Cimtec Automation Blog

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cognex DataMan 8000 Series Wireless Handheld Scanner Released

Cimtec Automation is now offering the newly released Cognex DataMan 8000 wireless handheld barcode reader. These units have unrivaled code reading performance, superior reading versatility, and modular communication options. In the wireless communication model, the intelligent base station can communicate back to your industrial controls via Ethernet, USB, or serial.  The base station also now offers a spare battery charging component.

Cognex DataMan 8000 readers set the new performance standard when it comes to industrial code reading. These industry-leading readers introduce several firsts to industrial handheld scanner capabilities, including:

Liquid Lens Variable Focus Technology
The DataMan 8000 handheld series reader is the first industrial handheld reader to utilize integrated liquid lens technology. The adjustable focus of the liquid lens gives a maximum depth of field flexibility for an image-based handheld reader. This industrially proven technology enables a single reader to decode DPM marks close up, or large barcodes from a distance. Relative to other autofocus mechanisms, the liquid lens has extremely fast response times and is exceptionally durable with no moving parts.

Superior Code Reading
The DataMan 8000 series units are powered by Cognex patented algorithms, 1DMax and 2DMax, that provide advanced decoding for reading virtually every type of code, every time, with unsurpassed read rates. For 1-D barcodes, 1DMax is their best-in-class reading tool optimized for omnidirectional barcode reading that can handle extreme variations. For 2-D codes, 2DMax technology sets the industry standard for the most challenging Data Matrix DPM applications.

Industrial Ethernet
The DataMan 8000 series readers are the first to offer Industrial Ethernet communication capability in a handheld reader. Now, handheld readers can be integrated directly into the factory network for real-time product traceability with the Cognex Connect™ suite of industrial protocols including EtherNet/IP, PROFINET, MC Protocol and
more. DataMan 8000 corded readers have a direct Ethernet connection while the cordless readers have Ethernet connectivity from the base station to the host.

Modular Communications
The DataMan 8000 series is also the first to introduce interchangeable communication modules for RS-232/USB, Ethernet and wireless connectivity. This flexibility means that one standard reader can be deployed with a variety of possibilities so that initial reader installation can be modified to meet future requirements.

The DataMan 8000 series is available in two models. Each model can be corded or cordless, with patented 1DMax and 2DMax algorithms, liquid lens technology and modular communication capabilities.

  • DataMan 8500. The DataMan 8500 readers incorporate patented UltraLight® technology from Cognex for superior image formation on any DPM type and surface.

  • DataMan 8100. These readers feature integrated bright field illumination ideal for applications that require superior code reading performance for well-printed 1-D and 2-D codes and well-marked DPM codes.

Contact us today for an on-site demo of the Dataman 8000 series reading your toughest codes!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

10 Questions You Must Ask When Buying a Vision Sensor or Vision System

With so many vision systems available today, it can be a daunting task trying to figure out which one is right for your particular application. Simply finding a system that can perform the necessary vision tasks is not enough; there are several other factors that need to be considered to ensure a successful deployment.
These include:

  • Variations in lighting conditions
  • Networking and communications capabilities
  • Accessories and product support options
  • Ongoing post-deployment support

Whether you are new to machine vision or an experienced user, this guide will help you through the vision system selection process, providing answers to ten critical questions and valuable tips for evaluating specific product features.

1. Does the vision system make it easy to set up applications, create custom operator interfaces and administer vision system networks?

Setting up a vision application should not require you to be a machine vision expert. Does the setup interface walk you through all of the steps of a vision application, including setting up the acquisition settings, finding and inspecting the part and communicating the results to other devices on the factory floor? Does it require programming knowledge, or is it a configurable system? Does the setup software make it simple to calibrate the system to work in real world units instead of pixels? As you add tools to the application, does it show you a quick view of which tools are passing and failing to help you understand how well the application is set up? Does it allow you to build a complete operator interface to allow changing tolerances or to support line changeovers?
Make sure the operator interface you create can perform the following tasks:

  • Display images with graphics to allow for immediate analysis of failed parts,
  • Enable operators to easily turn the inspection on and off and modify tolerances, and
  • Display pass/fail results statistics to quickly spot shifts in trends.

2. What is the importance of part location tools, and how can I assess their performance?

Part location software tools find the part within the camera’s field of view. This is typically the first step in any vision application, from the simplest robot pick-and-place operation to the most complex assembly verification task. It's also the most critical step, because it often determines whether an application succeeds or fails, since you can’t inspect, measure or identify the part if you can’t find it.

