Belgian solar glass manufacturer Ducatt completely overhauled its production facilities and is now using the Simatic PCS 7 process control system for plant-wide automation. The integrated control system is used for all areas of the new production plant.
The name Ducatt stands for “dedicated ultraclear antireflective thin and toughened” solar glass. The Belgian company is a spin-off business of market leader Emgo, which has more than 45 years of experience in the manufacture of high-quality drawn and blown glass. Emgo develops and produces glass for lamps and also develops specialized applications such as pressure-resistant vacuum tube collectors for solar plants. Through the development of such tube collectors and tube products for thermal systems, Emgo has been able to establish itself in the solar industry in recent years. And solar glass is now Ducatt’s field of expertise – with a highly motivated team of experienced employees, from well-trained and experienced machine operators to specialized glass engineers.
Totally Integrated Automation
The Ducatt production plant was completely modernized, and a new melting furnace for solar glass, as well as the corresponding state-of-the-art production line, was added to the facility. Siemens Brussels successfully implemented machines from German, French, and English manufacturers together with system components from Ducatt into the new production plant. In the process, existing plant sections were maintained. For automation in the new rolled glass plant, the Simatic PCS 7 process control system is used. The new process control system consists of four nonredundant automation systems, two redundant servers, a central engineering system, and three clients. There is also an interface to a variety of non-Simatic controllers that are responsible for tracking the process and for archiving important production data.
An advantage of plant-wide automation using Simatic PCS 7 is that all engineering information is brought together in a central database, enabling effective maintenance on-site. The operator also has access to the entire plant – and this access is available from every operator terminal. The system administrator determines the rights of the various users and which plant areas can be accessed. In order to update the automation structure when required, Siemens offers services over the entire lifecycle of the plant. All involved OEMs also have the option of remote access, allowing them to maintain associated applications and rectify errors from faraway locations. The security of the data transmission is ensured in the process.
Everyone is more than satisfied with the results. The new process control system features a uniform look and feel that makes work easier for both the operators and the maintenance personnel. It also operates all the sections of production – and is nevertheless controlled from just one central engineering system.
Modern production lines for glass processing
Ducatt uses quartz sand from one of the best low-iron sandpits in Europe. Production lines of the company’s strategic partner LiSEC are used for cutting, edge smoothing, and hardening the glass. In addition, Ducatt develops antireflective coatings that achieve the highest possible transparency and light permeability in the entire photovoltaic spectrum. All Ducatt production lines now produce highly transparent solar glass that features consistent quality and high adaptability, with processing and delivery times minimized. A continuous and linear production monitoring system checks and tracks each individual sheet of glass – starting from its base material and continuing on through to delivery to the customer. The process of creating each sheet is thus completely documented and traceable.
Tailored and future-oriented solutions
Highly transparent solar glass is used in a large number of variants. In the beginning, Ducatt concentrated on the fast-growing market of crystalline silicon (c-Si) modules for photovoltaic systems. The solar glass manufacturer will continue to supply to these customers, but the company is now considering future development of tailored solutions for photovoltaic thin-film modules, thermal solar flat collectors, concentrated solar power (CSP) systems, and even greenhouses. The current company location offers enough room for Ducatt to continue to grow over the long term together with the solar energy market.