Higher Volume, Better Reliability with Cope-and-Drag Tight Flask Machine Modernization

Kennedy Valve, an operating division of McWane Inc., is one of North America’s largest fire hydrant and valve manufacturers. It boasts that its products for waterworks distribution, potable and wastewater treatment, and fire-protection system projects ensure convenience and reliability for domestic and international customers.

At its plant in Elmira, NY, Kennedy planned to replace a series of obsolete controllers that routinely caused operating problems, impacting casting quality. The cope-and-drag tight flask machines were outfitted with controllers that were technologically out-of-date, costing the foundry in downtime and product quality. Realizing that it needed to increase production volume, the foundry approached Brock Solutions, Kitchner, ON.

Kennedy Valve needed its inline molding machines to produce higher quality molds and to be more reliable. New control technology would allow them to satisfy customer-service objectives, increase production throughput, and reduce operating costs with their existing equipment.

They contracted Brock Solutions for a packaged cope-and-drag tight flask modernization that would gather up-to-date machine downtime information, and provide fast-fault recovery and diagnostic tools. The package, Brock promised, would allow Kennedy to measure productivity and analyze causes for downtime.

Brock Solutions’ Advanced Modernization package is designed as a “rapid implementation” foundry solution that provides a new control system for the Kennedy Valve’s cope-and-drag tight flask machines. Each Advanced Modernization package boasts several features for reducing downtime and increasing overall machine performance, including:

AutoReady/Fast Fault Recovery. The updated control system allows Kennedy Valve to diagnose faulted line sections quickly. A new, A-B ControlLogix PLC automatically scans for the machine’s current position and sets the sequence’s active step according to that position. Machine interlocks prevent equipment movement until other moving parts release the motion.

Now, the movement of the whole system is initiated from the event-driven section and will sequentially release interlocks to permit subsequent movements. The machines self-regulates its movements and cycle will continue.

HMI with Advanced Diagnostics. Brock Solutions explains that Kennedy is now benefiting from the new human-machine interface, with diagnostic screens. Operators use the HMI to pinpoint faulted line sections quickly, the movement that has faulted, and the sequence step that faulted. Also, operators can monitor the current status of devices associated with selected line sections.

When faults are detected, operators can use the touch-screen to view additional displays that illustrate corrective actions that must be taken to resume production. This reduces dramatically the amount of time spent searching for causes and troubleshooting production problems.

Hydraulic Proportional Controls. Brock Solutions also converted Kennedy Valve’s sand-carriage, pattern-shuttle, and flask-feeder motion from pneumatic to hydraulic proportional control. Hydraulic proportional controls now allow the foundry to reduce cycle times by providing more positive machine motions and smoother machine operation.

Before the installation, extensive testing and simulation permitted Brock Solutions to roll-out the Kennedy Valve solution without disrupting any production schedules. Installation and commissioning were performed during regularly scheduled maintenance downtime. Also, by using machine device I/O simulation, The Kennedy operators and maintenance personnel were able to gain familiarity and expertise with the new systems’ operations and functionality, before commissioning. Once the project was completed, the customer received a complete set of updated machine drawings, PLC code documentation, and training materials.

With the installation complete, Kennedy noted several specific benefits:

  • Improved diagnostics, for easier troubleshooting;
  • Improved system reliability;
  • Reduced downtime, thus higher throughput;
  • Improved product quality and consistency; and,
  • Machine throughput is stable for all operators, regardless of experience.

According to Kennedy Valve plant manager Arne Feyling: “With the Brock cope-and-drag solution we have increased the reliability of our tight flask foundry machine for a fraction of the cost of a new machine. … (W)e’ve enjoyed better quality and consistency among operators, and improved reliability. Since our downtime has been significantly reduced, we have increased our machine throughput.”

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