While it sounds simple enough, locating parts in an actual production environment can be extremely challenging. Vision systems are trained to recognize parts based on a pattern, but even the most tightly controlled manufacturing processes allow some variability in the way a part appears to the vision system. Therefore, the vision system’s part location tools must be intelligent enough to quickly, and accurately compare trained patterns to the actual objects moving down a production line, and tolerate variations in part appearance. It’s important for pattern matching tools to be able to tolerate large variations in contrast and ignore lighting changes, while being reliable enough to always find the right part.
How can you tell if a vision system’s part location tools will be able to accurately and reliably find parts under the range of conditions in your factory? Following is a list of ten of the most problematic conditions vision systems face, potential causes for those problems, and quick tests you can use to evaluate a vision system’s ability to locate your parts under each condition.

3. Does the vision system have a complete set of image pre-processing tools?

Image pre-processing tools alter the raw image to emphasize desired features while minimizing undesirable features. This prepares the image for optimal performance by more powerful vision tools and can significantly improve the accuracy and robustness of the overall system. Pre-processing tools can:

  • Increase the contrast between the part and its background
  • Mask insignificant and potentially confusing image features
  • Eliminate “hot spots” reflecting off the part surface, and
  • Smooth rough surface textures

Make sure that a complete set of image pre-processing tools is included with the vision system you choose.

4. What should I look for in character reading and verification capabilities?

Whether you’re reading stamped alphanumeric codes on automotive parts or verifying date and lot code information on medicine bottles or packages, there are several capabilities to look for when evaluating character reading and verification tools, including:

  • Statistical font training—This capability builds a font by learning models of characters that appear in a series of images. The images should include multiple instances of each character, and span the full range of quality likely to occur in production. The resulting font will be highly tolerant of normal variations in print quality, whether due to poor contrast, variable locations, degradations, or variations in stroke widths. Unless you know in advance that every code will be marked with the same quality seen in the reference images used to learn the character models, statistical font training can be crucial to the success of your reading or verification application.

  • Image pre-processing tools—These tools optimize a trained model by sharpening the edge contrast of characters and filtering out extraneous background in the image. Optimized models maximize the reliability and repeatability of the vision system. See Question 3 for more information about image pre-processing.

  • Instant image recall—This capability enables line operators and technicians to quickly and easily view failed images on a display. Whether the failure is caused by a camera jarred out of position or a missing or damaged label, it is important to know immediately why the failure occurred so corrective actions may be taken.

In a packaging plant, package and container materials, labeling equipment, printing methods, and ambient lighting conditions can vary considerably over time.
As you evaluate a vision system, be sure to test the system on a large sample of good, marginal, and poor quality labels to see how the system performs under variable real-world conditions.
And because character positions can shift from label to label, it’s also a good idea to enlarge the region of interest around the character string.
This will help you determine how reliably the vision system’s reading and verification tools operate within a larger search region.

5. How can I determine the repeatability of a vision system’s gauging tools?

If your application involves critical dimensional measurements, the vision system’s gauging tools must be accurate and perform with a very high degree of repeatability.

The vision system should have a full suite of gauging tools which will allow you to choose the right one to fit the requirements of your measurement application without having to write custom scripts or functions.

For high accuracy measurements, the vision system should be able to correct the lens distortion that can affect measurements, especially in the outer areas of the image.

Gauging repeatability can be tested by presenting a part to the vision system and having it perform the same measurement 25 times or more without changing part position, lighting, or any other variables. Record and analyze the measurements, making sure that any variance is well within the measurement tolerance for your application.

6. How do I evaluate industrial code reading tools and what are some specific features to look for?

Industrial environments demand a vision system that can read 2D Data Matrix codes that are degraded, poorly marked, or vary in position from part to part. The vision system should perform well regardless of the part material (such as metal, glass, ceramic, and plastic) and the type of part marking method employed (such as dot peen, etching, hot stamping, and inkjet).

Beyond these criteria, there are several specific code reading features worth inquiring about:

  • Code quality verification—Look for products that can verify code quality to established standards. This can provide valuable information about how well the marking process is working.

  • Reading speed—Depending on your production line speed and throughput requirements, you may need a very high-speed reader. The fastest vision systems available today can read more than 7200 codes per minute.

To evaluate industrial code reading tools, start by measuring the vision system’s reading speed. To do this, present a well-marked code to the vision system and have it read the code hundreds of times under pristine conditions to determine the number of reads per minute. Make sure the read rate under these optimized conditions is 100%, or you may face problems later when conditions might be less than ideal. For example, at a production line speed of 2000 parts per hour, a read rate of 99.7% would fail to read the ID codes on 48 parts in just one eight-hour shift!

After establishing the system’s reading speed, you should run a more challenging read rate test to determine the impact of factors such as line vibration, variable lighting conditions, and extremely high line speeds on the vision system’s reading performance in your application. To do this, present a large sample of codes of good, bad, and marginal quality to the vision system. At the same time, simulate vibration and motion blur by shaking the part and sliding it back and forth beneath the camera as it acquires an image. This test will provide a good initial assessment of how well the vision system’s read rate will hold up under real-world production conditions.

