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Smart Control System for Otto Bock [App Story]

Efficiency, whether it’s on the production line or in engineering design, is the primary goal in manufacturing today. Achieving either requires an integrated approach where every element contributes to the greater whole. The System Integrator Process Automation Solutions delivered a smart network which focused on efficient engineering: deterministic communications, comprehensive diagnostics, and future proof solutions.

Introduction

In the 1950s Otto Bock focused on the fabrication of prostheses – which were still produced from wood. However, supplies of wood were scarce and the company was already considering finding a more suitable material. The solution turned out to be synthetic materials. Since then, Otto Bock has been active in the market of polyurethane foam systems for over 60 years. The company focuses on efficient and high-quality manufacturing in all of its facilities: China, Germany, and the USA.

Efficiency, whether it’s on the production line or in engineering design, is the primary goal in manufacturing today. Achieving either requires an integrated approach where every element contributes to the greater whole.

That big picture view was the driving force for the engineering recommendations made by system integrator Process Automation Solutions (PAS) for a new Otto Bock facility in Detroit, MI, where work stations blend polymers for the soft plastic parts used inside vehicles or similar applications. The result was a state-of-the-art control system built on a foundation of Profinet and 18 smart drives.

The Polymer Blending Process

At the Otto Bock facility, different polymers are delivered by truck and then pumped into one of four storage tanks. Operators then start recipes to add the different polymers in varying quantities to any one of three mixing tanks. The tanks circulate and mix the polymers before operators manually add quantities of special additives.

When the batch is approved by the QA/QC department, the final liquid polymer is pumped automatically into 1000 kg totes or smaller storage bins. It can also be pumped back into a truck for immediate delivery to a customer.

Tight batch process control is critical to ensuring final product quality. It requires controlling set points, current flow and motor speeds, and monitoring equipment status to detect potential faults. This process criticality helped underscore the case for using networked smart drives for the new control system, which would allow online diagnostics from the engineering station as well as remote accessibility.

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