AutomationDirect PLC Renovates Old Label Printer | Automation.com

AutomationDirect PLC Renovates Old Label Printer

November 2012 - American Label & Tag in Canton, Mich, services the digital print-on-demand market, using its capabilities to produce all required artwork, graphics, design and plate making. It had four Markem LP-195 hot stamp presses at the facility, but only one was operational. The machines were no longer being supported by the manufacturer, so over the years three of the machines had been cannibalized for parts. 
 
Maintenance supervisor Bill Dobiesz devoted extensive time and effort, including making some parts on his own, to get two of the forgotten machines operational. It was a project he did largely on his own time and with his own money, as he couldn’t resist the challenge. He knew they were high quality hot stamp presses, and he was determined that the problem of unavailable replacement parts wouldn’t stop him.
 
At one point he told the Tim Gleason, president of American Label & Tag, he wished he hadn't taken the other Markem LP-195 machine to Florida because he thought he could get it running.  Gleason had faith in him, because one phone call and two days later, the machine arrived back in Michigan. But Dobiesz thought he might have made a big mistake when he saw the state of the machine. 

Figure 1: The Markem LP-195 hot stamp press when it arrived back in Michigan, in dire need to attention.
 
Dobiesz had to learn how the machine worked on his own because the operational sister machine was at the company’s other plant in Daytona Beach, Fla.  Moreover, two of the items that had been stripped for use in the other machine were the control switchboard and the electromechanical counter—basically the machine’s entire automation system.  The electromechanical counter was still available, but it was expensive and limited in functionality. 
 
Dobiesz purchased a CLICK PLC from AutomationDirect. Confident in his abilities, he used his own money buy the PLC and a power supply. He was able to do this because the Click PLC was economically priced, and because the downloadable programming software was free. 

Small Size, Big Performance
The CLICK PLC was very small. Unlike any of other printing machines at the company, this one had all the controls in a removable drawer. Installing the new PLC anywhere but in this drawer would have presented problems, and the CLICK PLC’s small size made this option a reality. 
After purchasing the CLICK PLC, Dobiesz realized he’d need to also provide an operator interface for the machine, so he turned to AutomationDirect and bought a C-more Micro-Graphic touch panel with a 3-inch display. Using the PLC and the touchscreen, he found he could now exceed the original capabilities of the machine for less money than it would cost to restore the original functionality. 
 
Figure 2: C-more Micro-Graphic touch panel displays counts, replacing a limited, expensive mechanical counter. 
 
The original mechanical predetermining counter had a maximum count of 99,999.  It would count every stroke and would stop at the preset, which had to be a value less than or equal to 99,999. This reduced the efficiency of operation, as it’s not unusual to have jobs of 120,000 to 300,000 copies. With the CLICK PLC and the touchscreen, the machine now is capable of counting to 9,999,999. 
 
Dobiesz also added a counter stop switch that enables the machine to operate without advancing the count, as well as a counter bypass switch that enables the machine to continue to operate in excess of its predetermined count.  
 
New Functionality Added with Ease
Thanks to the large amount of program memory space in both in the PLC and the touchscreen, Dobiesz was able to add needed functionality via screens, counters, timers and more—all at no additional hardware or software cost.
 
“If adding additional software-programmable switches, time delays or control relays add needed functionality—I just update the program, load it and I'm running,” says Dobiesz.  
 
He has set up the ability to change the screen color when the predetermined count is reached, when any of the bypass functions are enabled, or if guards are opened. In addition, the touchscreen beeps if a guard is opened, an emergency stop is pushed, or if the preset is reached.
 
By operating the other machines, Dobiesz learned the best way to reset the counter was by having it appear on another screen. Using this method, the counter is to reset, but requires a deliberate action to avoid mistakenly resetting it in the middle of a job. 
 
He was also able to use the touchscreen to add a shift counter that an operator can reset to show how many jobs have been done in a shift, a week, a month, or any other time period. In addition, Dobiesz also created a single cycle function, similar to jog, that allows the machine to execute one cycle then stop, which is used to save materials during setup.  
 
One feature of which he is particularly proud is the "mini batch" counter, a second counter. An operator can set this counter so that the machine executes a certain number of cycles, then stops. This gives the operator time to clear the machine and stack parts before pressing the start button for the next mini batch. The mini-batch counter functions within the main counter, so the machine is still keeping track of the total batch count.
 
Using Dobiesz’ solution, it’s possible to retrofit the entire automation system of any existing Markem LP-195 or LP-385 machine with a low cost, high performing and reliable AutomationDirect control system consisting of a CLICK PLC and a C-more Micro-Graphic touch panel.
 
Figure 3: The Markem LP-195 hot stamp press today after Dobiesz’ retrofitting of the automation system.
 
Great Help from Real Users
As the CLICK PLC and the C-more touchscreen were new to Dobiesz, he needed assistance with many tasks, from basic installation practices to programming. He found AutomationDirect’s Customer Forum to be a great help, as he could discuss his situation with other users who would walk him through solutions in real-time online.
 
“The AutomationDirect Customer Forum is one of the biggest and best user groups in the automation world,” says Dobiesz. “There were helpful replies from the AutomationDirect tech people, to be sure—but the ground zero, hold-my-hand-and-walk-me-through-it advice I needed was from other forum members. I’m happy to share my information with others, I’m known as DetroitSound. Maybe I can help someone who is struggling as I was, so that they too can get the personal triumph of solving a problem of their own,” offers Dobiesz.
 

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