Smart machines take the elbow grease out of packaging.
The Model 101 no-drop case packer/uncaser from A-B-C Packaging Machine Corp. gently handles glass or plastic containers, and aluminum cans or cartons without damaging them or scuffing their labels.
The Stretchmatic system can completely or partially sleeve containers, including tamper-evident labeling in a container's neck area.
From pallets, cartons, boxes, and bubble wrap to fillers, labelers, packers, and conveyors, Pack Expo International 2000 in Chicago had it all. With just a few steps through the McCormick Place halls, however, one major trend became crystal clear β high-speed machinery with advanced controls, and plenty of it.
Much of the show floor was devoted to packing technology and in many booths, robots took center stage. For instance, the M-410i robot, a modular, four-axis, electric servodriven machine from Fanuc Robotics North America Inc., Rochester Hills, Mich., uses the company's new Random Order PalletTool software and an end-of-the-arm-tool to pick random box sizes, then build a stable pallet load. Random-order palletizing is most often used in distribution and order fulfillment centers where products are individually picked and manually palletized.
"Creating an efficient and stable unit load by hand is time consuming and physically demanding," explains Matt Job, product engineer, material handling, FANUC Robotics. Job says Fanuc's system helps manufacturers cut labor costs and create a more efficient and stable load.
He adds, "Random-order palletizing helps eliminate mass ordering by retailers because stores can order what they need and have it delivered in time." Job adds that by tying into a customer's product database, Fanuc helps protect against crushed cartons and damaged products. For example, by using case weights, they can place heavier products on the bottom of the pallet and crushables on top. The new software handles as many as 2,000 varied products. Manufacturers can set up a palletizing system to monitor random cases, calculate box placements, build mixed unit loads, and store production data. The PC software uses a palletizing algorithm to decide the best placement for stable, dense loads.
New offline programming software called MotoSim from Motoman, West Carrollton, Ohio, lets users create, simulate, and test robot programs on a PC and download them to a robot controller. Tools for modeling, drawing, and viewing the robot system in color and 3D are all included. This menu-driven software can be used to create jobs, perform reach analysis studies, and show interference areas. Users calculate cycle times and modify other data, user frames, and I/O. They can also export 2D surface drawings of simulated cells in DXF format to create static snapshots. A plug-in module called Realistic Robot Simulation lets the MotoSim software develop realistic simulation models using the robot controller's motion planner.
One manufacturer tapped Motoman's expertise, not for software, but for an articulating arm for its robotic palletizing system. St. Louis-based Alvey Systems Inc. manufactures system controls, conveyors, sortation devices, palletizers, gantry robots, and end-of-arm tools that pick up and move just about any product.
Integrating Motoman's articulating arm robot to its own system adds flexibility and more palletizing options. Alvey's robotic palletizing systems with Motoman's robotic arms are available with simulation software that calculates throughput and rates, and optimizes the size and shape of the system work area.
On another palletizing technology front, Kisters Kayat Inc., Edgewater, Fla., introduces the PackRouter. The all-in-one enclosed accumulation system moves products, automatically synchronizing to package infeed speed from a shrink traypacker or multipacker, and to outfeed transferring of an industrial palletizing robot or mechanical palletizer. The system gently handles a continuous flow of individual multipacks and traypacks and forms them into a variety of pallet layers.
In operation, the PackRouter takes one or two lanes of product fed from a shrink traypacker. Inside, a turning and dividing section uses dynamic programming to transfer the traypacks to preprogrammed positions. As packages flow through this section, the machine orients and accumulates them in a dominolike arrangement. Once the packs move into position for palletizing, a pallet layer moves to the transfer section at the end of the PackRouter, and a robot arm or conveyor positions the packs.
For delicate loads such as glass or plastic, A-B-C Packaging Machine Corp., Tarpon Springs, Fla., offers an alternative to drop packing. The Model 101 case packer/uncaser gently packs or unpacks glass and plastic containers, aluminum cans, or cartons, without damaging them or scuffing the labels. Snap-off gripper heads ease changeover by simply repositioning the heads and continuing operation.
Fed by a motorized conveyor to the packing station, the packer uses a release mechanism to eliminate back pressure that could damage the product or label. Once the load station fills, the grippers lower and grab each product, then lift the entire load for packing.
Fill 'er up
High-tech forming, filling, and sealing equipment drew a lot of attention. German manufacturer, Krones AG, for instance, has developed a new system for filling PET bottles with still mineral water. A stretch blow-molding machine produces PET bottles which pass via a linear conveyor to the company's new Aquafill VGW water filler before being screw capped. During transport and filling, the bottles are held securely by their neck rings. Before reaching the filler the bottles pass through an airlock which prevents air from passing between the blow-molding machine and filler.
From the Aquafill's infeed starwheel, the bottles pass to the filler's carousel. Movable filling valves eliminate the need to raise bottles for filling. This way, the filling process begins immediately upon transfer to the filler. This new system is said to provide a better filling angle than conventional systems with free-standing filling valves.
