and utility vehicles, JDWW yields a healthy crop that keeps the paint line quite busy. The paint line includes several booths for wash, rinse, dryoff, flow coater and touchup; paint curing oven and overhead conveyor.
A phosphate hot wash, followed by a water rinse, prepares each component for flow coater sprays that drench the part in paint. Already employing three GE Fanuc Series 90TM-30 PLCs linked by Ethernet to two computers on its own LAN (local area network), JDWW has further improved its paint line control by incorporating the new software.
"With the software, we're now able to take control where we couldn't before," noted Tim Bering, JDWW engineer. Mr. Bering said that the new system manages approximately 250 I/O points, allowing operators to monitor and control conveyor speed, oven temperature, rinse water conductivity, wash water temperature, paint viscosity and more. With the help of the software's database capabilities, operators can also retrieve data to generate reports and trend information on paint line performance and quickly troubleshoot to prevent problems later in the field. For example, regular evaluations of paint viscosity and oven temperatures help operators maintain consistent quality.
The software package employs an object-oriented approach that makes it simple to create screens to handle any number of operating parameters. Pre-built and pre-configured screens are readily adapted using graphic tools, and a built-in graphics editor incorporates Windows®-type toolbars on the development screen. The user simply selects a tool for drawing or for adding text and button objects. An object link and embedding (OLE) button eases importation of OLE 2.0 objects such as spreadsheets, charts and bitmapped images. Once objects are created, they can be resized, rotated or moved using the "handles" that appear when the objects are selected.
According to Mr. Bering, JDWW also developed a database without any traditional programming. Because CIMPLICITY can be configured to automatically log data to Microsoft® SQL-a Windows-based, relational database- operators simply selected the items and conditions for logging. The system then records individual points in detail and groups others for trend analysis.
The software also supplies JDWW with alarm management with automatic response and supports both dynamic and static modes. The dynamic mode allows the operator to view alarms as they occur, while the static mode allows the operator to control the scrolling of the alarms to concentrate on the current situation without the screen constantly changing. With four levels of alarms, the system can stop and start the line and signal an operator to take immediate action as needed.
Roy Bridgland, JDWW paint line supervisor, said the software has had a significant impact on one particular area of the line that used to slow about once a week. As operators moved unpainted components suspended from hooks overhead into the initial paint line wash, increasing momentum could cause two load bars to jam together side by side in the overhead track. "We had no ability to control the torque," Mr. Bridgland recalled, "and these jams would cost us two to three hours or more to correct."
Using the software, Mr. Bridgland and his crew can now monitor and control the load bar torque by programming the drive to sense higher torque levels and to stop the line before a load bar jam occurs. "The CIMPLICITY system has made an incredible difference in out paint line operation and in our peace of mind," Mr. Bridgland stated. "Now that we're not worried about jams, we can focus more attention on the job at hand."
"The software has exceeded our expectations for flexibility on all fronts, including networking, customizing, speed and remote monitoring," Mr. Bering added. "The graphics are excellent and the screens are scalable on the fly." For JDWW, the fact that the software is Windows-based also made it easy for operators to learn, as it was completely compatible with their existing NT platform.
And, GE Fanuc continues to plant new ideas and sow new solutions for JDWW. The two companies are working together to develop new software recipe modules for use with mechanical and hydraulic presses. Wonder what will crop up next?