System Integration & Control Systems Design

Flexibility of PC-based control minimises development times

May 2020 System Integration & Control Systems Design

The outbreak of Covid-19 in China created a massive demand for masks and other medical products. Xiamen Booltech recognised the need to produce N95 masks, which provide protection for both medical staff and the public, reducing the spread of the coronavirus. To meet this growing need, Booltech leveraged PC-based technology from Beckhoff Automation to design and build the first of its N95 mask machines in China.

Manufacturers of personal protective equipment (PPE) worked closely with Booltech on machine design and implementation. The entire project took only half a month from start-up to commissioning, so that the machines began to ship at the end of March. Due to the tight schedule, Booltech’s technical team completed the initial commissioning of machines in less than one night, so that equipment manufacturers could test and verify machines the next day.

Control technology and software from Beckhoff

The cooperation between Booltech and Beckhoff goes back to 2014. The Booltech engineering team has always used TwinCAT automation software as its development platform for motion control. TwinCAT and EtherCAT technology are integrated in the company’s packaging and printing machines, providing clear benefits for the customer. Harnessing this expertise, Booltech completed its new application with the powerful and precise motion control functionality of TwinCAT. Modular software function blocks enable different devices to utilise different features. The N95 mask machine is equipped with a powerful CX5120 Embedded PC and EtherCAT enabled easy, flexible expansion of the numerous I/O terminals and servo axes. All of this helped Booltech software engineers greatly shorten the development cycle, allowing for rapid deployment of both the semi-automated and the fully automated N95 production machines.

Chen Renjie, technical director of Booltech, said: "We recently received feedback from our end user customer that the semi-automated N95 mask machines have reached a throughput of 280 pieces per minute without ear band and seal. The fully automated N95 production machines equipped with Beckhoff XFC technology offer high repeatability and high production speed. The production throughput of disposable masks with ear band and seal can reach 50 pieces per minute. Our customers are very satisfied with such efficient production machinery."

Beckhoff China provides strong supply chain and technical support

Considering the uncertainties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Beckhoff China began to increase the stock at its Shanghai headquarters in February to ensure an uninterrupted supply of automation equipment for Chinese manufacturers. With the sharp increase in demand for production equipment needed for mask machines, Beckhoff China created a protocol to prioritise supply and delivery for customers manufacturing equipment to fight the pandemic. All products are available from stock to help customers eliminate supply chain problems. By the end of April, Beckhoff China had provided Booltech with 90 CX5120 Embedded PCs for the N95 mask machines. Meanwhile, the Beckhoff technical team responded very quickly to the customer’s needs for software functionality using TwinCAT, and quickly solved any technical challenges in software development.

Luo Yuanliang, general manager of Booltech, said: "In the early days of the anti-epidemic campaign, our technical team had many technical discussions and finally reached a consensus: First, we had no time to waste; this phase needed to be completed in the shortest time possible, preferably one day. Second, we needed a stable and reliable system. We had to ensure that production equipment could run with high stability over long periods with a low failure rate. Relying on the team's many years of application experience, we unanimously determined that the Beckhoff platform was the best choice. Beckhoff, as a global leader in PC-based control technology, possesses decades of experience to ensure both product performance and stability. In addition to the good reputation in the industry, Beckhoff technology has also exceeded expectations during our years of verification.”


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