7. What networking and communications features should I look for?

Networking is essential to many vision applications as a means to share data, support decision-making, and enable highly-efficient integrated processes. For example, networking enables vision systems to transmit pass/fail results to PCs for analysis, or communicate directly with PLCs, robots, and other factory automation devices in an integrated process control system.

If you need to link your vision systems to PCs at the enterprise level, choose a system that supports the complete set of standard networking protocols:

  • TCP/IP client/server enables vision systems to easily share results data with other vision systems and control devices over Ethernet without any code development.

  • SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) enables you to immediately receive an e-mail on your PC or cell phone when a problem occurs on the production line.

  • FTP (File Transfer Protocol) allows inspection images to be stored on the network for later analysis.

  • Telnet is an Internet standard protocol that enables remote login and connection from host devices.

  • DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) allows a vision system to automatically receive its network IP address from a server, enabling true plug-and-play performance.

  • DNS (Domain Name Service) allows you to assign each vision system a meaningful name, such as “Bottling Line System 1”, instead of having to use a numeric IP address.

To integrate a vision system with the PLCs, robots and other automation devices in your plant, the system you choose must also support the following:

  • Industrial Ethernet protocols such as EtherNet/IP, PROFINET, MC Protocol and Modbus TCP. These enable vision systems to be linked to the most popular PLCs and other devices over a single Ethernet cable, eliminating the need for complex wiring schemes and costly network gateways.

  • Fieldbus networks, including CC-Link, DeviceNet, and PROFIBUS. A protocol gateway accessory is usually needed to add a vision system to a Fieldbus network.

  • RS-232 and RS-485 serial protocols, needed to communicate with most robot controllers.

Finally, as more and more vision systems are used throughout the manufacturing process, the need for a centralized way of managing them becomes increasingly important. Make sure the vision system you choose comes with software that allows you to easily control and monitor the operation of all your vision systems remotely over the network from any location—on or off the plant floor.

8. What should I know about vision system accessories?

Too often, so much attention is given to evaluating the vision system that accessory products are almost an afterthought. But the choice of accessories can go a long way towards ensuring trouble-free system integration and, in the case of lighting, can even make or break the application.

For quick and painless integration of your vision system, it makes sense to buy from a vendor that offers a complete family of compatible accessories. This gives you the assurance of knowing that each and every accessory has been tested and confirmed to be compatible with the vision system. More importantly, during the application evaluation process, the salesperson should be able to help specify the best lighting and optics solution to give the best chance for a successful vision application.

Accessories to look for include:

  • Lights—No two production areas have the same ambient light conditions, and parts can exhibit a wide range of surface characteristics. Nearly every machine vision solution requires a unique lighting approach to meet its objectives and optimize performance. Your vision system vendor should offer a variety of lighting options, including: ring lights, which provide soft, even illumination from all directions; back lights, which create maximum contrast between a part and its background; and dark field lights, which provide low-angle illumination for imaging of part surface irregularities.

  • Communications modules—Make sure your vendor offers communications peripherals such as I/O modules and network gateway modules that support easy, quick connectivity between the vision system and PLCs, robots, and other factory automation devices and networks. Industrial connectors?

  • Operator interface panels—A networked operator interface panel allows easy, plug-and-go set-up and deployment, plus ongoing monitoring and control of vision systems without a PC. When selecting an operator interface panel, look for one with an intuitive, touch-screen interface and support for multiple camera views. It should also be tough enough to stand up to the manufacturing environment, with an anti-glare impact shielded LCD display and NEMA-rated mounting bezel that provides a dust- and liquid-tight seal when mounted in a panel or enclosure.
9. Does the vision system vendor offer a wide range of hardware options? Are they rugged enough for my environment?

Your chosen supplier should be able to offer you a variety of choices of systems base on performance, resolution and durability. Machine vision is not a “one-size-fits-all” purchase. Your application may require a line scan camera as opposed to an area scan system or even a color system. You may need more resolution in order to meet your tighter tolerances or need a system that can withstand wash down. Your supplier should be able to provide options that will meet your needs of inspection and also for your physical environment.

Additional questions include: Do you have room to install a vision system on your line? If space is a constraint, there should be options in terms of actual system size as well as acquisition options. For example:  If the viewable product space is limited, a line scan camera maybe an option to consider. Unlike area scan cameras that need to see the entire part to take a full snapshot of it, a line scan camera needs to see only a sliver of the product to build the entire image into memory. Think of this comparison as a photo copier (area scan), vs. a desktop scanner (line scan). Or if the space to install the vision system is limited, a smaller package would take up less room and require less mounting space.

