Project For: Ennis-Flint
Perspective and Edge for Better Results
Ennis-Flint contracted DSI to help automate the material flow process for each of its polymer-producing machines and record the data for reporting and material consumption. DSI has automated the facilities in Ennis, Texas; Richmond, Virginia; and Thomasville, North Carolina. Each facility has several mixing systems, with up to 20 independent raw-material feeders, along with tank farms, flow meters, weight scales, and agitators. Current plans include automatically sending recipe information from the company’s product development and ERP systems to enhance the end quality of the product and reduce the possibility of mistakes.
Ennis-Flint had developed a new continuous mixing process for a material that had previously been produced in single batch kettle mixers. These mixers will use up to 20 different raw material feeders (vibratory, screw, or volumetric disk feeders) to continuously feed the mixer at the correct ratios determined by the recipe. Due to the nature of a continuous process, fluctuations in feed rates could result in bad product. By trending each of the tags per feeder, Ennis-Flint is now able to diagnose and fix such issues as they arise.
One of the difficult aspects of this project involved Ignition development in three different cities across the South and Southeast, and the need to rapidly recreate and deploy environments that allowed developers to work in tandem with each other and in a format that more fully resembled the customer’s environment.
A combination of PLC controls and operator SCADA systems, in conjunction with Ignition, allowed DSI to help develop a much more heavily automated system that allows the customer to automate the flow of recipe information, as well as material consumption, in the ERP. Ignition is architected in a hub-and-spoke configuration, where the Ignition Edge devices are running locally on OnLogic IGN-600 Edge Onboard devices, which communicate with the central Ignition hub in the cloud over the Gateway Network. All the data is visualized through Perspective in a mobile-responsive and dynamic application that allows operators and employees to view historical batch information, as well as machine trends.
The tag structures for the project in the PLC were created with Ignition Perspective in mind, and the ability to dynamically look at different facilities and equipment without the need to create duplicate custom screens for each different plant was imperative. Each Perspective screen is built in a completely dynamic fashion that is based on the equipment located on each premises, and allows the rapid addition of new equipment with little to no changes to the Perspective application. This design allows for cost-effective scalability, as well as a cleaner product that feels more consistent for users.
To solve the issue of rapidly re-creating development environments, DSI employed the use of Ignition through containerization. Using Docker, DSI created several Ignition images that allowed it to rapidly deploy and recreate the user’s environment, including its full Ignition network (all four gateways), SQL servers, DNS, Active Directory, and simulated OPC data. This allowed developers to spin up an exact copy of the customer’s environment locally and to test changes and fixes more thoroughly before introducing them to the staging and then production environments on the customer network.
With this infrastructure in place, Ennis-Flint can add new mixing systems into the Perspective application in a matter of hours instead of days or weeks.
The Perspective application was built with native theming in mind, which allowed for more rapid development and reduced the customization overhead of project styling. Through the use of theming, DSI’s developers would drag and drop components into the Ignition designer, which ensured that they would effortlessly match the entire design of the project through native CSS. The use of theming significantly decreased development time because the developer could focus more on the functionality of the product knowing that the visual aspect was being taken care of across the entire application.
Feeder 5 was recording small, momentary increases in weight when the feeder should have been losing weight. As a result, the PID loop controlling the flow out of the feeder would overfeed the materials, causing a spike in agitator current and resulting in bad product. These small “bumps” in weight were determined to be the root cause of the motor current faults and bad product. An issue with the shield grounding was discovered, and PLC program modifications were made to make the system less susceptible to bad weight data. With Ignition, they were able to quickly and easily identify the issue and start on a fix to resolve the issue.
Perspective has proven to be the perfect platform for this project because Perspective allows any authenticated employee to securely access the project from anywhere, using any kind of device. The responsive design allows employees to check the same details using their phone or tablet at home without losing any application functionality. They no longer needed to be in their office or on their laptop to respond and oversee things.
The use of Docker drastically reduced overhead development time and made it easier to share the project between team members because everyone on the team had the same ease of access to the entire project. The ability to recreate the entire user’s environment locally meant that, when moving into staging, no one had to worry about naming conventions, schemes, or connection paths that may be different between the simulated environment and the production one.
- Tags: 3,928
- Screens: 7 that dynamically respond across 3 separate systems
- Clients: 10-20 daily, but with capability to scale to demand
- Alarms: 1,581
- Devices: 3 Allen Bradley PLCs, 3 OnLogic IGN600 Edge Onboard gateways
- Architecture: Cloud-Hub & Spoke with containerized development
- Databases: 2 cloud databases in MSSQL with Always-On Availability
- Historical data logged: Around 2 million rows per day
Keith Gamble is a Premier Certified Ignition integrator with a specialization in Perspective, and a background in application development and database administration. Keith is very involved in the Inductive Automation community, and has a passion for pushing Ignition to its limits.Created By:
DSI Innovations is a technical services company specializing in all aspects of system design, implementation, and commissioning for industrial control and data systems. While providing a diverse offering in technology and industry expertise, DSI is committed to maintaining long-term, repeat business by providing the highest level of services to its customers. DSI is based in Thomasville, North Carolina, where it also maintains a UL-listed panel shop. In addition, DSI has five other offices located throughout the Southeastern United States.
Website: www.dsiinnovations.comProject For:
Ennis-Flint is a worldwide leader in the traffic safety and pavement marking industry. It provides the most comprehensive lineup of pavement marking solutions on the market. Ennis-Flint’s goal has always been to engineer and produce quality products that add high value and last throughout a project’s lifecycle.Industry: