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Eaton’s SmartWire-DT technology has been selected for use in a fully automated potato sorting plant. The new plant was designed to process up to 120 tonnes of potatoes per hour to cope with seasonal demand. Once the farmer has delivered his potatoes to the collection point, the crop is poured through a hopper and lands on conveyor belts which lead to the ‘stone and clod’ separator. Following this, potatoes that are too large or too small are removed and passed on to the feed bunker. After soil is removed from the remaining potatoes, they reach the sorting machine which uses vibrating screeners to separate them into seven categories according to size. Here, they are manually examined, then washed, dried and polished before being transported to various bunkers that each hold 40 tonnes. Depending on the means of transport required, they are then weighed and bagged in nets, or loaded directly onto the truck as loose items. Schaltanlagenbau Gormanns was responsible

for the electrical power supply, and drive and automation concept, in the new plant. Sebastian Gormanns, founder and CEO, commented: “We were given the task of getting the plant running correctly and on time, as well as ensuring a simple operation for everyone. Apart from that we were given a free hand.” The new project involved 250 drives that are

required for conveyor belts, pumps, fans and machines. Gormanns estimated that at least 32km of cable would have to be laid for the entire plant, with at least one additional km of cable for the conventional cross wiring within the switchboards. So, he decided to use Eaton’s SmartWire-DT connection and communication system. Instead of the individual wiring connection of switchgear, sensors and actuators to the central controller, SmartWire-DT enables these components to be connected directly with a single cable. It provides the individual slaves with power and, at the same time, implements the data communication. Thus, all stations in the system can communicate. A Profinet, Profibus-DP or CANopen gateway can be used to connect the system with the higher-level controller to enable data exchange via fieldbus connections and controllers.

The switchboard consists of a central unit with nine sections as well as a substation with four sections. Profibus is used as the fieldbus system via which the PLC, frequency inverter and touch panels communicate with each other. Motor starter combinations networked with SmartWire-DT handle the switching and protection of all 250 drives. These are connected by section to the PLC with one gateway per section, and consist of motor-protective circuit-breakers, contactors and electrical connectors from Eaton’s standard product range. Schaltanlagen Gormanns chose PKZ motor-protective circuit-breakers that are matched to the DIL contactor series. These switch drives in the sorting plant with operating currents of between 3A and 10A. The drive concept of the plant also consists of

laser sensor controlled conveyor belts that are suspended from the roof from where they efficiently fill the bunkers. In this system each belt learns which belt comes next and automatically switches itself on and off. Some of the motors in the plant are reversing drives whilst others are pole-changing drives. These can also be integrated easily in SmartWire-DT. Eaton’s communication system is also in the

periphery, with over 50 command points at the machines connected via SmartWire-DT. The plant owner requires only one operator

for the entire plant, who switches it on and selects between some programmes – such as for setting the potato size, defining routes or selecting or deselecting the washing operation. Gormanns added: “Thanks to SmartWire-DT the cross wiring has been reduced from 1km to 50m, and the cabling required for the control circuit devices on the machines has been

reduced by approximately 40%. Troubleshooting has also been considerably reduced since faults can be found quickly due to the high level of data transparency of the connected stations. Instead of the two weeks required for commissioning our previous sorting plant project, we only needed 1.5 days with this project.”


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