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Injection molding CIM package is an 'open system.' (computer-integrated manufacturing; CIMplastics from GE Fanuc Automation North America Inc.)

A new hardware and software package for computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) has been developed by GE Fanuc, Albany, N.Y., for injection molding. GE
Fanuc has taken a "plug and play" approach to real-time process and
production monitoring. This includes a long-term goal of incorporating

software interfaces to a broad range of injection-machine controllers;
programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and I/O devices from GE and
other vendors; ancillary equipment such as robots and material feed

systems; and "third-party" software packages such as financial or MRP systems. GE Fanuc also calls its CIM product "scalable"--meaning that molders can hook up the system to one press and expand as the need arises--even to full plant-wide control. To that end, it has taken an "open systems" approach, making it relatively easy and affordable to link thesystem to other software. The new package, called CIMplastics, is part of the GE Fanuc CIMplicity family of software first introduced in 1987. By using the broad-based CIMplicity factory-automation system as a foundation, the more narrowly focused CIMplasticspackage is said to combine in-depth knowledge of the injection molding process with capabilities that go beyond monitoring the molding machine to tracking the wider plant environment.


The open architecture of CIMplicity is useful in understanding the capabilities of the new CIMplastics package. CIMplicity was designed from the
start to be "standards based" so that it could work with many types of
computer hardware, according to business manager Larry Sollecito. The
software was developed for so-called distributed computing, in which many
smaller computers are linked together by a network. In addition, GE Fanuc

has published its APIs (applicationprogram interfaces), allowing users to
write their own interfaces to other software applications--e.g., for
tracking plant ambient temperature and humidity, or ancillary
equipment such as robots and material feeders--often without need for

costly help from systems integrators. CIMplicity is a Unix-based system, suited to multi-tasking, multi-user applications in factory automation. Tangible benefits include the ability to communicate with third-party devices, such as PLCs, and to interface with other types of software, such as MRP and financial systems. It's also said to work seamlessly across many computers and operating systems, including IBM

RISC/6000 systems, 386 and 486 IBM PC clones, Intel Pentium-based PCs, Hewlett-Packard HP 9000 and DEC Vax and Alpha platforms.

CIMplicity is a modular software system that is readily expandable. This gives the user the option of starting out with a single computer monitoring one machine and adding new applications later on, such as feed hoppers, conveyors, and robots, eventually scaling up to plant-wide functions like environmental control.


CIMplastics, which is built with basic CIMplicity tools, incorporates the open architecture and modularity of the parent system. The other major benefit of thesystem is integration with injection molding machine controls.

CIMplastics was developed in close cooperation with Cincinnati Milacron's Plastics Machinery Div. in Batavia, Ohio, and Fanuc Ltd. of Japan to integrate the system with existing machine controls. At present, CIMplastics supports the protocol of the Fanuc S10 controller on Cincinnati Milacron's all-electric ACT machine. One of the first users of CIMplastics is Tech Medical, part of the TechGroup in Tempe, Ariz., which has 24 ACT machines (see PT, July '93, p. 13). As the software continues to be developed in the future, it will also incorporate protocols of major brands of hydraulic injection presses to cover the majority of machines in the market, according to CIMplastics product managerRichard Carpenter.

With CIMplastics, a single computer can support up to 12 molding machines. The complete pre-configured system, including pre-configured screens, is supplied onan IBM-compatible 486 PC, an Ethernet network card, a serial interface for up to12 machines, and a LAN interface card for connection to auxiliary devices. Each CIMplastics package includes up to three X-Windows "smart"
terminals that can view CIMplastics data from anywhere in the factory. PCs
with X-terminal emulation can also be used.

The main menu consists of four screens:

* Production Management displays the current machine status, production status, and production rates of up to 12 machines. Key data, such as temperature,

pressure, and cycle times, are recorded and logged on a real-time basis. * Molding Condition Administration allows operators to set up molding-condition parameters for a particular part, download setups to selected machines, and

upload process data from those machines. Details can be displayed for clamp and ejector condition, extruder and temperature control, injection and packing

conditions. * Operation Time Analysis displays machine operating status for a specified timeinterval in bar-chart format.

* Schedule Monitoring displays the production schedule for a selected injection machine and month.

In addition, a Master Database allows users to maintain basic product data such as customer name, part information, material type, etc. An Order

Management module lets the supervisor manage orders, record delivery dates and inspections of products, track maintenance of machines and molds, and track inventories of raw materials and finished parts.


Close integration with the protocols of different machine suppliers is said to give CIMplastics much flexibility in its monitoring capabilities. "Each customerwants to see different data that are important to his process. By making it all available, he can choose which ones relate to each other, which
ones to plot, and which ones to analyze in more detail," says GE Fanuc's
Carpenter. For customers with older presses or no current need for

direct communications to thecontrol, auxiliary hardware is available for direct collection of data from sensors.

One key feature is a knowledge base that can be expanded "on the fly," allowing the system to become "smarter." For instance, if a certain threshold is exceededthat triggers an alarm, an operator can add instructions for corrective action to a "notes" file for quick reference in the future.

Time-based algorithms allow CIMplastics to project current trend data into the future. Thus out-of-control conditions can be predicted long before an alarm is triggered, allowing corrective action to be taken well in advance.

Base price of the CIMplastics hardware and software package is around $28,500.
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Article Details
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Author:De Gaspari, John
Publication:Plastics Technology
Date:Jan 1, 1994
Previous Article:Auxiliary equipment starred at Atlanta Plastics Fair.
Next Article:Blow molding controls gain in speed & flexibility.

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