XPAR Vision: IT-supported manufacturing process monitoring
Plastic waste in our oceans, microplastics in our drinking water – plastic packaging is coming in for criticism. In contrast, glass used as a high-quality packaging material is more environmentally friendly and virtually infinitely recyclable. However, manufacturers have to boost their process productivity, efficiency and reliability in order to reduce the high energy consumption and therefore costs associated with glass manufacturing. It’s no surprise, then, that they are reaching for process inspection and monitoring solutions from technology company XPAR Vision, based in Groningen in the Netherlands. Extreme temperatures and ever-present dust in glass manufacturing are a big challenge for sensitive measurement systems. An IT infrastructure designed to withstand this kind of heat is therefore a must. That is why XPAR Vision supplies its servers used to run the image analysis software to customers in robust, fully climate-controlled Rittal TS IT enclosures. The coolant-based enclosure cooling Rittal Liquid Cooling Package (LCP) also ensures efficient and space-saving cooling, even under extremely adverse conditions.
“We consciously choose Rittal IT racks because these enclosures are unbeatable, offer our customers good IP55 protection, guarantee a constant interior temperature and are extendible on a modular basis, user friendly and simple to connect.”
Willy Rendering, XPAR Vision software engineer
Speed and precision
In simple terms, a glass factory consists of a hot and cold zone. Red-hot gobs of glass are moulded into shape in “hot” production, while the cooled products are reviewed and packaged in the “cold” zone. Conventional quality control systems are traditionally restricted to the cold end of the production process. The XPAR Vision quality control system, however, focuses on the hot end of glass manufacturing. This means that factors in the hot zone that affect quality can be monitored for the first time. Significantly reduced raw material and energy consumption can be achieved by checking for variations and, therefore, glass thickness at the hot end of the process. After all, the size, shape and speed of the glass gobs as well as the angle at which gobs drop into the mould considerably affect the quality of the final product.
IT – the brains of the optimisation system
A high-speed camera captures how a glass gob drops into the mould. An image processing program analyses the gob drop within 20 milliseconds. The XPAR analysis software processes the data before the next gob. Willy Rendering, an XPAR Vision software engineer, explains: “When our system determines that the shape of a glass gob has changed, it can flag that the channels through which the gob slides must be checked or replaced.” Rendering refers to the image analysis software and IT system as the brains of the system. Rittal TS IT enclosures offer the perfect protection for these. That is why XPAR supplies its monitoring solution to customers together with the Rittal TS IT rack, including climate control. The solution is used directly within their manufacturing operations.
Close to the action
The system must be optimally protected against heat, dust and external physical influences. It is also important to glass manufacturers that the system be ready to use, scalable and reliable. Solutions that combine sensors and information technology are of vital importance to the future of heavy industry. Under the toughest working conditions, intelligently controlled machines can take some of the strenuous work off of people.