Optimizing case packer technology

Aug. 1, 2006
Packaging is a motion intensive and engineering heavy field in automation, requiring equipment such as the robotic pick-and-place top loading case packer,

Packaging is a motion intensive and engineering heavy field in automation, requiring equipment such as the robotic pick-and-place top loading case packer, the TL-10, from Sabel Engineering. This system achieves maximum throughput and maintains the flexibility to accommodate different products without making mechanical changes. Simple programming and troubleshooting help OEMs meet deadlines and reach market quickly.

Small, flexible design

The compact 9 × 8 ft TL-10 runs many different cases and products and is a no-tool changeover system that ensures simple, repeatable adjustments. Servo-driven in-feed and case indexing provide maximum accuracy.

The system consists of feeding conveyors, a pick-and-place robot, and a case assembler and indexer. Three servo-driven conveyor belts precisely stage products for the pick-and-place loading robot. The first belt runs at a preset speed. The staging conveyor accumulates products in predetermined groupings and gears to the feed conveyor to move the width of the product, then stops. The gearing of this axis is done without external encoders or additional wiring. The final conveyor quickly and accurately positions groups of products for the pick-and-place robot.

A flexible, six-axis robot is managed by a dedicated controller. A single cable connects the robotic cabinet to the controls cabinet. Fast and accurate pick-and-place operation is synchronized to the loading conveyors and the case indexer. Suction cups handle delicate products. The machine processes 90 bags/min into 24 count cases or up to 10 cases/min for lower count cases.

The TL-10 uses a servo-driven, walking beam system and actuators to erect flat cases from a magazine and present them to the robot loading station. Full cases are discharged to a modular sealing station which uses hot melt glue or pressure sensitive tape.

Real-time Ethernet

Motion control synchronization is handled over Ethernet Powerlink. Drives broadcast position information over the network and each drive closes its own position loop. Cycle times as low as 400 µsec provide precise coordination between axes. Gearing and camming are possible without external encoders or additional wiring between axes.

Multiturn absolute encoders on the servomotors start the case packer immediately from a power fail state. The exact position of all motors is available at power up.

I/O pneumatics is key to the case erector and indexer section of the machine. Rather than large cable harnesses and wiring, Sabel chose B&R's valve manifold connection modules to simplify wiring and programming of the valves over a single cable on a remote backplane.

Sabel's new case packer connects all inputs and outputs directly to the X20 slice I/O, which reduces wiring, terminal blocks, and cabinet space. These modules also connect to the controller via the same single cable backplane as the valve manifold. This single cable replaces many parallel I/O cables and allows I/O to be placed anywhere on the machine.

The sensor power supply is separated from the communication power supply, which lets pneumatic valves and other output devices be halted by the emergency E-stop. Input sensors continue to function so system status and diagnostic information are available.

A Power Panel integrates operator interface, logic control, motion control, and communication, which reduces hardware, simplifies setup, and provides a single point for programming and software maintenance. All system parameters are stored and edited from this location.

All programming is done in one software package, B&R's Automation Studio. Motion control of the feed conveyors and case erector, logic control of the I/O and valve modules, and communication to all devices including the six-axis robot are handled by one program stored in one location.

For more information, contact the author, Nathan Massey, at (770) 772-0400 or visit www.br-automation.com. For more information on the TL-10 Top Loader, visit www.sabelengr.com.

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