Saving Life and Property with Sandbags

Posted by Chuck Harrell on Nov 10, 2014 10:20:16 AM

truckProject Introduction: During natural disaster situations, sandbags are used to protect people and property. In addition to becoming lifesaving tools during floods and storms, sandbags are also used to provide a steady base for oil, gas, and water pipelines. Sandbags are used in these situations because they provide consistent, flexible weight that enables them to become effective barriers and ballast in a variety of applications. One sandbag manufacturer, Sandbags, enlisted the aid of Quantum Automation in creating a system that would improve the monitoring capabilities and control their existing sandbag machine.

System Requirements: For this process, sand gets loaded into a hopper on the Sandbags Super 50 trailer. As the conveyor screw turns, equal amounts of sand get loaded into the measuring cylinders. The sand then drops on the next screw rotation into the sandbags. The sandbags get sewn automatically and dropped onto the conveyor. They then get hand loaded into large totes mounted on pallet, which then get loaded onto a flatbed truck to be delivered to the sites that need sandbags.

The challenge was for Quantum to create a full solution for the sandbagging process machine. Initially, the original machine automation was going to be controlled by a C programming language application running under Linux. Fortunately, during the early Alpha Development Phase of the machines, it quickly became apparent that the large number of drivers needed to interface communications with the machine's SCADA system combined with Sandbags MES Network Operations Center requirements were going to require overwhelming application and HMI engineering and development costs, in addition to making security, updating, and ongoing maintenance of the machines unreasonably expensive and complex in the future. A completely different solutions was required.

System Description: Quantum Automation switched to a faster, more powerful computer for the HMI. The Advantech UNO-2184 industrial PC running Windows 7 Professional offered the ability to use native InduSoft Web Studio drivers to integrate the machine process together.

There were other technical challenges as well. The Sandbags machines, located at various quarries within the United States, need to communicate via cellular modem, Wi-Fi, or LAN back to the Sandbags Network Operations Center. Each location provides video streaming from two on-site industrial IP cameras. The machines also send local ambient environmental information taken from an on-board AirMar WeatherStation, along with machine status and utilization metrics from the PLCs and the Operator Interfaces back to the Sandbags Operations Center. All these design requirements necessitated a sotluion that can easily communicate with and interface to all these disparate devices.

Project Implementation: On each Sandbags Super 50 machine, there is an Advantech UNO-2184 Industrial Computer running Windows 7 Professional with a runtime version of InduSoft. Located in the Sandbags Network Operations centers, there is an Advantech HPC-7480 mission critical, Industrial grade server running Windows Server 2008, along with a Windows 7 Professional machine, an InduSoft Web Studio application displaying the operation.

The on-site video streaming from the machine is used to provide security, operational assurance, and visual communications in order to assist the company Operations Manager to make the jobsite more efficient and record the entire sandbagging process operations so that there is continuous video record in the event of an injury or other incident at the jobsite.

The AirMar WeatherStation has a GPS to determine where each Sandbags machine is located for asset management tracking requirements. It also provides wind direction and speed, along with barometric pressure for forecasting precipitation and weather events, in order to determine if they need to stop production because of extreme weather related issues.

Each PLC and Operator Interface provides round-the-clock control and status of each machine. The PLCs provides sandbag counts from the two conveyors and compares the count against the maximum theoretical speed in order to determine process efficiency. It also provides a total bag count for the day, week, month, job, etc., for billing and MES purposes at the Sandbags Network Operations Center. The PLCs also monitor the status of the generators for maintenance cycles and the metrics are used for overall process availability calculations.

Historical MES data and metrics are also stored pertaining to the production of the sandbags and machine operation, such as yield, bags per hour or day, and weather data. Emergency button usages for each machine is also tracked throughout the day.

Conclusion: Sandbags' is planning to build approximately five more of the Super 50's and five of their newer Super 44's. Each machine will include an IndusSoft Web Studio runtime application on an Advantech UNO-2184, industrial PC residing on board. Sandbags are used for providing a consistent base to oil, gas, and water pipelines as well as protecting lives and buildings from natural disaster situations. Every year four billion sandbags are made and sewn by hand. The Sandbags Super 50 has the ability to produce 2000 sandbags per hour. FEMA and local agencies have the ability to protect and save more lives and property with the advances made possible by the Sandbags Super 50 machines.


Topics: Did you know?, Case Studies, Application Stories

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