SicoCam – Merging Siempelkemp Engineering with SICK AppSpace

Each year, at the Fritz Egger GmbH & Co. OG chipboard factory in the Austrian town of St.-Pölten-Unterradlberg, over 100 million cubic feet of wood is turned into 430 million square feet of coated chipboard. That is enough to cover half the earth’s circumference when lined up end-to-end. The company’s chipboard is supplied to industrial businesses and specialist stores. Every well-known Austrian furniture manufacturer is on Egger’s clientele list, including the SICK SicoCam

In the Egger manufacturing facility, raw boards are produced by pressing the strands of board and then making the necessary cuts with multi-diagonal saws. Typically, these steps are followed by the measurement of individual boards in order to correct any possible dimensional deviations. Up to now, this was a task that had to be performed manually by removing “acceptable boards” from the production line, or by measuring boards in the plant.

In order to automate this process, the SicoCam inline board measurement system was created by Siempelkamp Logistics & Service, a plant engineer and equipment installer, in partnership with SICK. With this system, it measures wooden composite boards in a continuous cycle. It includes four programmable InspectorP65x high-performance cameras that utilize SICK AppSpace. The InspectorP65x cameras within the SicoCam supply the device with measured values for calculating board size and adjusting saws. This increases the quality of the manufactured boards while decreasing the amount of rejects and boosting productivity. In addition, workplace safety is greatly improved.

How a Safety Solution Led to Greater Automation with SicoCam

“The multi-diagonal saw in our high-performance systems had been doing more of its cutting in tandem, triple, or quadruple mode; in other words, with two or more saw units,” said Dr. Frank Otto, Project Manager at Siempelkamp.  “Combined with the manual correction of cutting parameters where dimensional deviations are found, the manual board measurement process had proven too complex and too long for our customers, not to mention the safety shortcomings involved.”

The original solution measured the boards after the multi-diagonal saw had done its job, but that was not consistent with the latest technology. Previously, separated boards were checked by hand using a tape measure and moved to the reject pile. If deviations were found in the measured values, the operator on the saw had to enter and confirm the necessary correction parameters. By this time, several boards with incorrect dimensions would have already made their way into the plant.

No sooner had the saw been adjusted than the operator would have had to manually remove another board and measure it to determine whether the desired results had been achieved. If the board failed to meet the specifications, the operator had to adjust the saw yet again.

This process would take anywhere from fifteen minutes to a half hour, until SICK AppSpace was integrated into SicoCam.

“Now that the board-measuring system is located within the machinery, the saw can be corrected immediately after any dimensional deviations are found,” Martin Hinterhofer, Technology Manager at Egger, noted. “With the new system, we can also respond quickly to process changes in order to stabilize our processes and ensure consistent quality of the finished product.”

Measurement is the Most Critical Part of the Process

In chipboard manufacturing, the forming and press line constitutes the most process-critical system unit in the plant. As the centerpiece of the plant, it plays a major role in determining the facility’s capacity and the quality of the products. For this reason, the output of the machines located downstream should be coordinated with the line, which will help avoid bottlenecks.

For example, a system for measuring the board geometry should ideally be positioned inline and after the saw if possible. The SicoCam inline board-measuring system from Siempelkamp measures the board length and width, and also calculates the diagonals and the angles in the four board corners. This allows trimming and cross-cutting to be optimized and helps minimize waste.

After being cut to length from an endless strand, the individual boards are measured on a conveyor track as they pass through the system. Above this track, the SicoCam is mounted on a gantry, with the cameras mounted on a movable sled positioned in the rear of the passage in the direction of transport. With the aid of the sled, the camera system is adjusted to the different board lengths. The setting accuracy is on the 0.01 millimeter scale. A small photoelectric sensor provides front-side detection triggers the cameras.

“We have a conveyor belt… the SicoCam gantry is positioned above it, and the board is measured just as it comes,” noted Dr. Frank Otto in describing the design. “There is no mechanical connection to the existing plant. It’s completely decoupled, and we don’t need to make any modifications to the existing machinery, including functional modifications or decelerating of the boards.”

“This could all be done during normal operation with only a brief stoppage, since we just had to position the system above the conveyor,” said Mathias Köhl, Production Manager at Egger.

Freedom to Customize is Built into SICK AppSpace

In optoelectronics, specifically in image processing, configurable products are often pushed to the limits of their capabilities. This is where the implementation of certain functions or performance characteristics are critical. With the SICK AppSpace eco-system, SICK offers system integrators and original equipment manufacturers new freedom to develop customized applications and user interfaces based on programmable cameras and optical sensors.

Measuring board geometries require height compensation at board transport speeds of up to four meters per second. Markus Gropp, Branch Office Head at Siempelkamp, described the challenges faced in this process.

“The board is tensioned when it leaves the press and sometimes bulges downwards or upwards a little. That has to be taken into account. The only way we can compensate for this is by positioning lasers at each board corner and programming the app accordingly,” Gropp said.

But the entire system doesn’t just include four cameras that simply detect an edge. Anybody could do that.  Dr. Frank Otto from Siempelkamp explained what went into the development.

“There’s a lot more know-how involved. The heart of the system is its software. Despite this, the hardware still needs to meet certain prerequisites. Not every camera is capable of the performance, sensitivity, and rapid shutter speed necessary for this task,” Otto said. “We now have the ability to measure boards traveling at speeds of up to four meters per second. When it comes to exposure time, we need to be working in the microsecond range. And that’s where the camera performs very well, along with all of the shutter technology, so that we get extremely sharp images despite the high speed.”

The SicoCam is just one of the many solutions that utilizes SICK AppSpace in its design, but it is revolutionizing companies’ manufacturing abilities.

Want to learn more about vision and SICK AppSpace technology? Contact a SICK representative today!