Smart vacuum distribution system in a CNC factory

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UniPi programmable logic controllers are not only suitable to be used in smart home applications but are also widely utilized in an industrial sphere as well. One of our customers from Ireland kindly sent us info about the UniPi Neuron being used in the CNC industry.

One of our customers from Ireland kindly sent us info about the UniPi Neuron being used in the CNC industry.

In CNC factories, a vacuum is usually used to hold workpieces on working tables. To distribute the vacuum, a central vacuum manifold is often used, powered by a single or several vacuum pumps. During the CNC worktable operation, there must be enough vacuum to hold the workpiece and ensure a proper machine operation. However, if too many vacuum pumps operate at the same time, a sizeable portion of energy is wasted. That can result in energy costs increase. Finding a balance between providing a sufficient amount of vacuum and preventing a waste of energy is not an easy task.

In Ireland, a CNC factory solved this problem by utilizing UniPi.technology controllers. A pair of UniPi Neuron PLCs is used to monitor and regulate the level of vacuum in the central manifold, distributing vacuum for 4 CNC working tables. The demand of vacuum constantly changes based on the type of work currently in progress - less vacuum is needed when a new workpiece is loaded, while higher demand is present during more difficult tasks such as machining. Each Neuron controller uses a pair of analogue inputs to read vacuum levels from two different parts of the manifold; a custom-coded Python script then compares both values and determines the demand needed according to the larger value detected.  The factory uses several smaller 7.5kW vacuum pumps and one large 21kW pump, with controllers switching them on or off individually in order to provide the vacuum needed without using too much electricity.

By using this system, the factory was able to significantly reduce energy waste and, according to the factory’s representative, can now reduce energy costs by €400-600 per month.

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