RFID System Increases Efficiency in Copper Pipe Production

A Chinese manufacturer monitors the production process for copper pipes with a Turck RFID system with decentralized control using BL20 gateways

The production of copper pipes involves many production steps at independently operating machines. Turck equipped a Chinese manufacturer with an RFID system in order to control material flow and avoid the need for labor intensive manual documentation. Q175 read/write heads read out the numbers of metal frames from robust UHF tags. The BL20 modular I/O system transfers this to the company's production control system and at the same time controls the decentralized operation of the RFID readers.

  • A programmable gateway in Turck's BL20 I/O system controls the RFID readers decentrally    

  • The robust UHF data carrier can be mounted directly on the metal frame

  • Turck's read/write head Q175 uses UHF RFID technology to detect even distant data carriers

  • Copper pipes are wound on material frames during many production steps

Production control system requires real-time data

The transition from production-oriented to service and requirements-oriented production also means: greater coordination between man, machine and the product and the provision of more accurate information about the current material flow. A major Chinese manufacturer now has a solution using a production control system – using real-time data from the field. An RFID solution for this was recently supplied by Turck (Tianjin) Sensor Technology Co.  – consisting of over 180 read/write heads and some 1,400 robust tags with IP69K protection.

In the cold forming of copper pipes, employees of the Chinese company used to manually transfer all production data, such as raw material information or process parameters. In order to simplify material management, system integrators at Turck Engineering Control Systems therefore provided an RFID solution in direct proximity to the machines. This is used to control the entire production process. The engineers made use of the fact here that the copper pipes are located on round metal frames during the production steps in the cold forming stage. The material information about a batch can be linked with the relevant frame, to which an RFID tag can be attached easily.

Robust RFID tags for mounting on metal

For this Turck uses robust hard tags that are especially suited for mounting on metal and also stay fixed to the frame even when it is being rotated at high speed. The number of the particular material frame is stored on a tag, and is then assigned in the production management system to a particular batch. To do this, the production management system accesses the database.

Information exchange between RFID reader, UHF tag and MES

A Q175 RFID UHF read/write head is installed in the close proximity of each workstation. This reads the number of a material frame; and notably with UHF technology, since there is some distance between reader and tag, and the RFID tags are not always located directly in the detection range of the reader due to the rotations of the frame. The link to the production management system enables the exchange between tag, read/write head as well as the higher-level manufacturing execution system (MES).

Ethernet gateway as independent controller

The communication between the read/write heads and the production management system is provided by Turck's BL20 I/O system, which also controls the decentralized operation of the RFID readers. In addition to different connection modules such as for RFID devices, it consists of a BL20-PG-EN-V3 programmable multiprotocol Ethernet gateway. This acts as an independent controller of each local RFID system, since no local PLC is in place and a number of field devices have to be addressed in real time.

Conclusion: Integration helper for Industry 4.0

Turck's RFID system supports the increasingly digitalized manufacturing of the Chinese copper pipe manufacturer. It offers a real-time material tracking capability in production management, which also serves quality control, ensures the clear assignment of materials and transfers data on time inside the ongoing process. “This has considerably improved efficiency and punctuality in production,” project manager Jianqiang sums up.

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