For many years now, ATS has been helping companies in the textile sector with the revamp of non-woven textile machines. Thanks to its accumulated know-how, the Automation Team succeeds in opening up the 'black box' machine. This way, production is not compromised, machines can be adapted more easily and they are ready for the future.
Almost everyone comes into contact with products from the textile sector every day. Just think of safety belts, carpets, towels, etc. Non-woven textiles such as needle felt are not woven like traditional textiles. Instead, synthetic fibres are blown into a card and laid in a certain direction. The result is fragile 'cloths' or membranes, which are then layered one on top of the other in a fleece carrier. Finally, this high pile of fleece is 'needled' or stitched together to form a robust, thin layer.
Down with the black box
"The fleece layer is a very complex and dynamic machine," says Simon Vandermersch, Business Unit Manager Automation at ATS Group. "In order to produce a high-quality product, the fleeces must be laid on top of each other in a uniform manner. This requires a continuous, controlled movement according to a very precise mathematical model. Moreover, most machines are designed as 'black boxes': only the original, and often foreign, manufacturer knows exactly how they are put together."
"In addition to increasing efficiency and safeguarding production, customers also find it important that we can 'open up' the machine. That way, they can adjust and optimise it themselves as much as possible."
In order to upgrade the machine to the latest technology, ATS first needs to get a clear picture of how the fleece layer works today. "We literally go to work with pen and paper and the layout of the mechanics," Simon continues. "Then we can use reverse engineering and testing to find out exactly how the model works today. That allows us to make a functional description and determine which components we need to replace and exactly how they should work together."
Such a retrofit is often a much more cost-efficient solution for machines that are still in top mechanical shape. Only the motors, cabling and software are replaced. Not only can production be guaranteed, but the machine is also future-proof.
Experience, efficiency and innovation
As an experienced machine (re)builder, ATS can fall back on a number of basic principles that make the entire retrofit process a lot more efficient. And that's a good thing, because the full implementation often has to be done in a short period of downtime. Simon: "In order to achieve this, we do a lot of simulations beforehand. We leave as little as possible to chance."