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Pioneers Plan in Record Time

Those must have been exciting days, back when the first X-ray inspection systems came on the market. “At the time, we hardly knew what ppm meant,” R&D manager Martin Sokolowski says with a wink. Today, the engineers at Nordson MatriX focus on improving resolution and maximizing speed, while simultaneously creating their machines in record time – even though no two are identical. WAGO’s automation modules have always supported a high degree of customization, with the e!COCKPIT Engineering Software being the most recent contributor.

The Benefits of WAGO for You

  • As Early Adopters, MatriX Developers Rely on e!COCKPIT

  • Modular for Short Development Times
  • e!COCKPIT – convenience for programmers and end users

Product Highlights

The Story

As Early Adopters, MatriX Developers Rely on e!COCKPIT

Greater accuracy, speed and flexibility: Manufacturers of high-value and safety-related products place stringent requirements on their X-ray inspection systems. Nordson MatriX meets these by employing a modular concept that extends from the mechanical system up to the control software. MatriX systems are used during quality control of electronic components, medical implants and cast components. The roster of customers ranges from well-known firms in the automotive and medical industries to famous names in the consumer electronics industry.

This manufacturer, headquartered in Feldkirchen, Germany, and with a staff of nearly 100 employees worldwide, has produced automated machines since 1998. WAGO technology has played a role from the beginning. Initially, the engineers were simply interested in an I/O system that could be connected via ETHERNET. They hit pay dirt with WAGO. Then, shortly afterwards, the team decided that they needed a completely new fieldbus controller. At first, the controllers were only used as remote I/Os, without a PLC program. However, the developers were already aware that they would not be able to meet future real-time requirements on control tasks using a PC application and a TCP/IP-based remote I/O. Therefore, controller functionality became increasingly important in the following years. Each new generation of WAGO Controller brought the performance increase necessary for further development of the machines. At the time, MatriX was still named Macrotron Process Technologies and already considered the automation of its X-ray systems one of its core competencies. Under the name MatriX Technologies, the company really took off in 2004 and demonstrated compelling growth rates. MatriX has been a part of the Nordson Group since 2015.

The company’s automation experts are in high demand. Programming controllers, generating circuit diagrams, providing integrated automation that keeps pace with the ever-increasing miniaturization of electronics and addressing other customer needs – their work ensures the company’s competitiveness. Purchasers naturally expect that the machines will support extremely short cycle times to ensure quality and will operate at a high resolution. They also want to receive the Automated Inline X-ray Inspection systems (AXI), as well as the other MatriX equipment for non-destructive testing, shortly after ordering it.

Modular for Short Development Times

Such short delivery times for special-purpose machines place high demands on machine design and planning. Christoph Bestle, who has been responsible for programming electrical systems, creating circuit diagrams and PLC programming at MatriX since 2009, uses the WAGO I/O PRO development environment – based on CODESYS 2 – for control systems to program the WAGO I/O-SYSTEM 750. Using this system, it was easy for him to manage the high levels of planning effort that are required for new application fields, such as the final assembly tests on packaged, high-value consumer products like smartphones or medical devices. He views WAGO’s I/O components and stepper controllers as modules that can be combined as needed for automation within the framework of a modular machine. Indeed, this is similar to how he views Pilz safety components.

Again and again, the engineers at MatriX experience WAGO as a partner with a comprehensive product portfolio they can always draw on to meet their needs. Martin Sokolowski, Manager of R&D and Engineering at MatriX, believes that this is due to WAGO’s focus on the numerous medium-sized machine manufacturers in Germany. He says: “WAGO also deals with orders in small quantities, thus supporting our development and growth.” Long-term personal contact with his suppliers is as important to him as that with MatriX’s customers.

The IEC 61131-compliant programming system provides the system manufacturer with a great advantage in the form of integrated visualization. Christoph Bestle explains: “We install the engineering tool on every machine. This makes us flexible when small adjustments are needed on location.

By integrating the latest WAGO controller generation in a targeted fashion, as MatriX has been consistently doing for years, the developers are paving the way for use of the new engineering software. One of WAGO’s newest generation PFCs, the PFC200, is the migration product for the change from the CODESYS-2-based WAGO I/O-PRO to the new e!COCKPIT system, which is based on CODESYS 3. The PFC200 supports both software generations. The lack of complex changes in the hardware configuration or parts lists makes the transition to e!COCKPIT particularly easy.

e!COCKPIT – Convenience for Programmers and End Users

The important development step that WAGO has taken by transitioning to the CODESYS-3-based tool directly benefits MatriX. “Much more state-of-the-art,” says Bestle of the new e!COCKPIT configuration tool, “especially compared to the old configuration tool.” The look and feel alone of the all-new WAGO development environment convinced him the first time he laid eyes on it. The software, which supports simulation, visualization and commissioning, in addition to hardware configuration and programming, is based on CODESYS 3. Bestle commends the integrated visualization: “It’s easier for our technicians, and especially our end customers, to perform diagnostics and troubleshooting – especially when this involves interface problems.” Of course, he also benefits from the integrated tool, the configuration planning for which can be accessed directly from the PLC program.

He has already successfully realized his first major project with e!COCKPIT. “I really enjoyed the convenience during planning, such as input assistance while programming,” he says. The result of this process was a computer tomography inspection machine that examines batteries for consumer products.
 
The engineering software provides support at many points, so developers can complete complex projects in record time. The network view allows classic network protocols, such as Modbus, to be planned and programmed easily. This can be done intuitively using drag-and-drop and copy-paste functions. For creating applications, Nordson MatriX will continue to benefit from the high reusability of software modules. This in turn further supports the mechanical engineering company’s proven modular concept.

Not much training is necessary for e!COCKPIT – especially for those who, like Bestle, already have experience with IEC 61131. They will quickly feel at home in the CODESYS-3-based software. The predefined libraries and the design of the user interface, with a clear menu ribbon, provide convenience and speed. Only the functions that are relevant to the task at hand are displayed, making the process more intuitive while saving time.

Many Opportunities for Early Adopters to Influence Development

Bestle believes there is still room for improvement. Revising the licensing model would be desirable in order to maintain the proven flexibility in the field. That would remove any obstacles to upgrading to new generations of the development environment. MatriX R&D Manager Sokolowski is also happy to be among the early adopters. “We are ready to take this step as soon as possible. The service life of our products in the field spans from six to ten years. The sooner we can employ the improved engineering software, the longer we can provide support.” For Sokolowski, it is very important to remain up to date in the use of the latest technologies, and he understands that this is sometimes labor-intensive. “In this early phase of e!COCKPIT, we can play an especially intensive role, setting standards and defining trends.”

Sokolowski had an immediate suggestion, explaining “We have not found a perfect solution for the issue of version control.” Archiving different versions of a project, being able to roll back to earlier versions – these have long been common practice in software development. Sokolowski would also like something similar for quality assurance in e!COCKPIT, in the form of a plug-in, for example. He emphasizes that “this could also significantly reduce effort in the field. Once version control works easily, and is no longer discipline-based, it is guaranteed to work.” Together with Bestle, he continues to focus on the successful long-term partnership with WAGO, which is expanding its product range with MatriX in mind too. There is no doubt that WAGO will handle this request with the highest priority and implement it as soon as possible. After all, the automation specialist listens very closely to early adopters.
Authors: Jürgen Pfeifer and Christian Mühlegger | 2016-09-28
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