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Compact Product Suite for Southern Spars yacht masts manufacturer in New Zealand

Upgrading the control system of the longest autoclave of its kind in the world - with minimal disruption to production

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The reliable and user-friendly automation system based on ABB's Compact Product Suite controls the temperature and pressure inside the autoclave

World's longest autoclave for curing carbon fibre spars

Southern Spars specialise in the design and construction of carbon fibre spars and components, rigging, and rig servicing. As the industry pioneer, Southern Spars built its first carbon spar in 1990. Its operation extends to four corners of the world with centres in the USA, Denmark, Spain, and South Africa, and headquarters in Auckland, New Zealand.

One of Southern Spars’ key pieces of machinery is their 52 m long autoclave, the longest of its kind in the world, used for curing the carbon fibre masts and components.

ABB was tasked with upgrading the existing autoclave control system which was outdated, no longer supported and not user friendly.

Main facts

Industry OEM
Customer Southern Spars
Country New Zealand
Solutions

 Compact Product Suite with:


Inside the 52m long autoclave

Up to 25 different steps in each of the 30 curing cycles

The automation system controls the temperature and pressure inside the autoclave, using up to 25 different steps in each of the 30 curing cycles – therefore a reliable and user friendly control system was integral. ABB performed an upgrade of the control system with a new AC800M PLC controller, a Panel 800 touch screen HMI and a Compact HMI 800 operator work station, all part of ABB's Compact Product Suite for control system engineering and working seamlessly together.

Jonathan Burke, Site Service Manager, from Southern Spars, said, “As with any critical process change, I needed to be confident that the new controller would function as required and be installed without any real problems. ABB ensured this through factory acceptance testing and operator staff training prior to installation, which had me convinced that there would be no unwelcome surprises.”
Jonathan Burke - Site Service Manager, Southern Spars
“As with any critical process change, I needed to be confident that the new controller would function as required and be installed without any real problems."

Reaching specified standards for each batch

The new Compact HMI 800 operator station from ABB's Compact Product Suite allows operators to adjust the temperatures and pressures of each curing cycle, as well as providing access to historical information on mulitiple channel product temperatures and the autoclave internal temperature, pressure and vacuum readings during the cook cycle.

This historical data is retrieved from the Compact HMI 800 station and exported to provide a report for each batch to show that the specified standards have been reached. The control system was also tailored to include an automatic fire control sequence and additional manual controls to improve usability, reliability and safety.

The new system was thoroughly tested with the customer before installation, and ABB was able to complete installation with minimal disruption to their Southern Spars’ production capability. Jonathan said:

“ABB delivered on time in full and I am most appreciative of the end result. Other than the planned down time, we had no other stoppages and no disruption to our production.”


The control system was also tailored to include an automatic fire control sequence and additional manual controls to improve usability, reliability and safety.

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