Accelerate your digital and sustainability transformation at Siemens Transform 2024

Transform 2024: Transform the everyday

We are delighted to invite you to join us for
Transform 2024 – the technology showcase from Siemens.

Join thousands of participants and accelerate
your digital and sustainability transformation to transform the everyday, for
everyone, on 17-18 July at Manchester Central.

·     Hear from, engage with, and collaborate with industry experts on key industry topics – from AI to the
industrial metaverse and decarbonisation.

·     Experience where the real world meets the digital in an extensive technology marketplace and discover
Siemens Xcelerator – the open digital business platform.

·     Work with an expert community to solve real-world challenges and co-create solutions to make your
organisation more competitive, resilient and sustainable.

As a proud partner of Siemens, we hope you will join us at Transform and become part of a community solving today’s most pressing challenges, together.

Click below to register your interest and to receive updates from Siemens on their unmissable schedule of talks and experiences.


Optima’s Solution Partner Accreditation for 2024

Optima are proud to maintain both our Siemens Drives and Motion and Factory Automation accreditations for 2024. Our Solution Partner status as Automation Drives verifies our status of application and system expertise, industry knowledge and project experience.

We implement tailor-made solutions with exceptional quality. Our partner accreditation forms part of Siemens’ commitment to their principle of “Ingenuity for life”. We use ingenuity and engineering skill to work on sustainable solutions for your automation tasks.

Optima achieve accreditation by Avetta for supplier competency

Optima have been certified as an approved supplier to Schneider Electric and become part of the Avetta Consortium. Membership of Avetta is your guarantee of our quality, procedures and most important of all, safe working standards.

We look forward to working closely with Schneider Electric on upcoming major projects. This enhances our product and engineering services and complements our existing Siemens Automation and Motion Partner services.

Registration Certificate Avetta


Re-commencement of commissioning on major projects

Critical process industry can’t stop, so Optima have been back commissioning on-site for some time now to support our customers.

For this major project, we have written the PLC and SCADA platform to control the whole process from start to finish. The application is written entirely in TIA Portal with a total of three WinCC SCADA platforms. We have used the latest cloud-based remote access technology so that most of the plant can now be commissioned remotely. Remote access using a combination of local Wi-Fi and High-Gain 4G antennas gives us a reliable and secure access to the PLC and SCADA system when it is required.

This project is just one of many that Optima play a key role in. Whether your application is large or small, we have a capable engineering team that are able to provide you with as much engineering resource as you require.

March 2021

Supply of Motor Generator Test Rigs to Blackpool & The Fylde College

AC and DC Motor Test Rig 1

If you want to learn about Asynchronous and Synchronous AC machines, DC Motors, Generator and Motor principles it’s useful to be able to carry out practical work on them.

Step forward Optima who helped Blackpool & The Fylde College fulfil their requirements to have two new state-of-the art installed at their brand new training facility near Fleetwood


There were a number of key challenges in the design. On Test Rig 1, the AC Motor would operate in two modes:

  • Prime mover, with the load being applied by the DC motor.
  • Generator mode with the DC motor driving the AC motor.
Synchronisation Meter

When acting as a generator, the AC motor would have to be synchronised to the mains supply before being “switched-in”. This is to simulate a real-world situation on-board ships where back-up generators may have to be manually switched-in.


The panel design incorporated banana type sockets to facilitate the ease of connection of external measuring instruments such as power meters.

The panels incorporated a host of instrumentation to afford total visibility. These included:

  • Machine torque
  • DC Armature Current
  • DC Armature Voltage
  • Single Phase Mains Voltage L-N
  • Single Phase Alternator Current
  • Single Phase Alternator Voltage L-N
  • Alternator Excitation Current

Test Rig 2

Test Rig 2 incorporated the very latest Siemens PM250 Regenerative Power Module and a Soft Starter to the test rig AC Motor. The user has the option to switch between the two. A DC Motor acts either as a prime mover or generator giving ultimate flexibility in operation.

The incorporation of a regenerative AC solution brings the very latest in cutting-edge drive architecture to an educational establishment. There aren’t many drive manufacturers who can supply lower-power regenerative modules.

Overall, the test rig projects were a great success combining the College’s and Optima’s knowledge to product test rigs that will serve students well for many years to come.



See our Test Rigs in action here:

Safety Control System Upgrade

Pilz Pnoz Multi Guardmaster Safety Relays

Optima recently completed an installation for a complete upgrade of a machinery safety control system.

The project required the bespoke manufacture of control backplates and the integration of multiple hardware elements including AC drives, DC Drives, Pneumatics and Hydraulics.

Optima have achieved the Machinery Safety accreditation qualifications as specified by TÜV SÜD Rail GmbH. Other integrators may supply machinery safety systems, but do they have the qualifications to back this up?

Optima can provide the assurance you need that our systems are designed to the correct performance level (PL) or safety integrity level (SIL) that your machine requires. If you don’t know what the PL or SIL value should be , we can also provide independent PUWER reports through our network of surveyors. Whatever your safety requirements are, Optima have it covered.

Completion of Large Motor Test Rigs

Siemens G-Series drives have just been incorporated into a bespoke motor test rig.

We’ve just completed another set of control panels for a large motor test rig using Siemens G-Series drives. The work was carried out at our fully-equipped panel workshop in Blackburn. We’ve two more to build now!

