Cutting costs while boosting functionality
In the late 19th century, potter and Englishman Thomas Twyford secured his place in history as one of the pioneers of 'sanitary science' when he built the first modern-looking toilet; a one-piece, all china design that he would refine and promote for the good part of a decade. Almost 130 years later, technology such as Festo's pneumatics equipment and CPX modular automation platforms are allowing developer and producer of sanitaryware pressure casting systems, PCL Ceramics, to continue to improve upon Twyford's original idea but in much less time and as cost-effectively as possible.
When PCL Ceramics was tasked with decreasing its machine building expenditure as part of an overall cost-reduction programme, it sought expert advice from Festo in order to understand how the latest technology could help it achieve this objective without sacrificing the functionality or safety of its machines.
PCL Ceramics develops and produces sanitaryware pressure casting systems with machine configuration options ranging from simple manually de-moulded systems to fully automated robotic systems. "Our machine operates in a process type environment where motors pump liquid 'mud' into pressurised moulds in a controlled sequence, after which there is a setting period for around 20 minutes," explains Nick Riddington, engineering manager at PCL Ceramics. At the end of the process, the moulds are automatically opened and a robot enters the process area to unload the casting machine before the moulds are closed for the whole process to start again.
The company had already introduced the Festo CPX modular automation platforms on its machines around seven years ago. However, as part of a cost-reduction programme to help target lower-cost markets, it needed to implement further savings. "We did not want to make any engineering or safety compromises but we realised that we did not need all the sophisticated diagnostic features of the CPX-MPA-S on all our machines," So PCL has adopted the latest MPA-L valve option on the CPX manifolds on its newer machines. The rationale for this change is that this reduced the cost of the manifolds whilst retaining the full flexibility and function integration of the electrical CPX. A further CPX manifold is used purely as an electrical I/O module without valves while eight others are combined electrical and pneumatic valve combinations distributed around different parts of the machinery.
Riddington adds: "The ability of the CPX system to offer pneumatic and electrical isolation and zoning allows us to build a cost effective solution that incorporates the safety features we need." He also likes the fact that because the valves and I/O have ingress protection to IP65 and IP67, the CPX and I/O modules can be mounted directly on a machine at eye level instead of inside a cabinet elsewhere taking up space on the factory floor.
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