Inside Machines: Winding Technology in the Drive

Winder applications that can be integrated into drive systems by setting parameters, rather than configuring and programming, provide an advantage. See photo, diagrams, table.


Winding and unwinding paper, foil, wire, or textiles is, at first glance, an inconspicuous part of many industrial production processes. When looking at the process in greater detail, it becomes apparent this winding helps determine product quality. Winding and unwinding must consider the speed of the winder, the control processing times, and the implementation of the control scheme into the overall machine design, to achieve greater efficiency. 

Electronically controlled ac drives offer an extremely efficient means of executing the widest range of winding tasks. Since such drives are integrated into most modern production equipment and systems, why not use available configuring/engineering tools to implement winder tasks? Engineers created a standard "winder" application for the drives, to quickly and flexibly address applications: a new design or retrofit of a printing press, converting machine, packaging line, wireforming station, coiled metal, textile, or other processing line.

Implementing the winder application into the drive system has an advantage over an external controller by relieving the higher-level, open-loop control of arithmetic tasks. As a consequence, engineering resources are available for other tasks, and a control system with a lower performance and price point can be used. In any case, a high proportion of the communication load between the control system and the drive is eliminated. The associated faster response and cycle times can be more quickly and precisely realized in an open-loop control or closed-loop control, which increases the productivity and/or the winding quality, depending on the particular application.

Tension sensors

A winder solution generally comprises a winder drive, web, and tension sensors. The task is to wind or unwind the web with a defined tension, whereby the roll diameter continually changes. The electronic drive system calculates the actual diameter using several system variables to control the motor speed and keep web material tension constant. To achieve this, the velocity of the web and the winder shaft speed must be known at all times. For the highest quality tension regulation, additional sensors can be applied, dancer position control or load cells, for instance. 

The standard application described here is designed for common center winders with a central shaft to drive the roll. From a control perspective, this is more challenging than a surface winder but is the more effective of the two, as it is a much simpler version, at least from a mechanical perspective.

The standard application supports various control techniques, including open-loop torque control, direct tension control with dancer position control and speed correction, as well as tension force control with torque limiting—respectively with speed correction (see sidebar). This means that the standard application addresses approximately 90% of all winder applications found in the industry today.

As an example, graphical drive software was used to create a program for winder applications. Using the programming software, relevant, multi-instance capable function blocks can be easily interlinked by simply dragging them from a standard library and dropping them into the chart. Users need only to parameterize the specific units, such as the material velocity and acceleration, and then define the closed-loop control technique. This standard application calculates all the signals required to control the winder axis, such as speed, torque and torque limits, and then integrates the specific winder functions required for the job. 

Closed-loop control

Tension control techniques are the core of this standard winder application. Open-loop tension control is commonplace today, because sensors are not required. This mode of operation is as follows: The tension setpoint is multiplied by the actual radius of the roll being wound and the result is directly input as torque limit value. This means the motor torque linearly increases as the diameter increases and the tension is kept constant by saturating the speed controller. An important factor with open-loop control is the precise compensation of the friction and acceleration torques, so the feed-forward torque setpoint comes as close as possible to the required material tension.

For tension control with dancer roll and speed correction, the web is routed over a dancer roll. The dancer roll attempts to deflect the material with a defined force. This deflection (dancer roll position) is detected using an analog sensor or encoder. The dancer roll position controller, in tandem with the drive speed controller, corrects the position actual value of the dancer roll to track the position setpoint (for example, the dancer roll center position). To do this, the position controller enters a velocity correction setpoint into the speed controller. When dancer rolls with pneumatic loading are used, dancer tension can be regulated via the taper tension characteristic feature. The dancer roll can simultaneously serve as a storage area (buffer) for the web, and it also provides a damping action, for instance, on “out of round” material rolls, on layer jumps (when winding cables), or when changing rolls. 

Closed-loop tension control with a load cell uses torque limits. Material tension is directly sensed using the tension transducer and is appropriately controlled. Similar to the open-loop tension control, the speed controller in the drive operates in a saturated state, meaning that the drive is at one of the two torque limits and is controlled using these limits. The correction value from the tension controller acts on these torque limits. In addition, using setpoints from the acceleration feed-forward, the taper tension characteristic and the friction characteristic are connected to the torque limits. A taper tension function can be used to change the dancer force. Also, for tension control with load cell and speed correction, the tension is detected using a load cell and is fed to the tension controller as actual value. However, in this case, the tension controller output acts as a velocity correction value on the speed controller. Accelerating torque, friction torque, and tension force are supplied as a feed-forward.

