On the fast lane to the new packaging machine

On the fast lane to the new packaging machine
Marginal Column

November 2016


Packaging lines from WestRock fully rely on model-based engineering. The digital process significantly reduces the development time and helps in the processing of orders.

In the beverage section of supermarkets, many different kinds of packaging compete for consumers’ attention. That’s why it is particularly important how a product looks on the shelf. To precisely test this first impression of a packaging long before actual production starts, American packaging specialist WestRock relies completely on digital engineering. Designers are able to virtually simulate different container sizes and forms of packaging, as well as calculate parameters such as the shelf space needed and the weight of the containers. Before they propose the new packaging to the beverage manufacturer and vividly present it in a virtual supermarket, the designers first send the data to colleagues in the work preparation team. Using the simulation software, they then check whether the new packaging can be produced at a WestRock plant, what effort this would entail, and at what cost per unit. This fully digital workflow is so far unique.

Optimization in simulation

However, model-based engineering not only offers WestRock great advantages in order planning, but also in the construction of new packaging lines. Right from the first mouse click in the CAD program, all construction data flows into the 3DEXPERIENCE platform from Dassault Systèmes. Even before a technician picks up the first real screw, designers optimize all drives and kinematics, all the way through to the control functions using only simulation software. “The decisive advantage is that the engineers can put their control application completely virtually with the help of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform. The knowledge gained can be applied directly in the IndraWorks engineering environment from Rexroth ”, explains Philippe Bartissol, Vice President Industrial Equipment Industry at Dassault Systèmes.

Bridge to reality

The connection between the virtual 3DEXPERIENCE platform and the real controllers and drives is created by the Open Core Engineering software solution from Rexroth. Thanks to it, the machine simulation understands the data and commands from the real control and can implement them immediately. Furthermore, Rexroth provides 3D and behavior models, which are basically full virtual images of the installed components. At WestRock, several IndraMotion MLC motion logic controllers control the various modules of the packaging lines with a total of more than 80 IndraDrive Mi cabinet-free and intelligent servo-drives. These individual controllers are connected via Sercos real time cross communication and ensure a high degree of synchronicity in the packaging lines.

Fully flexible

Thanks to the cooperation between Bosch Rexroth and Dassault Systèmes, WestRock has implemented new automation solutions which make the company more flexible and productive. Because product life cycles are getting increasingly shorter and batch sizes smaller, short changeover times coupled with higher agility are the ultimate leverage for productivity. Therefore, WestRock’s current packaging lines are targeting changeover per mouse click. Within the lines, engineers have shifted an increasing share of mechanically-controlled functions to the software. Based on the IndraWorks engineering environment and Open Core Engineering, the software is just as modular as the hardware. Since the user has enhanced direct access to the control, a detour via separate PLC programming is often unnecessary. This is a concrete example of Industry 4.0 in actual application because IT-based programs – such as the simulation environments by Dassault Systèmes – now communicate directly with the automation.