Manufacturer and integrator of material handling systems relies on open automation platform from Bosch Rexroth
The degree of automation in intralogistics is increasing in favour of high safety and speed. Therefore, automation solutions and robot technology are increasingly used in logistics and warehousing. People and machines work hand in hand: the robot becomes a “colleague”. As a manufacturer and integrator of material flow systems, CIMCORP has developed robotic solutions for order processing and warehousing, focusing on maximum precision. To support these objectives, the company chose ctrlX AUTOMATION from Bosch Rexroth. The use of the automation platform results in various advantages and savings, such as a 30 percent reduction in the space required in the control cabinet.
CIMCORP GROUP is a leading global supplier of turnkey automation systems for intralogistics using advanced robotics, material handling and software technologies. With its headquarters in Finland, CIMCORP is not only a manufacturer and integrator of material handling systems for the tire industry, but also develops robotic solutions for order fulfilment and warehousing in the food and beverage, retail, e-commerce, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) and postal services sectors. The systems aim to reduce operating costs, ensure traceability and improve efficiency. They are used in production and distribution centres in over 40 countries on six continents.
In order to maintain and further expand this strong market position, CIMCORP is continuously working on optimisneing its robot solutions. This applies, for example, to gantry robots used in tire production and intralogistics. To support this, CIMCORP uses the ctrlX AUTOMATION solution from Bosch Rexroth. It´s an open automation platform that includes all the necessary software and hardware components for complete system solutions: high-performance controllers, compact drives, safety solutions, I/O modules, HMIs and IPCs. At its heart is the ultra-compact control platform ctrlX CORE.
Future-proof automation solution required
“After our previous automation solution had been in use for more than 10 years and had reached its limits, we were looking for a future-proof alternative. The main requirements were that it should be powerful, compact and open. The automation platform ctrlX AUTOMATION meets these criteria,” explains Jani Tuomola, Head of Device Development at CIMCORP, and adds: “As we already had a close business relationship with Bosch Rexroth, the decision for the new system was made quickly. Previously, Bosch Rexroth had supplied control systems to CIMCORP, and we were very satisfied with the quality of the products as well as the service and support. Our cooperation started when CIMCORP developed a new generation of gantry robots, which were first delivered to customers in 2010.”
Today, CIMCPORP is a lead customer for ctrlX AUTOMATION and was therefore able to contribute its requirements very early in the development process. This made it possible for the company to actively shape a special solution for intralogistics. The core component here is the gantry robot.
Specific solution developed for gantry robots
CIMCORP was able to co-create ctrlX AUTOMATION from the beginning to ensure that it had the functions and features that the company needed for the gantry robot. This is possible because of the openness of Bosch Rexroth’s automation platform. An ecosystem for industrial applications exists around the platform. Users can use apps from Bosch Rexroth, apps from third-party suppliers, or apps they have created themselves, thereby extending the range of functions to suit their individual needs. Software developers can thus develop and make available industrial applications in all common programming languages quickly, easily, flexibly, and securely.
When CIMCORP and Bosch Rexroth started working together on ctrlX AUTOMATION, they defined all essential functionalities and requirements in a Lead Customer Specification containing all current and known future requirements for all CIMCORP product families that can use the system. This resulted in cost savings for CIMCORP as well as saving space in the electrical cabinet. By optimising the layout of the components in the cabinet, a space saving of up to 30 percent and a reduction in weight of 35 percent was achieved compared to the system previously used.
The open control system for integrating IoT and security enables easy connection to logistics software. The solution also provides the company with the future-proofing it needs, for example, through the options for integrating artificial intelligence solutions or the use of new communication standards such as OPC UA TSN and 5G.
CIMCORP uses the entire automation toolbox around ctrlX AUTOMATION. At its heart is the control platform ctrlX CORE, which is integrated in the drive to save space, and the ctrlX MOTION software for Cartesian robots. The drive system ctrlX DRIVE is a central element for CIMCORP and is in use here as a compact, intelligent and regenerative solution.
Jani Tuomola summarises the advantages: “The control ctrlX CORE is lighter, smaller and open to the IT world. The small size and minimal weight are of great importance to us as the control is installed on a moving machine – the gantry robot. These features reduce the overall moving weight and give us more freedom in positioning the control cabinet. The openness to the IT world brings advantages in integrating the equipment control into the higher-level control system of CIMCORP, more efficient integration and faster commissioning. All in all, ctrlX AUTOMATION offers us a modern platform with a long service life for device control tasks and a uniform, secure platform that already considers future technologies.”
Robot commissioning via remote access
The commissioning of the first gantry robot took place during the pandemic, meaning external visitors were not allowed to enter the production hall so. The process was therefore carried out online via Microsoft Teams and remotely using webcams. The aim was to get the robot up and running in the shortest possible time. This was achieved in June 2020 within two weeks by remote access to the control ctrlX CORE and the video stream. In two days, the robot completed 800 to 1000 driving cycles without errors and the commissioning went smoothly overall.
High learning effects and realization of ideas – also in the future
“We are currently still in the prototype phase. Initial experience has been positive and expectations are high. We were able to try out new functions on our test robot and provide quick feedback to Bosch Rexroth product development. This way of working has given us a deeper understanding of the principles of the new ctrlX AUTOMATION platform. In addition to the close cooperation with Bosch Rexroth’s product development, we received comprehensive material and support via the ctrlX AUTOMATION Community and online documentations,” explains Jani Tuomola.
ctrlX AUTOMATION is based on new and modern IT technologies and differs from other conventional PLC control technologies used at CIMCORP. For this reason, the automation engineers at CIMCORP had a high learning effect.
Jani Tuomola summarises: “The automation platform from Bosch Rexroth forms the ideal basis for us to realise our ideas. The system provides all the necessary building blocks for complete automation solutions. It is extremely scalable and covers the requirements for almost all applications.”
Based on the positive experience with ctrlX AUTOMATION, CIMCORP is planning further adaptations and applications for the solution in the future. In the next step, for example, the standardised CIMCORP peripherals used in conjunction with the gantry portal robot will be moved to the automation platform after the successful transfer of the corresponding application.