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In the majority of modern automation packaging machine industry sectors, economics and accounting ratios are now playing just as big a role as technological capability when it comes to specifying and employing modern automation packaging controllers.
Alongside technological capability, total cost of ownership (TCO) is the metric that everyone is talking about. In many cases, to satisfy both global and local market demands, a switch to an alternative automation packaging provider is often perceived as a huge and rather daunting step. But, as Turpins Packaging Systems, based in Clacton in the UK discovered, the right supplier with the right ideas, the right technology and the right empathy can not only make this conversion easier but also extremely beneficial when TCO is considered as part of the overall equation. In a very short space of time, the company saw a automation packaging machine performance increase of nearly 60%.
Compact Machine Solutions can dramatically reduce time to market, allow users to re-use programming code and offer built-in diagnostic and remote access capabilities – saving users both time and moneyTurpins, a packaging machine manufacturer specialising in sleeve labelling machines under the Sleevit brand, was approached by a labelling machine company based in the USA. The company wanted to add a sleeving machine to its portfolio to help address the rapidly expanding global demand for sleeve-based packaging. Turpins would supply a automation packaging machine branded with the North American company’s logo for sale into the US market. In order to satisfy the twin demands of the North American market and the need for advanced, up-to-date automation packaging technology, Turpins immediately turned to Rockwell Automation for its industry leading Integrated Architecture and Compact Machine Solutions.
Rockwell Automation’s Integrated Architecture reduces total cost to design, develop and deliver machines by using a single control platform for the entire range of factory automation applications, large or small.
Users with less complex applications can take advantage of Compact Machine Solutions, a suite of integrated products from Rockwell Automation, including the Allen-Bradley CompactLogix controller family, PanelView Plus HMI terminals, POINT I/O modules, and PowerFlex 40 drives – all connected on a single industry standard communication network such as EtherNet/IP.
automation packaging machine CHANGING CONTROL
Commenting on other applications involving the Compact Machine Solution, Kevin Wright, OEM sales manager in the UK, says: “Often customers do not believe that a change in the control system can result in such an increase in packaging machine performance.” This fact was not lost on the engineers at Turpins when they witnessed the performance of the Compact packaging machine Solution.
Wright explains: “The automation packaging machine is used to apply printed sleeves over the top of bottles prior to their being transported to a steam tunnel that shrinks them onto the bottle’s form. In this type of application, throughput is vital and is often measured in hundreds of sleeves per minute. The previous system had been tuned over the last few years and was offering a maximum throughput of 300 cycles/minute (cpm). Within 14 days of the new hardware being installed, the throughput was up to 400cpm and within 30 days it was up to 475cpm – an increase of nearly 60%.”
Elaborating on other enhancements, Wright continues: “The previous hardware used a master/slave approach on the servo axes that ‘shoot’ the sleeves down onto the bottles. Typically, for this type of design approach, one axis will always slightly lag the other, which will cause instability at very high speeds, ultimately limiting the performance of the automation packaging machine. The CompactLogix-based solution we installed uses what is known as the Virtual Master Feature, this enables users to create a ‘perfect’ profile, which is then adopted by both axes – addressing the negative effects of such a master/slave design approach.
WORKING IN HARMONY
“This also had to work in harmony with the sleeve cutting mechanism, which uses four blades around the periphery of an opening. These blades are used to cut the sleeve to the correct length (each dealing with 90° of cut) before it is propelled onto the bottle. Ensuring a step-free cut is hard enough – but at 475cpm it gets somewhat harder to do. Thankfully, the CompactLogix L43 Programmable automation packaging controller (PAC) was more than up to the task.”
According to Chris Bates, technical director at Turpins: “We began to realise that it was the electrical infrastructure of our packaging machines that was preventing any further performance gains. Our existing solution was based on intelligent drives rather than a PAC and we really were at the absolute limit of its capabilities. We previously favoured smaller suppliers, equating the size of the company with the intimacy of the relationship, so the move over to Rockwell Automation’s Integrated Architecture solution meant a significant shift for us.”
Clacton, UK-based Turpins Weight Packaging Systems Ltd is a packaging machine manufacturer specialising in sleeve labelling machines under the Sleevit brandAlongside the CompactLogix and as part of the Compact Machine Solution, a number of other Rockwell Automation-supplied enhancements were added. These included PanelView Plus HMIs, a Kinetix6000 multi-axis servo drive, MPL servo motors, PowerFlex drives for the conveyors and safety components. In short, anything that could be supplied by Rockwell automation packaging was utilised. As well as the obvious interoperability this provides, Turpins also gain from the benefits to be had from a single source of supply.
The enhanced performance was only part of the story. Turpins also had to be sure that Rockwell Automation was the right company to turn to, not just for this application but also for others in the future. This is where Rockwell Automation sets itself apart from other automation providers. The differentiating factor is the way that knowledge transfer is put right up at the top of the list. Wright explains: “In situations like this we provide the services of one of our Global OEM Technical Consultants (GOTC). They work together with the automation packaging machine builder’s engineers to get a real understanding of what is needed and how we can help.”
“It is then that the real job of knowledge transfer takes place,” Wright continues. “It is all well and good for the supplier to send an engineer in to do all the programming and design work for the customer, but when he leaves for his next job, the customer is left with little or no knowledge of the implemented system. What we do is help companies become self-sufficient. We train them on the system and help them develop their own applications in the most efficient and productive way. The customer has the assurance that they can maintain and support the control system application now and in the future.”
The final, but arguably just as important, aspect of the relationship with Rockwell Automation is the economic evaluation of the whole project, especially where TCO comes into play. Wright elaborates: “There was an element of additional investment by Turpins, but the company was very astute and realised that the overall value of the automation packaging machine, based on the market’s perception, is far greater since the upgrade. Now Turpins is able to sell it as a premium packaging machine because the market perceives it as such.”
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