Conair’s new wireless RFID line-proofing technology uniquely simplifies and error-proofs resin distribution by translating source/destination connections from the conveying control and HMI into operator instructions guided by color-changing LEDs on the resin selection tabletop.  Other key features of this easy-to-use system include an LED-guided line purging option and full compatibility with Conair’s evolving Wave Conveying™ technology.

The new RFID line proofing system works with Conair’s recently introduced SmartFLX™ conveying control and an RFID-capable Resin Selection System (RSS) table. Each material port on the modified RSS table connects, via a fantail assembly, to a specific resin supply and is associated with an RFID antenna that is protected from damage beneath the RSS tabletop. All resin sources, along with their RSS ports and unique RFID antenna addresses, are tracked in the material source/destination database in the SmartFLX control.

Resin Selection System with Wireless RFID Line-Proofing
Built into a Resin Selection System (RSS) tabletop, Conair’s new wireless RFID line-proofing technology uses color-coded LEDs to guide operator selection. Each flex tube handle contains an RFID chip (white rectangle, lower right). When inserted into the slot of any correct resin source (indicated with blue LEDs), the RFID chip aligns with the concealed RFID antenna at that port and the connection is proofed by the SmartFLX conveying control. A green LED indicates a “good” connection and enables conveying from that resin source. Wrong connections are signaled with a red LED, preventing conveying.

Above the RSS table, the flex tubes to destination receivers are equipped with steel connection handles that contain and protect uniquely coded RFID chips, whose addresses are associated with destination receivers and stored in the SmartFLX database. Wireless signals between the flex-tube RFID chip and the antenna at each RSS port are used by the SmartFLX control to proof each connection.

Light-guided material selection prevents operator errors

When an operator initiates a material change using the RSS table, the SmartFLX control consults the material/source/destination database to identify one or more RSS port(s) linked to the correct resin source, as well as one or more flex tube(s) linked to the desired destination. Then, as these correct connection(s) are displayed on the HMI screen, the control translates them into light-guided instructions using LEDs embedded in the surface of the RSS table.

A correct flex tube (destination) is indicated by a flashing yellow LED, indicating that it should be unplugged from its current position and moved to a new RSS port (source) identified by a flashing blue LED. To make the connection, the operator moves the flex tube end to the indicated RSS port, then connects the tube into the port, aligning the tube’s RFID-equipped handle with the tabletop slot next to the port. Inserting the tube handle into this slot aligns its RFID chip with the port’s RFID antenna, enabling the SmartFLX control to proof the connection. The tabletop LED flashes green to indicate a good connection, after which the SmartFLX control unlocks the destination receiver and initiates the conveying cycle.

Should an operator attempt to connect either the wrong tube or port, the tabletop LED at that port flashes red, indicating an error, while the LED for the correct port continues to flash blue until the correct tube/port connection is made. For added reference, the SmartFLX HMI continues to display the correct tube/port combinations as well, using numbers that correspond to the markings on flex tube handles and RSS port positions.

“Clean Cycle” Purging Process Eliminates Resin Contamination Risk

Conveying systems often have a combination of non-purged and purged lines. Lines that are not automatically purged (e.g., cleaned with an air-only purge cycle that flushes all remaining resin to the receiver) may leave behind some resin that can be picked up, contaminating the resin in the next conveying cycle. Many line-proofing systems rely on operators to recognize this risk and perform a manual line purge when needed. But if busy operators forget, resin contamination can occur.

To error-proof the cleaning of non-purged lines and eliminate any resin contamination risk, Conair’s RFID line proofing system introduces “Clean Cycle.” This process combines a filtered purge-air source/port on the RSS table with color-coded LED indicators that guide operators through the correct purging sequence. It is managed by the SmartFLX control, which knows the purge status of each source and automatically adds the Clean Cycle process whenever resin is conveyed from a non-purged source.

Here’s how the Clean Cycle process works:  As soon as an operator completes a material conveying cycle from a non-purged source, the LED at that RSS port switches from flashing green to flashing yellow – indicating that the flex tube needs to be moved – while the LED for the Clean Cycle port flashes blue. When the flex tube is connected to the Clean Cycle port, the purging connection is proofed, its LED flashes green, the destination receiver is unlocked, and the line is completely purged – any remaining resin is pushed through to the receiver.

Completion of each Clean Cycle process is managed and validated by the SmartFLX control and recorded for traceability in the SmartFLX event log. Even in the event of a long delay or an operator change, the yellow and blue LEDs associated with the Clean Cycle process remain lit until the purge operation is completed. Only then can normal resin selection and conveying resume.

Conair Group offers innovative auxiliary equipment solutions to plastics processors around the world. With 32 degreed engineers, including 16 senior team members with an average of over 23 years of experience, Conair brings unparalleled technical expertise and support to its customers, guaranteeing its products will deliver maximum productive uptime. Twenty parts and service team members respond to tens of thousands of calls each year, answering in an average of about 15 seconds. Over 450 individual products include resin drying systems, blenders, feeders and material-conveying systems, temperature-control equipment and granulators. Extrusion solutions include line-control systems, film and sheet scrap-reclaim systems and downstream equipment for pipe and profile extrusion. Conair also has specialized expertise in every major end market – such as packaging, medical, transportation, building and construction, and many others – and strives to ensure plastics processors succeed in today’s competitive global marketplace.