United Process Controls upgraded the vacuum furnace controls and automation platform for Woodward Inc., a Fort Collins, Colo.-based provider of fuel and control systems for aircraft engines. The new controls will be used to provide streamlined reporting for Nadcap compliance and integrate with the company’s enterprise-planning system. UPC also equipped a number of new air drying ovens with Protherm 470 programmable controllers with onboard I/O capabilities.

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 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, the second step was integrating the Protherm 9800 SCADA and providing connectivity to the Protherm 710 controllers. The revamped controls provide real-time visibility of production data. The ERP also interacts with the SCADA controller, managing the process recipes and feeding data to align the recipe with the part or job lot entering the receiving furnace. This setup includes 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 relatively limited lifespan in this application, Woodward closely monitors how often each unit was used and manually record data. The new controllers track each thermocouple, including its serial number and usage history. The controls software identifies and alerts an operator when a thermocouple needs to be replaced based on running hours, days in service and temperatures reached.