PC-based Control for Window Construction Machines

Open automation solutions for the window manufacturing industry

The manufacturing of windows places high demands on modern mechanical engineering: what appears relatively simple as a finished product is preceded by a highly complex manufacturing process with a series of processing steps. One of the special features of this industry is the fact that there is virtually no series production; manufacturing down to a lot size of one is an everyday occurrence here. This circumstance alone means that the challenges facing process automation are not small. On top of that, there are a sheer mind-boggling number of sections on the market that meet the end customers’ needs as regards individuality, design, comfort, safety and – most decisively – energy saving. The use of wood, plastic and aluminium as well as material mixes of wood or plastic with aluminium as raw materials necessitates the use of special work processes and tools.

Universal control platform increases productivity and lowers costs
In order to survive in the tough competition on the market, the mechanical engineering and plant construction company has to find the right balance between top performance, low costs, optimum integration into the respective production structure and ease of use. The prerequisite for this is an integrated, flexible and scalable control technology, as offered by Beckhoff with the PC-based automation platform that unites PLC and motion functions on a single hardware or maps them by means of software modules. With PC-based control technology, both individual machines and complete window production lines can be controlled and monitored: from the cutting to size of the section, including optimisation of the cut, the machining of the bars (drilling, milling, installing reinforcements, placing striker plates, etc.), the welding and cleaning or pressing and connecting of the frame corners, the drawing-in of the seals and the mounting of the fittings, through to the assembly of the window elements and the gluing of the glass pane.

The Beckhoff control portfolio offers the optimum basic technology for all process steps:
– powerful Industrial PCs
– modular I/O systems
– highly dynamic drive technology
– automation software TwinCAT

The open, PC-based control platform also offers the basis for user interfaces, process optimisations, parts tracking, configuration tools and the production data acquisition as well as local databases. Porting all functions to PC hardware also simplifies data transfer – generally via Ethernet – to the production databases and ERP systems.

Beckhoff as an automation partner to the window manufacturing industry
Beckhoff has been an automation partner to the window manufacturing industry since 1980 and is closely linked to it by profound know-how. Beckhoff thereby functions as a component supplier or as a supplier of complete system solutions. With around 150 employees, the “Beckhoff Engineering” department is available for the realisation of turnkey plants, from application support and the development of customer-specific user interfaces, PLC programming and project planning, through to control cabinet construction and the on-site installation and commissioning of the machine. The absolute protection of the customer’s know-how is one of the most important prerequisites for a long-term, trusting cooperation. By taking worldwide standards as a basis and the use of the latest technologies, Beckhoff additionally offers its customers future security and protection of investment for its application.

Scalable control concept allows tailor-made solutions
For the window production machinery sector the Beckhoff product range offers high-performance IPCs with motherboards especially designed for industrial applications, compact Embedded PCs, a wide range of electronic I/O terminals, versatile servo drive technology, cost-effective stepper motor technology, the high-speed EtherCAT fieldbus, the PLC and Motion Control software TwinCAT NC I or CNC, and Control Panels as operating display units. From this universal, scalable, modular control portfolio, the optimum solution can be assembled for each task – whether the individual machine module or the complete production plant – with regard to computing performance, complexity and costs. This way, compared to conventional controllers, costs can be lowered considerably while at the same time optimising processes.

Integrated software platform for PLC and Motion functions
The openness of the Beckhoff control platform with regard to the software and hardware interfaces helps the machine manufacturer to adapt its plant to the many different, changing requirements, without having to accept high implementation costs and expenditure of time on each occasion. TwinCAT integrates PLC and Motion Control functions and controls the individual process steps of the window production machines with high performance. Software PLC programming is based on the international IEC 61131-3 standard. A wide range of software modules for different tasks such as cam plates, synchronisation and interpolating movements of several axes are available. Due to the high flexibility in terms of combination options for master and slave axes and the high-performance and diverse Motion functions, solutions for practically any application in the window manufacturing industry can be implemented. High-performance tools such as the TwinCAT CAM Design Editor and TwinCAT Scope support system design and commissioning. PLC libraries with function blocks according to the PLCopen Motion Control standard facilitate programming.
Open communication interfaces support integration into existing visualisation and control systems. Depending on the requirements of the automation components, the Windows operating system enables further software components (in addition to TwinCAT) to be installed on the same hardware. The Industrial PC as a uniform platform enables communication between the selected components.

Maximum performance with EtherCAT
The basis for the ultra-fast process communication is the EtherCAT Industrial Ethernet system, which is ideally suited for use in window production machines. The fast communication between the controller and the I/O signals – without special hardware - offers the machine manufacturer undreamt-of possibilities: Motion Control with multiple axes, synchronised through distributed EtherCAT clocks, with nanosecond precision.
With XFC (eXtreme Fast Control Technology) from Beckhoff any programmer is able to realise very fast and highly precise control solutions for window production machines simply and elegantly based on standard components. Distributed clock functionality enables high-precision printing mark control, for example.