Once you have the physical size constraints taken care of, it is now a question of what resolution is necessary for your specific application. Resolution of a vision system is the size of the imager used and is given in pixels. Typically, the more pixels you have, the more data you capture per feature. The more data per feature, the more accurate and repeatable measurements you will have. To get an idea of resolution, ask yourself, what field of view do I really need? Do I need to capture the width of the assembly line, or a portion of a larger part, or the entire part itself? What do I need to see in the image in order to inspect this part? The target resolution is determined from these answers. For example: Your inspection is to count the number of parts on a tray. If your field of view is the width of your assembly line, for example, 12 inches, and your vision system has a resolution of 640 x 480, then you would have 640 pixels to equal 12 inches. This equates to 53 pixels per inch (or each pixel represents 0.018 inches). If you are counting the number of parts in each tray, this resolution may be sufficient. However, if you are measuring the width of each individual part and need a tolerance of +/- 0.001 inches. Then more pixels will provide you with more data per feature to achieve the accuracy of the tolerance.

Sometimes, the features you are inspecting do not have enough contrast in a monochrome vision system, even with specific lights and filtering. A color system maybe able to bring out the subtle differences in features and colors that you need in order to complete your inspection.

Some vision systems are assembled into rugged, IP and NEMA-rated metal cases to withstand dust and moisture without requiring a separate enclosure accessory. However, if the environment in your plant is especially harsh or requires frequent wash down of equipment, ask your prospective supplier if they offer external enclosures pre-qualified for use with the system.

10. Does the vision system supplier provide the support and learning services I need?

Even the highest performance vision system is only as good as the suppliers who stand behind it. It’s important to know in advance the full range of support services available to you. Be sure that the vision supplier you choose understands your unique support requirements and provides you with all of the resources you will need during every phase of the project, from application development and systems integration, to deployment and beyond.

Important questions to consider include:

  • Can the vision supplier provide a dedicated machine vision specialist to assist you with the initial application evaluation? It’s important to work with experienced sales and applications engineers to make sure that the application can be done, and at the right price/performance.

  • Does the vision system manufacturer have a global network for post-sales support? This is especially important if the system is commissioned in one location and shipped to another.

  • Does the vision system manufacturer offer a wide range of cost effective training and support options, including online self-help and training courses, worldwide phone support, and personalized training services?

  • If you are buying from a distributor or systems integrator, are they authorized partners of the vision system manufacturer?

  • Does the vision supplier offer more sophisticated systems and tools if your application requires it, or if your needs change?
Final Thoughts

The best suppliers don’t merely try to sell you a product—they take the time to carefully understand and evaluate all of your requirements before proposing a solution.
This is exactly the approach that Cognex and its global network of distributors take. We’re here not just to answer all of the 10 Questions You Must Ask, but any other questions you may have. Working closely with you, we’ll match you to the right solution for your application, whether it's a full vision system, affordable smart sensors, or customized PC solutions.
ROTATION  No part fixturing
 Loose part fixturing
 Rotate the part from
0 to 360 degrees
BLUR  Part is in motion
 Nearby motors and other
production equipment causing
 Camera lens is out of focus
 Distance between camera and
part varies slightly
 Slightly shake the part around under
the camera
 Defocus the camera lens
 Move the camera nearer to and
farther from the part
SCALE CHANGES  Distance between camera and
part varies slightly
 Move the camera nearer to and
farther from the part
POOR CONTRAST  Part blends into background
 Part has poorly defined edges
 Present part against a background
of a similar color
UNEVEN LIGHTING  Ambient light changes over
time, e.g. external sunlight
 Robot arm or other equipment
creates shadows
 Surface reflectivity varies from
one part to the next
 Change room lighting between
bright and dim, and open and close
lens aperture
 Use your hand or other object to
create a shadow over the part
 Shine bright light across the
part surface
 Multiple, unfixtured parts
moving down the line
 Overlap a portion of the part with
another object
 Inconsistencies in the
manufacturing process
 Present multiple parts that vary in
appearance from process effects

Thursday, December 22, 2011

S300 Mini Safety Scanner is Released

SICK has released the S300 Mini Safety Laser Scanner.  It is the world's smallest and lightest safety-rated laser scanner on the market, and offers a unique function set to help solve your most challenging safety applications.  In addition to its compact size and reduced weight, the S300 Mini is the industry's first to combine a 2 meter safety field range, a scanning angle of 270 degrees and 16 switchable field sets.

The new S300 Mini’s small footprint & compact size mean it can be mounted in space constrained areas and is easier and less expense to install.  The S300 Mini provides safety in an ultra-compact size from SICK, the innovative, global market leader in safety laser scanners.

Typical Applications / Markets:

Anti-collision applications

Replacement of safety mats
Small robot areas, turntables, insert stations, pick and place machinery

Small machine tool, printing machinery, cutting and forming

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Looking for GE Field Control?

Through our authorization as a GE Energy distributor, Cimtec now has access to a large inventory of legacy GE Field Control products.

