The pandemic has seen more and more companies looking at cost savings. One way has been to rejuvenate obsolete pieces of equipment rather than buy more modern models. Ferrazza’s ReBorn system offers a convenient way to revamp and update old lead-acid battery formation, assembly and finishing machines to make them good as new.
During the pandemic outbreak and the series of lockdowns in 2020, many firms were forced to re-evaluate their budgets and to postpone the purchase of new equipment and machines.
During times such as these, with shortages of raw materials and lack of orders, many companies that were scheduled to change their production machines preferred to stick with the old ones and revamp them, due to cost savings.
It is not uncommon for those companies to continue their production run on very old, but still perfectly-functioning machines. But how can an old machine still work perfectly well? How can a factory keep the old reliable machines and have them run better in order to remain as competitive as its rivals?
The answer is to revamp a machine by updating the electrical and electronic components— an operation that Ferrazza mastered with its ReBorn program, which is specific for any machine used in the lead-acid battery industry.
The update for all the electrical and electronic components includes the software installed on the machine’s control system, which is more likely to become obsolete before the mechanical components wear out or need to be changed.
Updating the out of date
Many firms are finding that because of the ongoing development of software they were left with a machine that can work and produce products, but its technological core and automation system has become outdated to the point of being obsolete. Outdated software means the system becomes too slow to process all the inputs or to keep pace with new and more modern machines installed on the line.
It was clear to Ferrazza that the right solution would be a method to update the old machines, no matter how old, to make them as efficient as the new ones.
The ReBorn method represents a cheaper investment than buying new machines because there is no need to redesign the whole factory, dismantle the old machines and make room for the newly purchased equipment. There is also the issue of time that must be invested in training the working staff to fully use a new piece of equipment.
Investing in machine revamping can be more than 50% cheaper than getting a new model and takes significantly less time – from two to four months, versus one whole year (and sometimes more) to have the new equipment designed, assembled, installed, and commissioned.
How it works
The system works on the electric cabinet and distribution boards; the programmable logic controller (PLCs) and all the electrical and electronic components of the machine get updated with newer and higher performing models that can be at least 20% faster.
To help increase the electronics performance and how fast they respond to the production inputs, the central processing unit (CPU) memory gets an update too; machines built in the early 2000s had a 256kb CPU— with ReBorn it can be expanded to 4Gb. Moreover, it will also be possible to connect more PLC modules to the CPU. For example, twenty years ago a CPU that could work with eight PLCs, and needed more modules than it could work with, had to be remotely connected to the extra modules. Nowadays, a CPU from the same brand can be connected to sixty-four PLC modules, with no need for any extra wiring.
While changing and updating the electronic components, ReBorn does not change the overall structure and frame of the machine, leaving it unchanged from a mechanical point of view. This preserves the key parts that lead to a quality and successful product. By not changing the mechanical features, the production process remains the same but smoother and more effective, thanks to all the new electrical and electronic parts.
Integrating new software technology and new supervision and control systems— also known as SCADA systems— allows for better product traceability. The human-machine interface (HMI) that runs the supervision and control software allows monitoring of every production phase— from the machines at work to the parameters set— using any control panel installed on the line. Of course, the new software will feature a more user-friendly interface and more functionality, as well as having an internet connection to share data with other sections of the production line and the management personnel.
Being able to share production data, and the means to monitor and track every step and process, favours a lean production that translates to more efficient manufacturing and increased productivity. This means a better product and process traceability, with the possibility of making changes to correct mistakes, or to improve the working phases; to cut downtimes, optimise the use of raw materials and, eventually, speed up production.
Revamping your old machines
If a battery manufacturer decides to have one of its machines (or production lines) revamped it does not necessarily mean that the wiring of the whole machine must be stripped out and remade. In fact, more often, it is just necessary to revamp the electrical cabinet and replace the machines’ old PLC and drives with new and better performing models.
This can optimise the space inside the electrical cabinet too, for the new components tend to be smaller, more compact, and even more resistant— a feature that is quite important for a piece of equipment used in an environment that sees extensive use of acids, high temperatures and high voltage currents. It’s also a convenient feature in case of future modifications.
After the replacement of the old and obsolete components, the newer models are wired, tested, and the whole machine is started to make sure that no fault occurs, and to adjust the new components to the production and the other pre-existent machines.
ReBorn not only improves electrical cabinets and electronic components, but control desks as well. From an obsolete button-type control desk, it is possible to switch to a touch-screen panel that can show every detail of the production phases, and on which it’s possible to set up working parameters, summed-up in a list of data (known as recipes), that the machine follows to start and continue the production cycle.
Case study examples
A revamping operates on the specific parts that cause the machine to not run efficiently. An example can be found in through-the-partition (TTP) welder and cast-on-strap (COS) machine revamping.
For the TTP welder, after changing the old electrical cabinets and PLCs, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system was also implemented. The combination of new hardware and SCADA, led to better production management and traceability, by automating the recipe management and control.
The COS machine, on the other hand, saw the same electric cabinets and PLC revamping. What differed was that SCADA software wasn’t needed, only new drives and brushless motors. Ferrazza supplied the brushless motors, then programmed the PLCs to run them— and interfaced everything with the customer’s SCADA. This board machine intervention allowed smoother running and fewer breakdowns, thanks to the reliability of the new motors and the better performance of the new PLCs.