VAKUMIX adds EtherNet/IP to its Machine Solutions

  • August 14, 2011
  • Case Study

Founded in 1995, VAKUMIX Rühr-und Homogenisiertechnik AG is located in Weyhe, on the outskirts of Bremen, Northern Germany. Starting from a small team, today VAKUMIX is one of the world’s leading suppliers for innovative mixing and homogenizing technology – with more than 40 employees. In its 3,000m2 plant, it designs and manufactures mixing and homogenizing technology for national and international customers in the pharmaceutical, cosmetics, food and chemical industries. Its homogenizers and processing plants are in operation in many European countries, North and South America and Asia. Challenge Offering complete single-source solutions – from engineering and manufacturing up to commissioning and service – VAKUMIX realized that to increase its capabilities and to really expand and enhance its export base, it needed to offer an automation infrastructure that is known and adopted the world over. With many of its customers standardizing on Rockwell Automation, it made sense that VAKUMIX should approach the leading worldwide automation and information supplier and ask it to recommend and supply solutions that would offer the precise control and process capabilities it needed, combined with a worldwide service and support network. Solution “We had a number of reasons for calling on the services of Rockwell Automation,” explains Robert Mueller, Sales Director at VAKUMIX. “In the first instance, Rockwell Automation technology has been demonstrated to be highly effective and is widely adopted in the markets we serve. Second, some of our multinational customers are already standardized on Rockwell Automation, so it made sense for us to offer solutions that would integrate more easily with their existing infrastructure. Third, for the last year we have been working with an agent in the United States, and from this relationship it is obvious that Rockwell Automation is the leading supplier for control and automation solutions in North, Central and South America.” The machines that VAKUMIX manufactures are able to handle a wide variety of liquids; from low-viscosity IV solutions through creams, emulsions, suspensions, lotions, gels, shampoos and infusions right up to high-viscosity toothpastes. “Basically, anything that can still flow,” explains Mueller. The company’s machines range from small, two-litre laboratory mixers, right up to huge 5,000-10,000 litre production units, with a wide variety of sizes in between, depending on the needs and volume requirements of the end customer. “The basic design of the machines is the same,” elaborates Mueller. “As such, the operating parameters are also very similar – just on a different scale. However, 30 per cent of any order we fulfill comprises customer-specific demands, so we have to be able to modify the machine’s design and the operating parameters to meet these demands. “Our skilled engineers are able to conceive both detailed solutions and complete production and factory projects, relying on their long experience in the field,” explains Mueller. When talking about the Rockwell Automation solution he points out the scalability, which allows the end user to easily transfer the process parameters created at the R&D stage to a production level directly: “This feature helps manufacturers save time, as they can go to the market quicker, as soon as they formulate an innovative recipe for a new product.” VAKUMIX builds control systems using Allen-Bradley CompactLogix PAC with Distributed Point-I/O, PowerFlex variable-frequency drives, PanelView Plus HMIs and industrial components. The panel is completed with Stratix 6000 Ethernet switches. “The controller and the drives are connected via EtherNet/IP and supervised by a SCADA system,” explains Mueller. “This combination allows a seamless connection between all subsystems, helping to reduce development and commissioning times. In addition, this system is ready to support the ISA S88 standard for the process industry.” The application software, which VAKUMIX developed itself, can be designed in different languages such as ladder logic, function block diagram, structured text and sequential function chart, while customer-made add-on instructions are very useful to create reusable standards, even if the machine and/or the automation system is up or down-scaled. VAKUMIX has created certain standards that pertain to its hardware and software needs, which still apply to bespoke designs. Once the hardware has been adapted to the customer’s needs it then adapts the software to cater for the changes; never having the same values twice. It is for this reason that it has to have an automation and control infrastructure that is as flexible as it is, allowing us to give its customers exactly what they want. “Rockwell Automation’s fully scalable and modular automation system was not new to us. We have implemented many Rockwell Automation-based solutions in the past. The relationship with Rockwell Automation helps us to expand our business in existing markets and allows us to best fit our customers’ needs,” Mueller concludes. “The technical support and training we are receiving from Rockwell Automation’s Customer Support and Maintenance Division (CSM), including Commercial Engineering experience and tailored training, is also very good, allowing us to program two complete control systems ourselves.”  

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