For details,  please review our  Field Control Parts listing or contact Cimtec Inside Sales directly  1-866-599-6507 - Email:

Field Control was designed as a distributed I/O system that could be used with GE IP 90-30, 90-70 and PAC systems, and was used in a wide array of industrial applications where rugged, high performance distributed I/O was required. The heart of the Field Control system is the Bus Interface Unit. The Bus Interface Unit provides intelligent processing, I/O scanning, and feature configuration for a group of up to eight I/O modules. Together, the Bus Interface Unit and its modules make up a Field Control station. All Terminal Blocks must be mounted on a DIN rail. The DIN rail, which serves as an integral part of the grounding system, can also be mounted on a panel.

Field Control Features

Features and benefits of Field Control include:
  • Wiring savings, Better up time
  • Easy installation and maintenance
  • Open architecture / adaptable to a variety of networks  distributed I/O
  • Small, compact I/O modules with generic terminal wiring bases

The GE Intelligent Platform’s Field Control product was introduced in the early 1990’s and they formally discontinued manufacturing in 2008.  It is one of the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) and I/0 systems of choice for many GE Drive systems, Turbine Control systems and stand-alone automation systems. There is a significant installed base of the Field Control product and GE Intelligent Platforms is trusting GE Energy to provide remanufactured parts and repair services for our mutual valued customers. Many customers will transition and migrate to other control and I/O

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hirschmann offers lifetime warranty

New Lifetime Warranty Program Provides Customers the Ability to Register Their Devices and Receive an Extended Lifetime Warranty

Hirschmann extends the limited warranty of specific Hirschmann Ethernet products purchased after May 1, 2011 to lifetime.

CIMTEC Automation, an Authorized Hirschmann Distributor, invites you to take part in a limited-time offer from Hirschmann.  Hirschmann is extending the limited warranty on many of its products to a LIFETIME Warranty.

This program applies to purchases made in the United States and Canada and includes the following Ethernet switch families:

RS20, RS30, RS40, RSB20, MS20, MS30, RSR20, RS30, MACH100, MACH1000, OCTOPUS, as well as the BAT family of wireless Ethernet radios and the FiberINTERFACE series of fieldbus fiber media converters/transceivers.

To learn more or to register your switch, go to

Monday, October 31, 2011

Cognex DataMan 8500 (8000 Series) is Replacement for DataMan 7500 Series

The Cognex DataMan 7500 is obsolete!  But the next generation 8500 (part of the 8000 series) is ...

The Most Advanced Industrial Handheld ID Reader Ever

DataMan 8000 Series offers three unique capabilities for your industrial environment. The new Cognex DataMan® 8000 Series of readers build on the capabilities of the existing highly successful DataMan industrial handheld readers, which have been the benchmark for industrial direct part mark (DPM) code reading performance since their release.

The DataMan 8000 Series introduces several firsts to industrial handheld reader capabilities, as described further below:
  1. First Autofocus in an Industrial Handheld Reader for More Depth of Field Flexibility
  2. Innovative Modular Communications including Ethernet for Real-Time Part Traceability
  3. Cognex Advanced IDMax® Code Reading Performance for Optimum Read Rates

1. First Autofocus in an Industrial Handheld Reader for More Flexibility

The new DataMan 8000 Series is the first to offer integrated liquid lens technology in an industrial handheld reader.

The adjustable focus of the liquid lens gives maximum depth of field flexibility enabling you to use the system close up for very small 2D direct part marks as well as at a greater distance to read longer 1D barcodes, with extremely fast response times.

2. Innovative Modular Connectivity for Real-Time Part Traceability

The DataMan 8000 Series of ID readers is also the first handheld reader to offer Ethernet communication capability for easy integration into your factory network for real-time product and part traceability.

Upgrade from RS-232/USB to Industrial Ethernet with field exchangeable interface modules to modify your initial installation when your communication requirements change.

3. Advanced Code Reading Performance for Optimum Read Rates

And, of course, the DataMan 8000 Series of handheld industrial ID readers features proven patented IDMax technology and two powerful algorithms, 1DMax™ and 2DMax™, to decode virtually every type of code, every time, with unsurpassed read rates.
1DMax TechnologyFor 1D barcodes, the 1DMax™ algorithm is our best-in-class reading tool optimized for omnidirectional barcode reading that can handle extreme variations.

2DMax TechnologyFor 2D codes, 2DMax™ technology pioneered the adoption of 2D Data Matrix coding in many industries for direct part marking and high speed printed applications.

Contact Us Today to Learn More About the NEW Cognex DataMan 8500 or if You Have an Older DataMan 7500!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cimtec to Host GE-IP Modernization Workshop Dec 6.

Dec 6, 2011:    Charlotte NC.

Signup information and promotional offer below.

