Republic Canadian Drawn is North America’s leading supplier of Special Bar Quality (SBQ) steel bars, a highly engineered product used in axles, drive shafts, suspension rods and other critical components of automobiles, off-highway vehicles and industrial equipment. This project was completed at Republic Canadian Drawn’s Hamilton Cold Finished Bar Plant.
One of Republic’s plant lines operates in both shapes and rounds steel mode with specific stillage areas for accepts and rejects. When Republic ran the shear line in rounds operation, a queue of bars built up post-shear as they approached a roll straightener between 1 and 4 bar lengths away. The aging tracking system had difficulty identifying errors within the queue to a high degree of tolerance and could force multiple bars to be rejected every time a defect was detected. Additionally, 3 bars were rejected every time the machine restarted after a pause. The plant required a solution that significantly decreased the amount of false-positives and resulting diminished yield.
- The first phase of the project was spent onsite mapping out the current electrical system that had undergone many refits since being installed, a common challenge with lines of this age. From this review a new electrical panel design was completed to replace the legacy hardware with a modern touchscreen HMI, new control hardware and consolidated control circuits.
- Prolucid then utilized LabVIEW FPGA to build a highly reliable monitoring system, which safely operated the sorting unit. The NI CompactRIO was used to build a reliable no-reset platform to develop a consistent system base.
- Prolucid developed a user interface that provided the operator with visual feedback of where defects appeared in pre-cut bars as well as where they were located in cut bars allowing for quick inspection of rejects when needed.
- The final phase included onsite commissioning to troubleshoot and manage the certification process. Prolucid worked with Republic’s staff to develop validation procedures and execute a test plan, which ensured the product was sorted correctly and within tolerances.
- Prolucid leveraged Republic’s electricians and maintenance teams to handle fabrication and onsite wiring changes. Utilizing internal resources allowed Prolucid to reduce overall project cost and enhance the customer’s knowledge and team buy in.
Prolucid’s system design and software development expertise combined with National Instruments CompactRIO platform and LabVIEW development environment allowed for the development of a system that decreased Republic’s draw and shear line false-positives by 66%. The end result saved 40 hours of labour per week that had been previously been used to re-run the rejected stillage. Line operators have responded very positively to the upgrade after exploring the simple and intuitive user interface and recognizing the possibilities of this system first-hand.