Large AC Motor Test Rig Panel

Large AC Motor Test Rig Panel with Two Siemens G120 Drives

4 Applications of Machine Vision Technology

Earlier this year we hired our first full-time machine vision projects engineer. His proven track record in vision systems design, modification and installation gives Optima a solid competitive edge in this recently-introduced service. Below we describe 4 specific projects completed by our vision specialist and the respective improvements resulting from each project.

Large Confectioner

Industry: Food & Beverage

Problem: This chocolate bar manufacturer was receiving a large number of customer complaints relating to a specific product – solid chocolate bars were often produced instead of wafer & chocolate ones. There was an existing vision system in place but it could not cope with the varieties of chocolate and mould colours. The existing camera system was unable to provide good contrast to detect a reject product.

Solution: A new machine vision system was integrated, functionally detecting and identifying the position of the solid bars (i.e. no wafer bars). IVC-3D cameras (from SICK UK) were utilised. The new system provides contrast-independent images to allow easier detection of faulty product.  The position of every rejected bar is sent to a PLC to enable the bar to be rejected off the production line.

Result: The system is now running at 98%+ detection of reject product.








Figure 1. The new vision system easily captures the position of solid chocolate bars.

Multi-National Retail Companies

Industry: Retail

Problem: A group of multinational retailers initiated a study into the use of machine vision to detect different product types at checkout. Vision is usually only used on one item at a time. The study identified fraud as a major issue. Barcodes on high-value items were often fraudulently changed with barcodes of low-value items.

Solution: Our vision specialist trialled different vision techniques using either a single technology or combinations of technologies to determine the most reliable way of identifying individual product items. Examples of such vision techniques include Area Scan/Line Scan cameras, dome lighting, backlighting etc. Currently, most self-check-out cashiers use shape, colour and barcode to identify any particular product.

Results: The system was initially configured to use a conveyor and custom-built dome light (tunnel). However, subsequent development lead to a static system for being successfully deployed at numerous retail trade shows using a colour HiRes GigE camera. The system was demonstrated at a number of major retail exhibitions attracting great interest from a number of retail market leaders.

Processed Food

Industry: Retail / Food & Beverage

Problem: A supplier to one of the biggest British supermarket chains was potentially liable to being fined large amounts of money if, for particular food products, the “Date Code”/”Use By Date” labels were not present or if the wrong pots/lids were used. Additionally, the customer wanted to ensure that the correct pots and lids were used for a specified product. Barcodes on the pot and various features on the lid had to be read in order to verify that the “date code” and “Use by date” were correctly printed. Furthermore, the automated system needed to be linked to the site’s Information Management System to pre-determine the product currently in production. With multiple products being packaged on a single production line, errors were inevitable prior to the vision system installation.

Solution: The new vision system utilised 5 GigE cameras. 4 cameras provided all-round coverage of the pot to enable the barcode to be read at any orientation. Another camera had the same functions for lid inspection.  All images were then processed using Cognex’s VisionPro PC software. At the time of the project, the dedicated barcode readers available did not have the Field of View required to cope with various pot sizes, hence the use of the GigE cameras.

Result: With the new machine vision system in place, detection of faulty pots increased to 80%.

2D Imaging used to verify correct labelling and ‘best before’ dates










Figure 2. One GigE camera reads the lid to identify Date Code and product labelling.

Pharmaceuticals Packaging

Industry: Pharmaceuticals / Optics

Problem: An existing vision system was used by a robotic pick and place system to locate and package products into blister packs.  The client’s quality regime required that double, overlapping or folded product was not picked by the robot. The incumbent vision system utilised a problematic, visually disruptive carrier that didn’t present the target products in a repeatable position.

Solution: A custom algorithm was developed and added to the existing vision system so that it:

  • Re-orientates the capture image to match a known template;
  • Divides images to remove the carrier;
  • Locates the product using a correlation based search;
  • Applies a metering algorithm to identify the good product.

Result: The new vision system achieves 90% success rate in preventing double, overlapping and folded product being picked.

When to Automate? – Analyse your OEE indicators to get the right answer

Earlier in 2013, Optima’s managing director, Michael Hill, did a short interview for the leading Control Engineering publication. Here is a short preview of what Michael had to say regarding when the right time for an automation project is.

What circumstances would suggest that a proposed automation project would be a good idea?

When considered by an end-user, there are two overriding circumstances that dictate when an automation project is warranted:

  1. Vulnerability due to obsolescence of equipment (and loss of support expertise) and
  2. When either a process or a machine’s efficiency performance (OEE) is so poor that it damages a business’ financial performance and competitiveness i.e. from excessive downtime, poor quality metrics and/or slow run-rates.

From an OEM’s perspective, once a manufacturer has established that they have a market for their particular product, the same operational efficiency questions lie at the heart of the investment decision making process. For the OEM to be competitive, cutting edge automation is essential too.

Have you ever had to convince a client that a proposed automation project wasn’t going to be cost effective?

I have, but not at the cost of the project. I have experience of occasionally having to advise a small number of customers that their proposed automation project would not be cost effective because the control methods they were going to use would not provide a consistent and reliable machine operation. Their existing proposal would lead to their machine operators finding the machine operation difficult, being hard to set-up and maintain with any reliability, compromising product quality and production rates.

What’s the one key factor that tells you an automation project is going to be worth the effort?

That is a simple one. If I can see that once complete the project will significantly improve one or more of the 3 OEE components (availability, quality and production rate) then I know the client will have a good experience and get the returns they expect.

Mark Lewis of Beckhoff Automation takes on a different perspective on what and when to automate. “Modular, flexible embedded PCs, programmable with one software platform, can lower the entry point for when to automate.” Read the key considerations he discusses for Control Engineering here.