The Model SVB 3601R vertical form/fill/seal machine from the Packaging Machinery Div. of Robert Bosch Corp., Bridgman, Mich., uses servomotors throughout to control machine functions such as material infeed, a cross-seal jaw drive, and a strip infeed. It also uses a new corner-forming process. The machine can form pillow, gussetted, stand-up, and corner-sealed, stand-up bags, all with reclosure strips applied transversely or longitudinally on bags 88 to 380-mm wide and 100 to 500-mm long.
Another servoactuated sealing machine from Proven Design Inc., Macedon, N.Y., produces reclosable stand-up pouches with single-web construction. The machine uses two independent servosystems to actuate the seal bars: One system controls the cross-sealing section of the machine and the other controls longitudinal sealing. This lets the bars be timed separately. The operator adjusts dwell time, sealing force, and cycle using a touchscreen.
Branson Ultrasonics Corp., Danbury, Conn., is taking some of the grunt work out of ultrasonically welding clamshell packages. The In-Line Clamshell Packaging System eliminates manual loading and unloading, parts are simply scanned through. What's more, the process seals despite product residue, steam, or vapor and won't transfer heat to package contents.
Hudson-Sharp Machine Co., Green Bay, Wis., also eliminates tedious handwork with its Wicketed Automatic Stack Processor (WASP). New automation devices now accomplish duties traditionally done by hand. For example, the WASP uses a robotic transfer system to hold a stack of bags, then lift it onto a backer board and wicket wire. A rotary stacking wheel replaces the clamping mechanism in the conventional stacking position to reduce maintenance and secure pin alignment. Twelve wicket stations provide more stacking space than conventional conveyors.
Also, an optional, customized case loader is available to remove completed bag stacks from the accumulation conveyor and load them into cartons. At Pack Expo, the WASP was featured on the company's 275W-15HS wicketer, a multifunctional bag machine that runs 375 cycles/min.
Stick it to it
As for labelers at Pack Expo, controllable, accurate machines were all the rage. One such system from Krones Inc., Franklin, Wis., is the Stretchmatic for sleeve labeling. Sleeve labeling is a glueless process used mostly to apply eye-catching labels for graphic decoration. The advantage to Stretchmatic, says the company, is that it includes stretch label placement and servocontrolled knives to precisely and cleanly cut sleeves. It also handles thinner, less-expensive sleeve materials than traditional sleeve handling systems.
The new system places labels with Β±1 mm accuracy and rates to 800 bottles/min. Sleeves are opened and cut, then stretched and released onto the container in one process. A spring-loaded clamp holds the sleeve in position while the application fork lowers back to its original position, letting manufacturers run both wet and dry containers through the new machine.
Builder Bell-Mark Sales Co., Pine Brook, N.J., introduced the Flexprint II for in-line, two-color printing on horizontal form, fill, and seal machines. The company's patented geared "S" wrap drive and servomotor controls allow for cycle speeds to 35 cycles/min without stressing package seals.
The printer uses a central impression cylinder and two print cylinders, each controlled by their own servomotor. One controller monitors both motors using registration of 1 1 /32 of an inch. Printing begins when the drive senses the packaging machines pulling the film. When complete, the encoder instructs the print cylinders to return to the start position.
Avery Dennison, Philadelphia, showcased its ALX 924, said to be the only 64-bit microprocessor-based print/apply system in the U.S.
Fast processing technology eliminates pauses between print runs and lets users create individual labels with detailed information such as product description, weight and cost, or routing information for distribution and cross-docking systems. The machine prints 1 and 2D bar codes, and complex geometries in 300-dpi resolution. It also handles direct thermal/thermal transfer printing at high print speeds to 12 ips and handles labels from 0.6 to 5.2-in. wide and 40-in. long. A multilingual alphanumeric display, intelligent prompting, and color-coded adjustments help guide operators through the process.
A clever new spot labeler from Van Dam Machine Corp., W. Paterson, N.J., places game pieces, coupons, or informative labels at a specific spot on a cup in registration with preprinted graphics, and at speeds to 275 labels/min.
According to the company, traditional systems apply labels randomly and at such slow speeds that it takes multiple machines and extra manpower to label cups quickly. The Model 711 spot labeler, however, uses a servo-orientation system and high-speed pneumatic label applicators to affix labels in a preselected position.
The system works like this. Stacks of preprinted cups are loaded into a tray elevator and automatically transferred to a screw feeder system. Here, individual cups are separated and placed onto labeling mandrels. The cup is then indexed to the orientation station where the servo-orientation system optically identifies the label's intended position. The machine then adjusts the cup and pneumatically applies the label.
From labeling, coding, and marking system supplier ID Technology, Ft. Worth, comes a high-resolution inkjet printing system that prints, scans, and verifies bar codes on two sides of a box or carton. Four or more inkjet printheads mount directly to a modular industrial conveyor without the need for tools. The bar-code printheads attach to a special floating mount which lets the printhead adjust for slight variations in box shape and size without sacrificing print quality.