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Automating & Troubleshooting Chinese Machines.


I bet you already know where this is going. Was it easy? No it wasn't. Frustrating? Oh, yes it was. Lost count of how many times we asked ourselves, "Why would they do this that way?". However, after google translate and a little trial & error, the jobs were successfully completed.

Job #1: troubleshooting a fragrance filling machine.

So it works like this: bottles are placed on belt starting on the left side, they travel down and are filled by the 4 nozzles attached to the plastic tubes, one by one they are loaded into the grooves of the rotating white plastic wheel in the center. As they travel around, a wick holder is set and pressed into place on each bottle then a cotton wick is injected into the bottle through the wick holder with a pneumatic plunger. After the wick is inserted then a cap is placed onto the bottle before traveling to the last step where a rapidly spinning grabber screws the cap down. Finally the bottles are placed back onto the conveyor to the right of the white disc wheel where they head to the labeling machine.

The problem they were having was the wick would fail to insert at the correct time, thus having to be done manually. This problem was attributed to multiple factors: Optical sensor alignment/placement, conflicting signals from the HMI to the Chinese PLC, customers lack of knowledge when repairing/replacing damaged optical sensors and the correct termination location. So, we replaced the HMI touch screen that was malfunctioning (redoing the graphics in the process), mapped out the relevant optical sensor termination points, repositioned the sensors, adjusted the timing settings through the functioning HMI and eventually got the machine back in working order. We also added another E-Stop button close to where the operating technician would be loading and managing the bottles as they progress through the machine.


Job #2: Automating a laser engraving machine for the bottle cap.

Problem: Conveyor would not stop correctly and consistently to allow the laser engraver to properly apply the desired markings. Did I mention these were Chinese machines? So engraving the caps became a labor intensive process that produced tremendous waste. So, our task was to come up with a way, using the integrated optical sensor on the machine, to stop the conveyor for a selectable period of time to allow the laser to do its thing.

Attempt #1: Timing relay

We installed a timer relay to activate using the optical sensor to cut the power to the conveyor. This did not work as desired so we moved on to attempt number two.

We added a a SPST relay in addition to the timer relay but still did not achieve the desired results we needed. It was determined we needed a different optical sensor module to give us more functionality.

Along with the new module, we ended up needing a PLC. Keep in mind, this is not an industrial setting and the customers economical requirements limited us in what type of equipment we could use. So we had to work within those constraints and still produce a working control system.

After adding the PLC, a few more relays and the new optical sensor module we were successful in producing the desired functionality the customer needed. We also provided a gate solenoid for the customer to install on the conveyor line to properly stop the lids in the required location for the laser to accurately apply the markings.

Would it have been better for the customer to purchase a machine that fit their needs in the first place? Yes. Did they? No. They came to Automated Concepts with a problem and we provided an automated solution that transformed the machine into something they could use with consistent results. Thus proving ACI's ability to provide superior automation and control solutions to a wide range of machines and applications. So don't wait, contact ACI today to get that troublesome machine working for you!


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