The new controller: High performance

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The new controller: High performance

Brabender Technologie’s new generation of control modules is preparing the company’s feeding and discharging solutions for a smart future.

There is more to automatic feeding than just precision weighing technology. A smart control system featuring sophisticated software solutions and flexible interfaces is the cornerstone of any feeding facility. It controls the feeding process through the complex interaction of its weighing and control functions, and links gravimetric feeders with other system components, including refill devices and shut-off valves. Above all, it provides complete documentation – a must in modern production plants, and a fundamental prerequisite for quality management system certification. This smart system enables production lines featuring single or multiple Brabender Technologie feeders to be controlled, as they communicate directly with most host/PLC systems. Controls can be feeder mounted or remotely installed in control cabinets.

Creating a basis for the future

Its new, recently launched Congrav® CM-E 3.0 and Congrav® CB-E 3.0 controllers are enabling Brabender Technologie to lay a high-performance foundation for the future, in which the Internet of Things (IoT) will play a major role, along with predictive maintenance and equipment monitoring. “Processor performance and the new controller’s memory were developed with the future in mind,” Jörg Pawlik, Head of Electronics Development at Brabender Technologie, explains. The new controller features several sophisticated Advanced RISC processors. They form the basis of an energy-efficient, high-performance platform and provide the necessary computational functions, to enable feeders to function properly; in even the most exacting industrial environments. Two main processors (CPUs) with five cores ensure high-octane and efficient communication, computational and distribution processes. The software has been designed to be easily upgradeable and optimized to take advantage of the powerful, new hardware platform.

This is what the new Congrav CM-E und CB-E 3.0 controllers can do

The control modules feature six digital inputs and six digital outputs, which is more than any previous generation of controllers. The inputs can be used for stop/start functions or interlocks, while the outputs can be used for operating, refilling (for instance via the slide gate above the feeder) or for alarming purposes. Like its predecessors, the new controller provides various interfaces, but these have been enhanced using state-of-the-art ethernet technology. An ethernet interface, replaces the previous expansion units and eliminates of the need for digital I/O interfaces to expand the system.

The road to smart devices

It will be possible to interconnect two network connection terminals using another new interface, the TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) network protocol. The controller can bi-directionally share data with other computers using this link. This provides the foundation for the Internet of Things, where plant and equipment with an electronic intelligence capability are turned into smart devices that communicate with one another. Ingo Röpling, Head of Software Development, explains: “The new controller comes with a web interface, enabling fast, uncomplicated diagnosis and parameter setting capabilities when using multiple mobile devices. The controller provides a web interface that ensures Internet and cloud connectivity. On customer request and approval, data can be analyzed in realtime via the Internet or a dedicated customer cloud. This enables Brabender Technologie to assist customers quickly when responding to service inquiries. We are laying the groundwork for integration into the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0 and building a bridge into the future.”

New predictive maintenance opportunities

Another new feature is the controller’s integrated ‘real time clock’ which even operates when the controller is powered off. For example, it can provide accurate information about when the machine was powered up for the first time after delivery. This is beneficial when warranty issues are involved, or to establish routine preventative maintenance intervals. “The new technological foundation that the Congrav® CB-E controllers represent has provided us with these diagnosis and predictive maintenance opportunities,” Jörg Pawlik states. All four ethernet interfaces provide extra capacity for the hardware – not just for IoT tasks, but also, for host interfaces (incl. Profinet, OPCUA, Ethernet IP), diagnosis, maintenance or enhanced operations of the unit.

Additional upgrade options

Previously, it has only been possible to connect three I/O interfaces. With the new control modules, up to 63 modules can now be connected to control external add-ons. “That increases the options many times over,” Jörg Pawlik emphasizes. A mini-PCI express slot and slots for future add-in cards like WLAN or Bluetooth modules, were also factored in.

Guaranteed backward compatibility

The new generation of controllers can be operated using the Congrav® OP1-S (for one feeder), Congrav® OP6-E (for a maximum of six feeders) or Congrav® OP16-E (for a maximum of 16 feeders) operating panels. Ingo Röpling emphasizes: “We ensured that both the new controller hardware and software feature backward compatibility with almost all the old Brabender Technologie controllers and operating panels. It is also possible to connect the new controller using our proprietary fieldbus, if a TCP connection is not practical.”

Increased consideration of security aspects

The inclusion of a new, separate security chip demonstrates that attention was paid during development to the increasingly important issue of security, which is vital to the protection of our customer’s data and hardware. A further security aspect is covered by the integrated sensor chip: the 3-axis sensor can record vibrations or motion in three directions. This enables ambient conditions like temperature and humidity to be analyzed extremely accurately. “That is not just a factor in subtropical countries, but can also be useful in Europe,” Jörg Pawlik clarifies.

Separate supply voltages and supercaps

We have installed separate supply zones: 24 volts for the controller with the CPUs and another 4 volts for the I/O inputs and outputs. Furthermore, the voltage range has been extended to 14–36 volts, which results in increased hardware stability. Even more major voltage fluctuations have no impact on the controller’s operational reliability. The supercaps installed in the controller provide comprehensive protection in the event of power supply fluctuations. Boasting sufficient backup capability, they ensure the power supply when mains voltage drops. Pawlik explains: “You can visualize that in the form of two small batteries that release energy as soon as there is a power cut. That is important, especially in countries where electricity grids are volatile.”

Self-remedying fuses

Self-resetting fuses protect the device in the event of overcurrent like any conventional fuse. Electronics expert Jörg Pawlik says: “In contrast to a normal fuse, which is not reusable, this fuse ‘remedies’ itself. This adds a service aspect to the equation, as the fuse no longer needs to be replaced.”

Enhanced reverse polarity protection

To date controllers have featured a reverse polarity protection that prevents the controller from starting if poles are connected incorrectly. The new-generation controller incorporates a rectifier. No matter how you connect the 24 volts – the controller always operates. “It can no longer be plugged in incorrectly,” says Jörg Pawlik with a grin. The electronics developers have also given consideration to drive technology controls. With the old controller, the drive type always had to be identical if multiple drives were used: either two three-phase current motors or two smart DC motors for screws and agitators or paddles. The new control technology now enables a mix of drive technologies. For example, a smart DC motor can now be used for the screws and a three-phase current motor for the paddle, which helps to achieve greater efficiency.

Looking ahead

Following a 2-year product development period, the new controller will be available in 2021. Time to draw some initial conclusions: “In launching our new generation of controllers, we have provided extensive foundations and a wide range of options to ensure our equipment has a smart future. We look forward to traveling down this road together with our customers and will continue to work on making our equipment’s control processes even more efficient.”

(published in FLUX 1/2021)