Coil processing Spain: Optimizing processes through variability

Editor: Susanne Hertenberger

A leading coil processing equipment manufacturer eliminated reliability issues and increased speed production by 300 per cent by incorporating variable speed drives from Control Techniques, an Emerson business.

Emerson Industrial Automation
Emerson Industrial Automation
(Source: Emerson Industrial Automation)

Athader, based near San Sebastian in northern Spain, manufactures coil processing lines, mainly slitting lines and leveling and cut-to-length lines for steel, stainless steel and aluminum material. Equipment manufactured by the company, which is part of the Bradbury Group, is destined for customers that include steel coil processors, rolling mills and profile and tube manufacturers, 80 per cent of which are located outside of Spain.

Until recently, in order to match customer specifications, Athader used a number of different brands for its drive requirements. However, the company was becoming increasingly frustrated with reliability issues.

The practical scenario

When a coil processing line experiences a breakdown situation, there is a high probability of production losses for the customer, as well as the potential to damage mechanical parts. As a result, Athader’s preference is to use drives, motors and global solutions supplied by Emerson. According to the company, because a number of its machines are bespoke in line with specific customer needs, the adapted solutions provided by Emerson are fundamental to business success.


This is important considering the type of machines manufactured by Athader, such as steel winders/ unwinders, stacking machines, rolling machines, etc., With regard to the latter, a rotary shear device for high thickness coil is expected to work at 100 m/min, while a flying shear system for very high yield stress material (with a high pressure rating of 1100 Mpa) works at 50 m/ min. Despite these elevated speeds, precision must be within ±0.2 mm.

Aside from the high performance and reliability of Unidrive M variable speed drives, Athader says that the products provide impressive speed and response, which in turn allows high dynamic application control with repeatable precision. The intelligent modules used with the drives permit the company to manage comprehensive programs requiring motion in several axes and profiles synchronized with high precision. This involves fast and accurate movements that serve to minimize the number of rejected items and maximize production uptime, all without inducing stress on the mechanical parts. Athader favored the straightforward integration capability of Unidrive M.

Recent upgrades

Among the recent applications at Athader was the development of a transversal cutting line for steel bands up to 25 mm thick and 1800 mm wide. The Emerson solution includes a control cabinet (8 x 800 x 2200 mm modules) and three control desks (entry, main and exit). The cabinet includes a total of 19 AC drives in a DC bus configuration that ensures stability and optimized energy consumption.

Moving through the cutting line in sequence, the uncoiler is served by a single Unidrive M701 (45 kW) featuring an SI-Application option module and dedicated unwinder software. From here, the unwound coil moves into two levelers, each of which relies on two Undrive M700 units in parallel (180 and 160 kW respectively) with accompanying software. In addition, four Unidrive M200 drives (from 5.5 to 7.5 kW) are deployed for auxiliary elements. The next station, a flying shear, features one Unidrive M700 (110 kW) with Emerson’s dedicated software, along with a single Unidrive M200 (5.5 kW) for the conveyor. In addition, a total of 10 Unidrive M200 drives (from 0.55 to 5.5 kW) control further parts of the system, such as inspection and evacuation conveyors, stackers and stores. The cabinet also features two Emerson SPMC2402 DC rectifiers working in parallel.

The complete line is controlled by a Siemens PLC, while adjustment and supervision is made via a 15" color touchscreen. Two networking configurations are featured: Profinet connects the PLC with drives, encoders and remote I/O, while Ethernet allows the checking and changing of system parameters via a remote PC, including the parameters of the Emerson drives. This capability makes for easy fault-finding and element replacement.

Athader states that working with Emerson’s solutions support has allowed the company to optimize its machine designs. For instance, production speeds have increased by more than 300 per cent, from 200 to 600 m/min for longitudinal systems. In addition, the machines can now process a wider range of materials, from 12 mm band thickness (500 MPa) in the past, to the current 25 mm thick (1100 MPa).

As a result of this evolution, Athader’s latest generation of machines offers a more intuitive environment for the operator. Furthermore, commissioning time has been reduced from 6 weeks to 3-4 weeks, while machine-side and remote control are better facilitated thanks to user-friendly software and Ethernet technologies.

Emphasis on partnership

Before commencing the project, Athader sought a technological partner that would allow the company to progress its development efforts more quickly, which has certainly turned out to be the case. Aside from the high quality of its products and solutions, Athader was attracted to Emerson because of its expertise, proactive attitude, hands-on approach and open collaboration with its technicians.

Moving forward, Athader expects to introduce more products from the Emerson portfolio into its production, including high-efficiency induction motors, high dynamic AC motors and geared motors.