Reduce the complexity, improve the performance, and lower the cost of your distributed control system

This unique workshop will demonstrate how you can save time, reduce hardware cost and improve your system’s performance. See the latest capabilities made possible by Ethernet technology, and learn about powerful integration tools to easily migrate your systems—using the integrated Profinet Network on our PACSystems RX3i controller, VersaMax distributed I/O, and a wide range of third-party devices.

Seats are limited—register below!

Sign up here:

Promotional Offer:   RX3i Profinet Starter Kit rev2

Friday, October 14, 2011

Identifying Registration Marks in Laminate Films

By using a registration mark, not only is the final print of higher quality, but less scrap is created by print passes that do not line up.

Many manufacturing processes rely on registration marks to line up sheet materials for cutting or printing. Some packaging companies use multi-laminate films for their packaging applications, and can require elaborate printed graphics that include several colors. If even one of the colors is offset, the resulting print can appear blurred. In order to maintain a high level of quality with these complex printing systems, printers use registration marks on the base film to act as an orientation point for multi-color printing so that all of the color passes a realigned. By using a registration mark not only is the final print of higher quality, but less scrap is created by print passes that do not line up.

The registration mark is only one part of the alignment process. The printing system has to be able to identify the registration mark and align either the base material or the printing apparatus accordingly. Traditionally, registration marks were aligned visually by the operator, and relied on the judgment of the operator to achieve accuracy. Other types of registration marks, such as perforations in the base material allowed the material to be aligned on pins to maintain the correct orientation. However, the human eye can only provide so much accuracy, and alignment pins are not always appropriate, depending on the type of material and its final use.

Additionally an eyespot is provided to assist with registration both by the manufacturer and by the end user. The consistency of the eyespot-to-eyespot dimension is not only of value during the printing process, but is also used to determine correct seal and cut-off dimensions for the packaging filler. Variation in either printed registration or eyespot repeatability can lead to packaging quality issues and value added product returns to the printed films manufacturer.

Using Digital Imaging to Improve Printing Quality

Today, advancements in digital imaging allow this technology to be applied to the printing process and to greatly improve the overall quality. Digital imaging can also be used to measure the distance between printed registration marks to minimize the amount of scrap that is generated.

Cimtec's Solution for Printing

Cimtec has developed a custom solution for this application specifically for the printing industry. A digital imaging system for this application consists of an optical sensor, such as a SICK high switching frequency (10 KHz) sensor, that will read the printed eyespot that is located along the edge of the material web. An SICK-Stegmann optical encoder is utilized to calculate the line speed based on the drive roll. The impression distance is then calculated by the PLC controller based on the time differential between eyespots multiplied by the line speed. The system includes a human machine interface (HMI) that has the capability to display multiple values. These values are called up individually by function keys on the controller front control panel:

  • Single impression distance measurement (F1)

  • Average impression dimension (F2-over X number of impressions as input by the operator F3)

  • Impression length tolerance value (F4-high and F5-low)

  • Impression count set point (F6)

  • Linear compensation factors (F7)

Output signals are provided when the dimensional tolerances values (F4) and (F5) are exceeded or to stop the line upon reaching the predetermined impression count (F6).

The alerts provided by this specific Cimtec solution will allow manufacturers to have a better handle on their printing operations and to maintain higher quality of the printing process. Through higher quality, manufacturers will reduce the amount of excess material as well as mis-printed material, which will in turn reduce overall production costs. Also, the improved consistency of the printing process has direct influence on maintaining a quality package during filling operations and improved end user satisfaction.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sick Safety Scanner for multiple field protection

For mobile applications like AGV's where field of view for safety must change based upon speed or direction or for fixed mount where field of view changes on the state of the machine's operation,  Sick's laser based safety scanners are a great fit.  The Sick safety line offers:
  • Easy Integration
  • Wide product options to fit budget and technical requirements
  • Long history of success in industrial applications.

Full PDF

Monday, September 19, 2011

Vision Guided Robotics

Cimtec partners with small parts assembly customer to increase throughput while increasing quality.   Cognex machine vision integrated with Denso 6-axis robotics.

Customer has hand assembled product since 1968 due in part to the very tight clearances of the components and the need to visually inspect these components prior to assembly.

Engineering proposed and justified an automated assembly machine producing a part every 12 seconds. Cimtec provided two Denso 6 axis robots and two Cognex Insight vision systems and associated training.  Customers in-house engineering team mounted, wired, and programmed the robots, vision systems, PLC, and HMI. CIMTEC provided the on-site start-up support and troubleshooting guidance. This collaborative effort resulted in the quickest commissioning of a system of this size and complexity in the customer’s history.

While there is no doubt that a skilled operator could assemble one part in much less than 12 seconds, the robots make up for this with their ability to continue to assemble 300 parts per hour even in the 8th continuous hour of a standard shift. Repeatability and 100% machine vision inspection also translate into quality parts.

