Safety at Work Installation Certification Applications

Drying technology

Realizing the possibilities

Using ASi as an engineering tool

Applying automation to established processes and machines is one thing. Developing new processes and integrating them into large-scale systems is entirely different. Here, creativity is required, along with the willingness to not only optimize a chosen path once or twice, but to maybe even reject it entirely. The European research and development project HiPerDry shows that AS-Interface is a highly suitable tool for these purposes.

October 2013. Kunststoffmesse K (trade show for synthetic substances/plastics) in Dusseldorf attracts organizations, associations and companies from five European countries searching for a new drying process for hygroscopic resins. The name: HiPerDry. The goal: to significantly reduce the drying time and energy consumption. Among the twelve partners: Bierther GmbH (Bad Kreuznach, Germany), a midsized company that manufactures peripheral systems like dryers, conveyors, grinders and mixers for the synthetic substances/plastics industry. Bierther's task, among others, will be to manufacture the pilot system: a significant part of the project that decides about the success of the entire mission.

In the fall of 2015, the consortium showed, on time, the successfully engineered prototype, functioning according to every aspect of the design. The system combines a volumetric microwave-based drying process with a convective drying process working with super-heated steam. It is suitable for classic polymers as well as for modern bio-plastics. Throughout the system, numerous AS-i components are installed. AS-INTERFACE DAS MAGAZIN discussed with Jörg Bierther, Bierther GmbH's CEO, why AS-Interface was used.

AS-i DAS MAGAZIN:

Herr Bierther, HiPerDry introduced the successful project prototype. We are excited that you designed the system based on AS-i. Why?

Jörg Bierther:

Because for almost twenty years I have been deeply impressed by AS-i. (laughing) Seriously, being a fan is obviously no criteria for choosing a certain technology. The technology has to fully address all necessary requirements to actually make the cut. As far as the field level is concerned - this is where we connect actuators and sensors, and then control the process - AS-i did exactly that.

AS-i DAS MAGAZIN:

Can you explain this a bit further?

Jörg Bierther:

By design, AS-i has a few distinct advantages: only one cable for data and power, fast and easy installation, topology free, instant access to safety technology through AS-i Safety at Work.

AS-i DAS MAGAZIN:

This sounds like a quote from the AS-i Marketing Guide.

Jörg Bierther:

Exactly. Especially a midsized company like Bierther carefully evaluates every single argument and compares technologies concerning their suitability. However, to always directly go to AS-i is not the right approach. It is crucial to look at the task at hand. The prototype uses a Simatic control system. On the lower level, we operate about 20 analog I/Os, 10 digital I/Os, two emergency stops, and a few additional safe outputs.

AS-i DAS MAGAZIN:

A system that could probably run with a different control unit and conventional wiring…

Jörg Bierther:

Definitely. However, at this point in time, this is what we used for the prototype, a single step within the project. We are talking about a research and development project with 12 other partners, and not about the integration of a clearly defined process according to a specification.

AS-i DAS MAGAZIN:

So there are sound arguments for AS-Interface after all?

Jörg Bierther:

Absolutely. For instance, when we started building the prototype, the configuration was still not clearly defined. However, we weren't worried as AS-i allows flexible addition, changing or elimination of modules, basically without any redesign. The final system most certainly will not be completely different from the prototype, but we will probably have to incorporate some changes to optimize the drying process; another fact we don't worry about. Taking part in a research and development project with trade associations, scientific institutes, and business enterprises requires a high degree of flexibility. It demands being well prepared and having access to suitable tools.

AS-i DAS MAGAZIN:

AS-i as a tool?

Jörg Bierther:

This is how I see it. Obviously, AS-i is a technology, a system offering a large variety of components, suited to solve infinite tasks on the drawing board, and to finally be economically integrated into real machines. However, if I cleverly use the flexibility AS-i offers, it instantaneously becomes an excellent tool to efficiently engineer new solutions, new designs.

AS-i DAS MAGAZIN:

Therefore coming back to the efficiency of the system.

Jörg Bierther:

Efficiency is the yardstick by which everything is judged from engineering to operation. One of the HiPerDry project's main goals is to significantly lower the energy consumption of the drying process. By design, AS-i is more than suitable to achieve this goal. AS-i allows us to build a modular prototype where one part is used while another part remains turned off, i.e. does not use power. And since AS-i Safety at Work also supports modular designs, safety is efficiently included in the system. Each module contains a separate emergency stop and varying safe I/Os.

AS-i DAS MAGAZIN:

So you would use AS-i for future research and development projects?

Jörg Bierther:

In general, for me AS-i will always be an option for any automation project. Here at Bierther, this has been the case for more than 15 years, and will remain so in the future.

AS-i DAS MAGAZIN:

Mr. Bierther, thank you very much for your time.

 

Additional information:

www.bierther.de