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Blog Entries posted by Matthew

  1. Matthew
    As has been noted elsewhere...
    Protective Lexan Covers are Now Available for All Vision Controllers.
    Even though the Unitronics Vision controllers are very economical, there’s no sense damaging them when you can easily apply a durable protective cover.

    We now offer a self-adhesive Lexan protective film custom cut for each Vision controller from Unitronics. This includes the V130, V350, V280, V290, V530, V560, V570, V1040and V1210.
    These protective covers are resistant to the following chemicals:
    Acetone, Methylene Chloride, Isopropyl Alcohol, Ethyl Acetate, Gasoline, Diesel Fuel, Coffee, Clorox3, Vinegar and more…
    AMPS currently has covers in stock to protect the V130, V350 and V570 controllers.
  2. Matthew
    Wow, I can't tell you how eager I am to get my hands on the new products coming our way from Unitronics. I've been biting my tongue not mentioning them for a couple months so that Unitronics could release the information on their timetable but...Both products were displayed at the PackExpo convention in Chicago earlier this month and Jas is blabbing about them over on the Forum. So I guess it's safe for me to reveal my enthusiasm.There could be more than what I know about but I'm told these three things are close:
    10.4" Vision OPLC with 16-bit color. This is the V1040. 5.7" Vision OPLC with function keys and 16-bit color. This is the V560. New firmware to upgrade new and existing V570s to 16-bit color. From my perspective these are monumental product introductions. The two things I most commonly hear from potential customers who end up going with a competitor are, "We want a bigger screen," and "It would be nice to be able to put a high-res logo on that thing." We work primarily with OEMs so perhaps I'm in the minority but these two new products are sure to be a hit with my customers.Thanks, Unitronics!
  3. Matthew
    My company, AMPS Industrial Controls, recently finished the installation and start-up on a control system for the Custar Stone Quarry project we mentioned late last year. This quarry is located in northwest Ohio and it supplies stone for road projects all over the region. We are pleased to say that everything went very well and the quarry is now up and running with wireless Ethernet communication between all three control stations.

    This was really a fun project so we would like to take this opportunity to explain it in some detail...
    Background – Unitronics Vision System With Wireless Ethernet from Westermo
    The stone quarry in Custar, Ohio is quite old. It has been crushing stone and providing northwest Ohio with rock for over 100 years! One problem, though, is that the numerous expansions and upgrades which have happened over the decades have resulted in control stations positioned all over the place. Our job was to integrate all the conveyors and crushers into one central PLC-based control system that could be operated from any location in the quarry. Ideally, this would be done wirelessly so as to simplify installation.
    Of course, reliability was a great concern. This quarry runs year-round and downtime is very costly. We must ensure that any breakdown in wireless communication would not result in shutting down the quarry. Safety was also a big concern. Great care would need to be taken to safely control crushing equipment remotely. AMPS Industrial Controls would also build the electrical control panels which must hold up to harsh outdoor conditions and be very reliable.
    We decided a control system based upon the Unitronics Vision line of PLCs would be a good solution. These controllers could be coupled with wireless Ethernet radio modems from Westermo to allow control from anywhere in the quarry. AMPS would handle the programming of the PLCs and would design the system to be reliable, easy to use and intuitive for the operators.
    Unitronics V570 to Control Main Operator Station

    The 5.7″ color touch-screen on the Unitronics V570 could serve as the HMI for the main control station. The new V1040 may have been an even better product but it had not quite been released when we started the job. This station is located at the highest point in the quarry inside a booth with a window so the operator can see everything that’s going on. It’s a small booth, though, so we didn’t want to take up too much space. The Unitronics V570 was a perfect fit. From this perch, the operator can control all the conveyors and crushers that wind through the quarry.

    In the photo below, you can see the main control station circled in red.

    Unitronics V350 to Control Other Stations
    The other two control stations only really required small HMI screens because the operators are not used as often. Most of the everyday control will take place from the main station. Because the large color touch-screens were not needed here, we selected the V350. Still part of the Vision series of controllers, the V350 provides full Ethernet capability with extensive I/O options but packaged with a smaller color touch-screen.

    The photo below shows the small booth where one of the V350 electrical control panels is installed. Not fancy but very nice accommodations in cold weather.