Quantitative feedback from the vision system also means changes to upstream manufacturing process can be implemented much sooner, reducing scrap

Design. Engineering. Automation. Support. We're with you every step ofthe way

CIMTEC increases productivity through process efficiency improvements for a wide variety of industrial automation clients. In updating and implementing hundreds of successful automation projects over the last two decades, our design engineers and project managers have a proven track record of improving manufacturing processes and streamlining engineered production systems.

Our system design engineers work closely with you to understand your existing processes and your desired production goals. Applying our many years of automation engineering experience in implementing automation projects, we can recommend the factory automation products and engineering design approach that will best solve your application to meet your goals.

Under the direction of a Project Manager assigned to your automation solution, our team of automation engineers will bring together the mechanical, electrical and software engineering aspects of your control system. The goal of each engineered system is to deliver improvements in productivity, efficiency and quality that will allow your process and factory to operate at its greatest capacity.

Once the solution is operational in your factory, you can count on continued support for the life of your system. Whether you need help to troubleshoot the system, spare parts,parts repaired, or start-up assistance, we're with you every step of the way. You can count on CIMTEC's Automation Engineering services for the life of your automation system.

Share your engineering issues with our team of automation engineers:

Phone: 1-877-524-6832

Friday, July 15, 2011

How to change a battery in GE 90-30 PLC

Here is a quick video on how the change the battery in your 9030 PLC

Video Link from Qualitrol International

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Software Services - SCADA and HMI Systems, Cimplicity, iFix Configuration

We specialize in identifying customers' core business issues and designing data collection systems that allow them to create visibility into their processes so as to best manage and control their operations.

Information Systems Survey

An initial audit of all existing automation and information assets provides the starting point for any successful Software implementation. Coupled with interviews with key staff to assess business requirements, we deliver a report outlining current strengths in your data systems and identifying possible risks or areas for improvement, with a suggested path forward to optimize information effectiveness.
Data Integration

Accurate and timely information is key for making major decisions in a manufacturing environment. Data collected from plant floor controllers and processes are invaluable to the operation of any manufacturing facility. Our engineers are experts at:

  • Making disparate SCADA and data collection systems communicate.

  • Eliminating the 'pen and paper' logging of data from the plant floor.

  • Integrating plant systems to ERP and business systems.

  • Applying tools to analyze plant-floor data.

Our team of engineers is versed in applying many of the leading software tools in the industrial market, including:

  • GE Intelligent Platforms's Proficy Suite

    • Statisical Process Control (SPC)

    • Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)

    • Plant Historian

    • Web Portal

    • Plant Apps and MES

  • Intellution iFix

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Proficy Cimplicity and Windows 7

Many of our customers have a corporate IT initiative to move to Windows 7.   In other cases they purchase new hardware and notice that Windows 7 is the only OS available.   Cimplicity version 8.1 provides full support for Windows 7.    Automatic configuration upgrades with Cimplicity are the best around.  We've converted version 3 to version 8.1 with no manual touch ups.

Don't get caught with an old system that is not easily replaceable due to hardware availability.  Older Cimplicity versions (4,5) typically run on Windows NT machines and versions 6 and 7 run on XP.   Both these platforms are hard to find these days, so in the case of a hardware failure, buying a new PC and simply re-installing existing software may not be an option.  The best option is to upgrade proactively now while the older system is still functioning and you can do a side by side migration.

Calculate Return on OEE Improvement

Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)

Improving Production Performance

Manufacturing facility managers are always looking for ways to improve the efficiency of their production lines and identify bottlenecks in their operations. One of the metrics that managers can use to characterize the performance of their organization is Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). Managers that examine data on their production performance in an efficient manner and can correlate events with causes in real time can gain more control over their operational procedures and ultimately increase the quality and performance of their facility.
What is Overall Equipment Effectiveness?

OEE is a factor that is used by production managers to evaluate performance and effectiveness of a process, whether that process takes place at a single workstation or across a complete factory. OEE takes in several individual measurable metrics and normalizes them in such a way that OEE can be compared to other production lines or even other industries. OEE is often used as a key performance indicator (KPI) for manufacturing operations, particularly those focused on lean manufacturing. OEE also allows companies to benchmark their individual manufacturing lines against other plants within their organization and across their industry.
How to Measure OEE

There are three basic metrics that are used to calculate OEE:

  • Availability - Availability is the percentage of time that a machine is available for operation. Availability is the same as “uptime”, and is calculated as a ratio of available time divided by schedule time.

  • Performance - Performance compares the operational speed of a machine to its designed speed. Performance is calculated by multiplying the number of parts produced by the ideal cycle time, then dividing by the available time.

  • Quality - Quality measures the percentage of quality or “good” parts out of the total part run. Quality is calculated by dividing the number of good parts created by the total number of parts created.

