Modular Machinery For Increased Flexibility In The Packaging Industry

Monday, March 28th, 2022

Compact servos increase throughput and bring more freedom in terms of containers. Contributed by Jan Treede, VLT Motion Business Director.

For many companies hoping to stand the test of time in harshly competitive markets, the basis for economic success is efficient and affordable production. Therefore, they strive to use their production facilities to their fullest. Newer bottles of different shapes and sizes, with symmetrical and asymmetrical designs made of different materials from glass to PET, both disposable and reusable, have taken over the drinks market.

A variety of different products, liquids or semi-liquids, require fast and reliable machines for high throughput. Machines should be fast and break down less often. However, they also need to be flexible during assembly in order to provide optimal opportunity when adapting them to a particular form. This puts higher demands on the flexibility of blow mould machines and packaging: filling, closing, labelling or the end-of-line handling. One trend for achieving this level of flexibility and to ensure increased investment security is to use modular automation and packaging machines. 

Germany Takes Lead In Manufacturing 

With a share of 22.5 percent of the total export market, Germany is the global market leader in this manufacturing sector. In 2012, the industry also aimed again to achieve eight percent growth on the highly competitive markets*. Despite increasingly tough international competition, the euro crisis and the growing market power of multinational corporations on the customer side, the industry managed to overcome these challenges. The recipe for success developed by German manufacturers: A long-term orientation of the company strategies towards innovation, quality and customer focus has in the past ensured great success and guarantees good business and continued growth in difficult times.

For the development departments of machinery manufacturers, these strategic guidelines mean developing concepts that they can quickly and flexibly adapt to customer requirements. This is not only true for new machines but for the whole life-cycle of a machine. One of the challenges is to keep development time of new automation solutions as short as possible, as the time-to-market becomes ever more critical. 

Speciality Packaging Machines: Complex And Versatile Features

As a rule, machines have access to a variety of driving machine elements, which carry out precise moving processes. However, packaging machines are very complex because of the functionality that is required, the variety of goods being packaged and the packaging materials. 

In order to master this complexity with process reliability, machines and plant construction firms replace the conventional central drives with mechanical transmission elements (such as bevel drives with curves) with servomotors in combination with efficient motion control steering. Compared to the expensive mechanical solutions, this step of automation offers the advantages of increased machine performance and flexibility when changing containers and, last but not least, wear resistance. 

Further Development: Modular Automation Of The Machines

The previous versions already show that packaging technology relies on high machine precision. In order to meet these demands and increase the performance of solutions in future, manufacturers have to rely on consistent modularisation of the machine’s design, in which they attach individual components to machines especially adapted to the relevant demands, as with modular assembly systems. They can add or change individual components at later points in time.

This means customers can equip their machines with additional functions afterwards, without significant stoppages for retrofitting and interruptions to production. Additionally, they only pay for equipment and functionality that they also need in their facilities. Already, the flexibility of alternating operations and facility-side and production-side industrial building systems, motion control systems have proven themselves in the past few years and are on the rise. A good example of this is labelling machinery in the beverage industry, where there are various labelling modules available such as hot glue, cold glue and self-adhesive labels that the user can flexibly commission on a turntable. 

The possibilities of automation technology to support these modular machine concepts have been limited up until now. Since machine engineers could either design power supply, control and drive technology in a central control cabinet for the maximum configuration in terms of size, power input and cooling, or they had to provide an individual control cabinet for each module. 

Now, users have a flexible alternative. For each station there are modules with specially tailored tools or components for optimally completing tasks for the relevant packaging or filling operations. This includes, for example for joining, assembling boxes, filling bottles/containers or monitoring. Even for complex operations, where they show the labelling through exact positioning and optimal application of the relevant label the transport of containers is normally intermittent. Therefore, a start-stop-movement with exactly defined movement processes. It is the same when pad printing or screw capping, which requires equally high precision. 

Compact Servos Offer Necessary Motion Control Functions 

Through flexible, modular automation of the required application in packaging machines for the drinks industry with modern motion control solutions, significant advantages can be brought about for both machine engineers and end-users.

One example of this is the distribution of machines in scaleable, self-sufficient and testable Modules. This sort of solution relies on compact, intelligent installation engineering, which carries out all movements electrically. Compact servo drives with integrated motion control are ideal for use in modular machine engineering. They extend operation with a control option which regardless of an overriding SPS, can completely transfer a module’s flow control. In this way, the constructor or engineer has the option of building, operating and testing the module during the development and test phases without using a turntable. User-friendly instructions on how to position, synchronise positions and/or velocity as well as cam functions make commissioning easier without extensive and deeper programming knowledge.

Faster, Better, More Accurate

These applications show that it is possible to automate these machines modularly and that this provides many benefits. Both the mechanical engineer and the user receive the highest degree of flexibility which allows them to make the most of the automation benefits of their machine and ensure competitive benefits for themselves thanks to a higher level of flexibility. Consistent modularisation, flexibilisation and the reusability of developments which have already occurred are important components for being able to react very quickly to changing demands with optimally adapted solutions.

VLT® Integrated Servo Drive ISD 510

Danfoss supports the modular approach with the ISD 500 family of drives. As servomotors and drives are completely integrated, this decentralised automation architecture only requires one component for the drive technology in the control cabinet: the Servo Access Box (SAB). This provides up to 64 drives with an intermediate circuit voltage of 600 V, control voltage of 24 V, and control signals via the system bus. A single hybrid cable from the SAB to the first drive provides the connection from the control cabinet to the drives, all other signals and the supply voltage then pass short loop-cables from motor to motor (daisy chain). Cable conduits can be laid to save plenty of space and significantly decrease wiring time.

Furthermore, the ISD 510 drives have an additional interface for the system bus. Here, users and mechanical engineers can connect things like I/O islands to IP67 protection class All sensors, switches and pneumatic valves of a machine module can be cabled to one I/O box that is connected to an ISD510. Complicated wiring at the I/O layer to the control cabinet is avoided. This is advantageous, especially when retrofitting additional modules to an existing machine because only the hybrid cable has to be connected to the first ISD510 of the module. All data from the drives and the I/O layer are then available to the higher-level controller on the system bus.

Implementation of a multi-vendor, open controller architecture also contributes to increasing flexibility and competitiveness. Danfoss consistently focuses on open concepts in machine automation. The ISD500 family currently supports both PowerLink and EtherCAT bus systems. This can be done without any changes to the drive technology, whose mechanical connection and wiring use various controllers. For example, to satisfy the end customer’s equipment requirements. Since the motion components of the software runs locally on the ISD 510 drives, changes to the software are restricted to the sequence programme when using different higher-level controllers.

Danfoss utilises the IEC61131-3 programming standard in engineering to provide an open system with extensive function libraries for cam discs, synchronisation and motion functions. These powerful integrated servo drives feature high precision and dynamic performance so that the company can offer the ideal drive technology for the implementation of modular food and packaging machinery.

*sources available upon request


Rethink Energy With ADM Next Generation Energy Drinks
Digitalisation In The Midst Of A Pandemic
How Has The Pandemic Forced Us To Adapt In The Food Manufacturing Industry?
Apollo Celebrates 175 Years
The Advantages Of Automated Food Packaging
Sustainable Decision
The Growing Trend Of Seeds: How Can Companies Benefit From Effective Processing?
Three Major Global Food Trends Identified In New 2022 Trend Report
ADM Unveils The Next Big Consumer Trends
Asia’s Beverage Industry Approaching A Tipping Point For Sugar Reduction Initiatives

To not miss our exclusive articles, follow us on our social media platforms LINKEDIN, FACEBOOK, TWITTER