    Wireless Ethernet Communication Details
    The Westermo RM-240 was perfect for this application. These devices were easy to configure with a web browser. They formed their own WiFi network on site and were very reliable. The antennas were installed at each location and have been very reliable in all weather conditions.
    Each Vision PLC from Unitronics was installed with an Ethernet module to connect to the Westermo devices. Modbus IP is the protocol we used.
    I can’t speak highly enough of both the Unitronics and Westermo products. This control system has been in use for a couple months now and we haven’t had a single phone call from the customer. It is controlling every conveyor and crusher in the quarry. Even a crusher that draws 4,000 starting Amps! As always, it was nothing but pleasure working with the Unitronics Vision controllers.
  4. Matthew
    Having analyzed our 2010 sales, looking particularly at areas of dynamic growth, we are increasing our inventory of Unitronics products. The increases will be seen mainly in the Vision Series of OPLCs but Snap I/O modules and Expansion I/O modules will also be increased.
    2010 was a great year for us, in no small part due to the growth we saw in Unitronics sales. This is nice to see because it comes as a direct result of the strategy of increasing our presence on the web and emphasizing the quality, features and value of the Unitronics products. The control system design and electrical control panels side of the business has also been partly responsible for the growth so it is accurate to say our 2010 sales were balanced very well between standard control system components and electrical control panels.
    The Unitronics product line will continue to be one we emphasize in 2011 so we are in the process of ramping up inventory levels. This may take several weeks but shortly we will have a broad representation of V130, V350, V560, V570 and V1040 PLCs along with a good assortment of I/O modules on our shelf. Our goal is to fill orders for our OEM customers directly from our inventory and have all the most common PLCs available even if it’s not one currently used by one of our regular customers.
    Unitronics Vision, Jazz and I/O items we will stock include…
  5. Matthew
    Next week I will be traveling to meet with Sam Calagione and his head brewmaster, Floris. I'll be traveling with the president and production engineer from a longtime customer, Sabco, to work on a new nano-brewery. We’ve built the control panels for Sabco’s Brew-Magic for many years but there is a need for a similar, but larger, brewing system to serve the booming craft brewing industry. This is what we’ll be working on next week. The really cool part is getting to work on it with Sam and Floris of The Discovery Channel’s Brewmasters program.
    I work with machinery manufacturers on control system design and electrical control panel fabrication all the time but it's unusual to get to spend my day working with beer! Sabco is one of our very best customers and we’re grateful for the opportunity to work on another project.
    We’re just beginning the design process but we anticipate using the new V1040 from Unitronics. This PLC with built-in 10.4″ touch-screen will be an economical way to get thermocouple inputs along with both analog and digital outputs. The high-resolution graphics will provide a great interface with the brewer, too.
    The target customer is nano-breweries, craft breweries who need a pilot system and brewpubs who want to serve their own craft beer. The system will be capable of brewing 25-50 gallons at a time using RIMS methodology. It will have steam jacketed kettles and an electric boiler.
    This should be fun. I'll keep up up-to-date as things progress…
    Read more: http://www.ampsic.com/blog/?p=175#ixzz17iiiWCck
  6. Matthew
    My company (AMPS Industrial Controls) is working with Speiser Electric Company and Gerken Paving Products to update the entire control system running the stone quarry in Custer, Ohio. This is a big project because a huge section of conveyor and crusher are being added to the existing equipment.Since the work needed is extensive, they have decided to take the opportunity to update all the controls and add wireless communication between each PLC in the quarry. One central PLC with color touch-screen will have the ability to control all the others.I’m writing this short post simply to point out how nice the RM-240 wireless Ethernet devices from Westermo have been to work with. These things will do just about anything. They give you wireless Ethernet and serial communication and they are a wireless hot spot, too. They’re a breeze to set up. Just connect to them using the WiFi connection on your laptop and make sure the settings are right for your application. In my case (connecting one V570 and two V350s using Modbus IP) it was just a matter of configuring one RM-240 as an access point and the other two as clients, then give them all a matching SSID and IP addresses that I choose. Simple. Two minutes apiece and I have a fully customized wireless Ethernet network. On site we’ll add the high powered antennas and we should be up and running with minimal downtime. Of course, part of the reason this is easy is because Unitronics gives us the tools to make it happen. Not to mention the fact they let us do it very cost effectively.Our panel shop is busy building the electrical control panels so I need to make some major progress on the PLC/HMI programming tonight or else this control system won’t do anyone any good. Start-up is scheduled for November 29…
  7. Matthew
    Twelve years ago when I started writing basic ladder programs for PLCs I made a lot of mistakes. Seemed like I was always getting halfway through a project only to realize I'd taken the wrong approach and needed to take two steps back before I could move forward. Frequently this resulted in me scrapping the entire program and starting over. I told myself that was fine. I was learning, right? Well... a dozen or so years later I'm still learning. Now I say, "You never want to stop learning," but I'm not sure I believe myself. I mean, wouldn't it be better to stop making mistakes, altogether? I suppose that's not likely to happen so here's the tale of my latest misstep:One of my projects for an OEM control system uses several data tables. Even though we've already built hundreds of these electrical control panels and the machines work great, we're constantly updating and improving the PLC/HMI program. Some of these changes affect the data tables. No problem, except...Two of the data tables are frequently accessed by a third-party wireless, handheld device called SynTrack. Here's where my mistake comes in: I should have put these data tables first in the list. Whenever you make a change to a data table, the starting location of all the data tables following it will change. The starting location of your first data table will never change, though, so it would have been a good idea for me to put one of these two first in the list of 7 or 8 tables. It wasn't a big deal to change this but there is an issue with the second data table that Syntrack needs to access.I can only have one table in the first position. What happens, though, when I make a change to the first data table? The starting location of table number two will change but I don't want to force changes to the software in SynTrack. An easy solution is to add a column in the first data table which holds an offset value to tell SynTrack what the starting location of table two is. SynTrack always knows where to find the first table and that first table will tell it where to find the second table. Simple but effective. Now I can make changes to any data table and SynTrack can keep up with my changes without the need to revise its software. I just need to remember to change the value of this offset integer.You can bet I'll remember this in future projects. It was aggravating to make the change this time around because changing the order of data tables required me to delete the originals and then search them all out in ladder, point to the new tables and then re-address all the fields in each of those DT function blocks.Hopefully my time-consuming mistake will help you, though.As always, I encourage you to stop by my primary website and visit my company blog where we regularly discuss Unitronics and other controls news.
  8. Matthew
    Well, I never thought it would happen but people have convinced us to enter the world of Twitter. We'll be tweeting often about Unitronics, control system design and the electrical control panels we build. We'd be honored to have you follow us @matthew_AMPS.
  9. Matthew
    An interesting thing happened to me a couple weeks ago. Well, let me back up...
    We prefer to do all our control system design around the Unitronics Vision line. Specifically, we've found the V350 and V570 products to be the most suitable for typical applications. They're simply the most economical, full-featured products out there.
    So when we were approached by a new customer to help with their machine controls we immediately thought of Unitronics. Simple application, really. Just use the PLC to control a VFD to rotate an arm 180 degrees at a time. A handful of digital I/O, nothing fancy. There would be some interfacing with another PLC-controlled device called an automated guided cart (AGC) just to keep things interesting. That's when they dropped the bomb: the main customer for this new machine is General Motors...
    Well, that throws out Unitronics, right? Certainly General Motors will insist on Allen-Bradley. Since we also build the control panels, I was also worried they would spec every component down to terminals. I was only partly correct. They did spec the PLC and VFD to both be Allen-Bradley but they were very flexible with all the other components.
    Okay, all this is just background so my main point will make sense. I did the design work, programmed the MicroLogix PLC, our shop built the panel and we were ready for startup in Grand Blanc, Michigan. Two minutes after arriving and setting up my computer, the AGC we're about to interface with drives up and there's a V350 staring me in the face!
    That's right, here I was programming the despised MicroLogix controller and working side-by-side with a Unitronics product in a GM plant. That was pretty cool, I thought. Turns out the AGC was exempt from the Allen-Bradley spec because it's a portable piece of equipment and not technically installed in the plant. Good for them - perhaps this AGC will serve them well and it will lead to loosening the reins on PLCs a little. One can hope...
  10. Matthew
    In this entry, I would like to highlight one of our machine controls projects that used the Unitronics V130 OPLC:

