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Menu-driven control for multi-product potting

Menu-driven control for multi-product potting

Electronics industry users of Meter Mix dispensing equipment are benefiting from simpler, menu-driven access on multi-component potting lines, thanks to a single HMI and integrated control from Omron.

Based in Northamptonshire, Meter Mix Systems produces metering, mixing and dispensing systems for multi-component adhesives and sealants. The electronics industry is the largest single sector that it serves, typically using its systems for potting or encapsulating components with epoxy or polyurethane. 

Says MD David Johnson: “The use of Omron PLCs enables us to tighten up specifications to meet the ever-increasing demands of our electronics customers.” Typically, parameters such as volumes and flow-rates will vary from one component to another. 

The initial contact with Omron came via a new customer enquiry some five years ago. Meter Mix’s multinational customer already used Omron components in its main manufacturing lines, and wanted the same for its new bonding unit. “We had been using a competitor control system,” says Johnson. “But we were so impressed with Omron’s pre-sales and after-sales support that we investigated their technology more broadly, and it escalated from there.” 

Today, Meter Mix estimates that some 60% of its metering and dispensing equipment uses Omron PLCs. Omron’s original PLC sourced by Meter Mix was the CJ2 series and this is still used in some applications. But in the majority of its systems, the company integrates the CP1 series. These controllers are combined with Smart Step servo drives and, typically, NB series HMIs. 

Technical engineer Dave Scott cites the example of Meter Mix’s PAR 30 system, which moved over to Omron’s CJ1 controller and NB HMI in mid-2015. “It was to do with standardisation, but also flexibility in changing speeds in the inverter drives,” he says. “Everything can now be changed from the HMI.” 

Johnson explains: “The benefit is that we can run 95% of machine control through the one unit, doing away with most of the buttons and switches. We used to need a plug-in hand-held controller to vary motor speeds, but now it’s all on-board.” 

But if Meter Mix is appreciative of the technical advantages that Omron’s components offer, the company is even more complimentary regarding the support provided by its supplier. “I wrote a large amount of code, and Omron’s field application engineer Wayne Corp came in to work on it, spending a huge amount of time experimenting with different ways of programming in order to achieve the most reliable result,” says Johnson. “The company put a lot of effort into tailoring the software to meet our needs. For me, it was the support package and the level of backup we’ve seen which really ‘sold’ the product. They’re always ready to help.” 

He adds: “From our company’s point of view, Omron’s control system decreases the build time considerably, since so much of that control is in the 

PLC, making it a programming rather than an engineering exercise. There are no complex electrical cabinets to wire up.” Meter Mix estimates that this change has reduced machine build times by between 15% and 20%. 

Inevitably, equipment is tailored to suit Meter Mix’s customer needs. Often, there will be last-minute changes to on-board options. “Using Omron technology, these changes can be programmed in and added to the HMI,” says Johnson. “It’s not as involved or as expensive as drilling and adding wiring. That programmability also means there is a degree of future-proofing built into each system.” 

Future-proofing has also taken the form of staff training. “This means we now have five people in-house who can interrogate PLCs, where before we had one,” Scott reports. “Thanks to Omron’s training, we don’t rely on one person to make any changes.” 

Omron’s Wayne Corp comments: “The company seems pleased with the support and products that Omron has provided. Now it is looking at the possibility of incorporating our Sysmac control platform for high-end and more complex metering, including precision metering of adhesives and sealants on an XY table.” 

One further consideration in Omron’s favour is the availability of its components. “Nine times out of ten, the product is off-the-shelf and delivered either the next day or within a couple of days,” says Johnson. 

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