Online extra: Available software – Siemens Drive Control Chart module

Siemens Drive Control Chart (DCC) is a module of the graphic drive engineering tool “Starter,” for the Sinamics S120 family. Siemens drive specialists formulated a DCC for winder applications. Functions include the following.

Diameter calculator: This function is used to convert the web velocity into the corresponding motor speed. The actual diameter is obtained from the ratio of the web setpoint velocity to actual speed.

Taper tension characteristic: This is used if the material tension should decrease as the diameter of the roll being wound increases. The taper tension characteristic is dependent on the actual diameter of the roll.

Controller adaptation: Using this function, the tension controller gain can be adapted as a function of the diameter, plus the gain of the speed controller in the drive can be adapted as a function in moment of inertia on the roll being wound. This means even large build-up ratios can be easily accommodated. 

Acceleration feed-forward: Quickly responding to velocity changes, a compensation torque can be switched to the drive while accelerating and decelerating the material. This compensation torque comprises the variable and constant moments of inertia. This prevents tension dips or excessive tension when the velocity changes. Acceleration feed-forward is usually required for open-loop tension control, but also for tension control using a load cell.

Friction compensation: Friction losses can be simply compensated using a function with 10 interpolation points. These are determined when commissioning the system. On a Siemens Sinamics S120 drive, for example, there is an option for automatically recording these points.

Jogging: In the jog mode, either a path velocity setpoint can be directly entered via the interface or one of two fixed jog setpoints can be selected.

Web break detection: The web break detection is active when the tension control is switched on and, depending on the control type, is configured in various ways. After a web break, the diameter computer is stopped, tension operation is disabled, and the tension controller enable is withdrawn. 

With the functions listed, the necessary resources are available to efficiently implement individual winding applications within a machine’s drive system, all in a form that is relatively simple to learn. As a result, entry-level personnel can generate central winders for demanding solutions without knowing the actual technology in great detail. Users already experienced in handling such engineering tools can also modify the program, on which the standard application is based, as required. This allows them to customize very specific winding applications directly into the drive to suit almost any commercial machine.


Criteria for selecting a suitable control concept


Control concept


Open-loop tension control


Direct tension control with dancer position control via speed correction


Direct tension control with load cell via torque limits


Direct tension control with load cell and speed correction


Information regarding tension actual value sensing


No tension actual value sensing required


Intervenes in the material web routing; material can be stored


Sensitive to overload; does not intervene in the web routing


Sensitive to overload; does not intervene in the web routing


Roll ratio


Up to approx. 10:1, good dv/dt compensation and friction required


From experience, up to approx. 15:1


From experience, up to approx. 15:1, precise dv/dt compensation required


From experience, up to approx. 15:1, precise dv/dt compensation required


Tension range


Up to approx. 6:1 for good compensation of friction and dv/dt


Can only be changed for adjustable dancer roll support


Up to approx. 20:1 for precise dv/dt compensation


Up to approx. 20:1 for precise dv/dt compensation


Roll ratio, tension range
Dmax/Dcore x Zmax/Zmin


Generally, up to 40:1


Depends strongly on the version of the dancer roll support, up to approx. 40:1




Up to 100:1, significantly depends on the tension actual value signal


Up to 100:1, significantly depends on the tension actual value signal


Web velocity


Up to 600 m/min for good compensation


Up to over 2,000 m/min


Up to 2,000 m/min for precise dv/dt compensation


Up to over 2,000 m/min


Control concept preferred when processing…


Sheet steel, textiles, paper


Rubber, cable, wire, textile, foil, paper


Paper, thin foils


Elastic materials




Courtesy: Siemens


- Alexander Schaedlich is application engineer, Siemens AG, Drive Technologies—Motion Control, and William Gilbert is industry business development manager, converting, Siemens Industry Inc., Drive Technologies—Motion Control. 

- Edited by Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering,

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