United Process Controls upgraded the vacuum furnace controls and automation platform for Woodward Inc., a U.S.-based provider of fuel and control systems for aircraft engines. According to the company, the controls allow streamlined reporting for Nadcap compliance as well as integration with the company’s enterprise planning system.

The control upgrades were undertaken at the company’s Illinois facility and completed in a two-step approach. First, three vacuum furnaces received a full control-system replacement based on UPC Protherm 710 controllers. The scope of work also included new digital heating zone trims for temperature uniformity, and multiple PID sets, to minimize overshoot and meet tight tolerance requirements.

Once the updated controls were installed, a Protherm 9800 SCADA was linked to the controllers for real-time visibility of production data. The enterprise planning system interacts with the SCADA, managing the process recipes and feeding data to the receiving furnace. This setup provides a redundant check and requires the operator to validate the part number or job lot number via the SCADA interface before a recipe can be deployed.

In addition to complying with Nadcap, the enhanced controls also meet AMS 2750E specification for thermocouple tracking. Because thermocouples have a limited lifespan, Woodward closely monitors how often each unit was used and manually record data.

The upgraded controllers take over this work, tracking the thermocouple, its serial number and usage history. Controls software identifies when a thermocouple needs to be replaced based on running hours, days in service and temperatures reached. It also alerts the operator when it is time to change the thermocouple.

UPC also equipped a number of new air drying ovens with Protherm 470 programmable controllers with onboard input and output capabilities.