Tasked with the development of a novel robotically fed flow wrapper for a demanding food-related application, packaging machinery expert Tekpak found that motion control and automation products from Bosch Rexroth,linked with a real-time Sercos III network, were the key to producing a machine that combined ease of use and high performance with reliability and value for money.
The function of the new machine, which was developed for a major supplier of baby nutrition products, is to remove injection-moulded plastic scoops from their moulds and then flow wrap them ready for inclusion with packs of baby food. To ensure that the highest standards of hygiene and efficiency are met, the demoulding and wrapping processes have to be carried out rapidly and without human intervention.
“We have extensive experience of robotic handling and in-flow wrapping,” said Imelda Kehoe, Tekpak Quality Manager, “but this is the first time that we’ve needed to combine robotic handling with flow wrapping in a single machine. We quickly recognised that doing this successfully would very much depend on choosing drive and automation products that could be easily integrated and that would work reliably together in real time.”
After evaluating the available options, Tekpak decided to use products from Rexroth, on the basis that the company was a single-source supplier for all of the key items needed, and that it has an excellent reputation not only for the quality and performance of its products, but also for the expert technical support it offers. In addition, the Rexroth products were found to offer excellent value for money.
The final design of the machine involved eight motion control axes for the demould robot and the flow wrapper. These were implemented using an L65 PLC/motion controller with an on-board Sercos III master, complemented by IndraDrive CS multi-Ethernet servo drives and Rexroth synchronous servomotors. To provide a convenient and intuitive operator interface, a VCP colour touchscreen HMI, connected to the controller via Ethernet, was used.
Sercos III was chosen to link the key automation components because it provides easy wiring combined with the consistently high communication speeds needed for real-time operation, and because it offers straightforward set up and commissioning. Bosch Rexroth GB, Rachel Day, Marketing Assistant,
“In spite of this being the first machine we had produced that combines demoulding with flow wrapping, the drive and utomation systems came together very well,” said Imelda Kehoe. “We did, of course, have a few minor queries during the project but, as anticipated, the support we received from Rexroth was outstanding, with fast accurate responses to all of our questions.”
Tekpak’s new machine is now in regular use and is meeting or exceeding all expectations in terms of performance, reliability and ease of use. In fact, it is so successful that the company is now using its design as the basis for a standard module that can readily be adapted to handle other types of products. Tekpak believes that this will open up big opportunities for robotic handling combined with flow wrapping, in applications such as the packing of bakery items, confectionary and biscuits.