Infinity Technology Europe Ltd is a UK based software developer providing system solutions for component manufacturing.
Infinity’s software connects real-time production instructions from major automotive manufacturers to Tier 1 suppliers, integrating their time-critical and sequence-critical production processes. At Infinity, we call this a Sequence Production System.
Our software supports the “Just in Time” manufacturing where parts are only ordered and delivered when needed. Organising production by “Just in Time” principles allows manufacturing companies to maximise their cash flow as they have no need to hold stock in excess of which is required at any point at any time. Sequence Production System automates data transfer processes which allow significant efficiency gains in terms of speed of production process and minimising the stock levels at the production plant.
Infinity were engaged by Futaba Industrial in a project called Jarvis Traceability, to develop a new bespoke application for their car fuel tank weld and helium test production process.
The project required to provide three key features:
- Collect and record test data for Futaba’s customer JLR
- Validate tank serial number data prior to allowing the fuel tanks to be welded
- Validate tank serial number and weld status prior to allowing the tanks to be helium tested.
Futaba engaged ICS to provide the automated fuel tank welding robots and VES for the Helium Testing. Infinity have been providing systems for Futaba for 12 years and were invited to participate with this project.
We recognised that to deliver this solution for FIUK it meant we would need to be operating at a lower level than our previous applications, in essence it meant our software would be interfacing directly with PLCs (production line control machines), collecting and recording data whilst also updating registers on the PLCs at certain points during production, in effect our system controls the production process.
We developed a protocol between ICS and Infinity to perform the required process. Via the research we carried out we knew the requirement and had identified what needed to be done.
The development of the ‘bridge’ took place on the customer site and working alongside technical staff from ICS, the development process was lengthy and complex. We had to develop from scratch, connecting to the PLC, reading and writing data to the PLC and also take into account the limited memory capacity of the PLC. The cycle time of the welding machine/robot is around 30 minutes. This meant testing had to be carefully planned prior to execution. The extract below shows the data registers used to exchange data.
The VES helium tester was driven/controlled by a Siemens S7-300 2DP PLC with a 343-1 Lean Ethernet module. We developed a protocol between VES and Infinity software to perform the required process. We were able to use existing technology, a Python and a snapseven library, to talk to the Siemens PLC.
The development of the ‘protocol took place on the customer site and working alongside staff from VES, the development process was about development of the protocol, documenting it and testing it. We had to learn the vocabulary of all the participating technologies, we had to overcome issues with reading, writing and changing datablocks in the PLC memory.
The table below shows the fields of data used in the development of the protocol.
We also developed code that would recover from a complete shutdown and restart of all components (Infinity, VES and ICS) that at the start was considered not technically feasible by our customer.
How the System Functions in the Workplace.
The fuel tanks are built by the ICS welding robots controlled by Jarvis Traceability, welding is completed, data recorded and label printed.
The fuel tanks are moved to another part of the factory for Helium testing.
The fuel tanks are helium tested using the VES process controlled by Jarvis Traceability, testing completed, data recorded and pass/fail label printed.
The System controls and traces the history of products through the manufacturing process on the shop floor and mark products appropriately to allow all tracking data to be identified easily, reliably and on demand.
More detailed information about the process is available on request.
The following is a flowchart showing Infinity’s position throughout the manufacturing process and where we had to interface with the other systems, writing the programs to allow this to happen.
|JARVIS TRACEABILITY TICKED SEVERAL BOXES FOR INFINITY AND OUR CUSTOMER|
|POSITIVE BENEFITS FOR THE CLIENTS|
Client can confidently provide Traceability data for every fuel tank produced. Only fuel tanks which have passed checks can be shipped to their customer. Client has historic data showing passes/fails/reworks which can be used when investigating production process improvements.
As this is a completely new system we have created for the client, who have only just added this process to their production line, we have nothing to compare the results with at the moment.
Jarvis Traceability system has now been in place and running since July 2017, with enhancements to the software being carried out as and when Required, proving itself to be a successful addition to the plant’s expanding automated production line.