    AMPS has been working with JML Services and their die storage systems for over ten years. These machines have been installed in most states all over the country to help printing companies keep track of their die plates. A corrugated box manufacturer, for instance, may have over 1000 die plates to store and keep track of. This could take up valuable floor space and be a nightmare to efficiently find the proper plate at the proper time.
    This system from JML Services stores all the plates high above the shop floor on a conveyor that snakes its way throughout the facility. There is one strategically placed loading/unloading station with an operator's console where the conveyor dips down to ground level.
    All the hooks holding the plates are assigned a number which is tracked by the Unitronics Vision 130 PLC. The operator can key in the hook number he wants using the PLC's built-in display and the conveyor will automatically deliver the die plate via the shortest route.
    Customers also have the option of connecting the system to their LAN via wireless Ethernet. This allows daily pick lists to be generated at the front office by management and the operator on the floor just tells the system when he's ready for the next plate. This also allows the front office to track progress and maintain a vast database of die plates using MS Excel.
    AMPS Industrial Controls is proud to be involved in the control system design for JML Services. Our engineering team is in close contact with JML and frequently makes custom changes so that each end customer's needs are fully met. Even though the engineering work has been finished for a few years, JML keeps our shop busy building their electrical control panels by placing orders for these systems on a regular basis.
  11. Matthew
    Hello everyone,
    My name is Matthew and I am a long-time Unitronics distributor, customer and all around fan-boy. My company uses their controllers every chance we get, selling them to customers and using them in the control system design work we do for OEMs.
    Seems like lately every project we do has some sort of communication with an outside device. This prompted us to begin working with a company that's an expert in wireless devices to come up with a cost-effective wireless serial data communication device to work hand-in-hand with the Unitronics controllers.
    We haven't released it publicly yet but we are currently finalizing the design of our first project to utilize the new product. It will be a small device that takes 24VDC input, includes an antenna and a communication port for Vision controllers. It's built for RS232 and it sends and receives strings of data through the Vision serial port. Basically, it's like using the Protocol function blocks with a phone cord connecting two PLCs except that it's wireless.
    We're still finalizing the design but I would welcome your input. Perhaps you'll think of something that we haven't. Anyway, fire away with your questions and comments...
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