Sticky learning process leads to hive of activity

"Integration of ABB's touch screen now allows end users at the facility to control pump speeds and torques, plus the centrifuge and extractor with just the touch of a finger"

System integrator Josh Quinlan from Wodonga, on the border of NSW and Victoria, knows plenty about making honey. In recent months he has studied the process very closely. He has learnt the intricacies of extracting honeycomb from wooden frames in a production environment, plus the business of learning how to stop honey hardening during processing. A sticky learning process indeed.

The project came about through a honey manufacturer in southern NSW who decided to automate an existing machine and time consuming manual process. Previously their honey extraction process was run with a cumbersome stop start process.

To undertake the task Josh Quinlan approached local ABB Authorised Value Provider – Remtron Automation in Albury. With an already established working relationship, Josh knew Remtron Automation and their proven reliable products and local technical expertise would ensure that the honey manufacturer’s expectations were met.

An integrated packaged solution was decided. Instead of a large control panel with cumbersome knobs and dials on the front, system control was provided via an ABB touch screen. The touch screen was programmed to communicate with ABB's PLC plus a network of ABB variable speed drives to simply automate the process.

At the production site, wooden frames filled with honey and bees wax are delivered straight from the hive. Inside the extraction room, an uncapper machine scrapes away the wax capping to expose the honey. The frames are then loaded into an extractor which spins rapidly to force the honey and remaining wax out of the frames. After mixing and heating, the honey blend is pumped across to a centrifuge process which separates the less dense wax from the honey. The pure honey, forced out of the sides of the centrifuge drum, is collected and pumped into bulk containers, ready for shipping. The separated bees wax is sold and used in the manufacture of cosmetics, candles and furniture polish.

Integration of ABB's touch screen now allows end users at the facility to control pump speeds and torques, plus the centrifuge and extractor with just the touch of a finger. Honey hardening in the pipes was a major issue. It's less of an issue now. Torque settings of the pumps managed and monitored by the PLC, can be changed as required, for example to instruct the pumps to rock forward and reverse. The rocking back and forth helps loosen any hardened honey in the pipes and also clears any jams in the pumps. The process is all controlled, managed and visible at the touch of a screen.

Since the system integration, production at the facility has increased. There are plans for an additional uncapper and extractor and these drives will seamlessly integrate into the existing system with minimal cost and downtime. For the southern NSW honey manufacturer, there's a buzz in the air. More pure honey is being captured from the extraction process and the facility has become an even greater hive of activity.

For more information, please contact Anthony Merrett of Remtron Automation based in Albury, Victoria.

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