OEE is therefore Availability X Performance X Quality. So, if a machine has 95% Availability, 85% Performance, and 93% Quality, then OEE = 0.95 X 0.85 X 0.93 = 0.75, or 75%. Because it is nearly impossible to achieve a perfect OEE, as even small reductions are multiplied through the equation, a target OEE of 85% is a common goal for many manufacturing operations. However, many manufacturing operations are thought to have actual OEE levels of 40-50%.
Tools for Tracking OEE

While it is possible to track OEE through manual data recording and collection, it is far more efficient to automate this data collection. Manual data collection is more prone to operator error, so, OEE values calculated with manually collected data is less accurate than if it is calculated using data collected automatically. Manual data collection is also slow, and it takes time to gather and analyze hand-written or hand-entered data.

GE Intelligent Platforms's Intelligent Platforms' Proficy Plant Applications Efficiency is a tool that can help facility managers get a handle on their current OEE, and plan methods to improve OEE. Proficy Plant Applications Efficiency can automatically collect the data from each manufacturing line needed to calculate OEE in real time, so managers can monitor line performance from shift to shift, looking for disparities in OEE and implementing effective solutions. Proficy Efficiency allows manufacturing facilities to leverage their existing manufacturing and automation systems by connecting with many different kinds of applications.
Benefits of Tracking OEE

When a manufacturing facility deploys an OEE tracking system effectively, the facility can get a better handle on production and performance metrics. These metrics can help managers make faster and more informed decisions about optimizing manufacturing processes. Managers can track downtime, production levels, and waste, and can determine causes or effects of system events in real time, allowing them to respond faster, and in turn improve OEE. Performance can be compared shift by shift and hour by hour, or product to product.

If OEE can be improved, facilities can increase their profit while maintaining operational costs:

Profit = Plant Sales x Plant Gross Margin x % Increase in OEE

For example, consider a plant producing $10M in product sales per year with a plant gross margin of 50% and a plant OEE of 60%. If the plant can realize a 10% increase in OEE from efficiency software & focused performance improvement efforts, this would result in an increase in profits of $300,000.

By implementing an automated method for measuring OEE, such as GE Intelligent Platforms's Intelligent Platforms' Proficy Plant Applications Efficiency software, companies can identify and take action on negative factors such as equipment bottlenecks, unexpected downtime, and production losses caused by shortages in materials or resources. Manufacturers that identify these negative conditions and take action can increase equipment utilization rates, providing them with a distinct and sustainable advantage over their competitors.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Proficy Historian 4.0


Easy Configuration and Administration
  • Simple configuration
  • True thin-client administration
  • Support for virtualization

Unparalleled, Enterprise-wide Performance
  • Sub-second data collection
  • Ultra-efficient data compression
  • Collect up to 2 Million data points per server
  • Manage up to 1000 collectors per server
  • Precise time stamp resolution

Open and Layered Compatibility
  • Wide range of collectors including OPC Alarms and Events
  • Highly compatible with 3rd partysolutions
  • Leverages 64-bit architectures,with full 32-bitcompatibility
  • Embedded applications support via Windows XPe

Standard Interfaces for Data Access
  • Open access for ERP and MES applications
  • Full featured SDK
  • OLE DB
  • User API
  • OPC Historical Data Access (HDA)

Highly Reliable System Architecture
  • Fault tolerant architecture
  • Support for Microsoft Cluster Server
  • Redundant data collectors
  • Supports multiple time zones and Daylight Savings Time

Advanced Data Management
  • Designed to help customers comply with FDA’s 21 CFR Part 11
  • Calculation and Server-to-Server Collector
  • Powerful data management and system optimization tools for Enterprise level administration

Wide Range of Performance and Execution Applications
  • Access to advanced visualization and powerful analytical tools
  • Wide range of Industry- and Application- specific solutions
  • Empower the enterprise through seamless integration with the full Proficy platform

CIMTEC Machine Vision Metrics Software

 CIMTEC's Machine Vision Metrics Software communicates with your machine vision stations via existing plant Ethernet network. It stores all inspection results and images created by each camera and makes data available to users anywhere in the plant with an easy to use web browser interface.

Vision Metrics delivers instant information:
  • Flexible reports based on time and camera
  • Easy histogram and pareto statistical analysis
  • Long term availability of image files

With Vision Metrics we must no longer treat vision systems as a real time sensor used only to control product routing. The data collected can be used as valuable inputs to a host of intelligent applications:
  • Interfacing into other plant information systems such as MES and ERP
  • Instant statistical analysis of inspection data
  • Archived visual confirmation of data quality

So ask yourself, are you using machine vision data to its maximum potential?
  • What is the reject rate at each vision station over the last month?
  • How does an upstream failure compare visually to a downstream inspection?
  • Are operators typing in data that is also being captured by a camera?

If you can't answer all of these questions with your current system, you can increase your operation's efficiency by deploying Cimtec's Machine Vision Metrics.