Automatic plotting saves time and minimizes errors
“In most precast factories, the staff still marks the cuts on the slabs manually with tape measures,” says Jani Eilola, Floor technologies & Acotec Product Director, Elematic.
The slabs are unique and need to be cut according to specific measurements. Errors in slabs produce waste and slow down production, and if production is behind schedule, the slabs arrive late at the construction site, as well. Measurement errors can also mean that slabs need to be fixed on-site, inducing more work and more hours than budgeted. Either way, the project is delayed, people at the site are waiting, and the costs climb. Sometimes even the relationship between the factory and the site may become strained.
Automatic plotting helps to avoid these scenarios from happening.
“Errors in manual measurements are only human – people make mistakes. We might mark the measurements incorrectly simply because we were distracted: a colleague asked us something, or we remembered something else we needed to do next. Anything on our minds while working means something can go wrong. The automatic Plotter E9 focuses solely on plotting, and it is accurate,” Eilola says.
Direct wireless transfer leaves no room for mistakes
Automatic Plotter E9 is suitable for all hollow core slab factories. All that is needed to operate the plotter is a digital bed plan, a wireless network connection and the Elematic FloorMES machine control module to control the plotter operations. Slab design is transferred from the design software or an excel sheet directly to FloorMES. The bed layout is done in FloorMES.
There are no manual phases in the transfer, meaning that there is no space for human error. Cuts, openings, reservations and codes are marked exactly where they need to be in accordance with the bed plan. The Plotter E9 also marks the places for dividers and fittings on an empty bed surface. Text can be printed longitudinally or crosswise.
Jarkko Salmensivu, ICT & Automation Product Director at Elematic, explains that the plotter will need information of the cuts and markings locations in the slab, and where particular slab is located in the casting bed.
An automatic plotter creates a wealth of possibilities for optimizing hollow-core slab production via digitalization.
“The digitalization of production plans and data opens up opportunities for further automation in precast factories. Automation increases accuracy in production planning, scheduling, and all phases of production. In addition, precisely controlled production, digitalized operations provide factory management with up-to-date information to help in decision-making,” Salmensivu explains.
Time savings are another benefit of automatic plotting.
“Manual marking time can be two minutes per slab. When you calculate the time spent each year on marking the cuts, the work hours really pile up,” Jani Eilola adds. “Automation, error reduction and cost-efficient operation are becoming increasingly important all over the world.”
Safe and easy
The Plotter E9 is easy to operate via a simple touch screen, and the slabs on the bed are visible on screen and can be re-planned quickly if needed. In addition, safety has been a priority in the design of the battery-operated plotter.
“There are buffers on both sides and sensors to spot any risks. The machine will stop in the event of obstacles,” Eilola says.
“The Plotter E9 was created to save time and improve production efficiency. This of course means that the machine itself is designed to be easy and safe to use,” Eilola concludes.
What is needed for efficient automatic plotting?
For automatic plotting, slab design details need to be in digital format in the form of a Microsoft Excel file or a CAD file from the design software, such as Tekla Structures BIM, AutoCAD, Strusoft, or similar.
To operate the automatic Plotter E9, the FloorMES remote link module needs to be installed. The slab design can be transferred to FloorMES directly from the design software or from an integrated ELiPLAN enterprise resource planning solution. Transfers require a wireless network at the factory.
Data is typically transferred via LAN from the design software to FloorMES, which then converts CAD data to machine data. Data is sent to machine via WLAN. The direct connection eliminates the risks of human error in transfer.
Automatic Plotter E9 is operated via a simple 15.6" touch screen designed for the everyday tasks in precast concrete plants. The user can see the slabs on the beds and quickly edit the bed plan data on the screen if needed. The accuracy of laser positioning along the casting bed is +/- 1mm.