Changing demands have lead to significant innovations for modern automatic packing machine design. These innovations reach right to the core of manufacturing machine design philosophy.
Rather than developing single purpose machines with highly specialized functionality, each piece of equipment on a packaging line must now be capable of flexibility and agile changeovers. Consumer demands shift rapidly, causing some products to go out of vogue within just a few months. At the same time, growth of online retail has lead to increasing use of small batch — sometimes single item — production runs.
Conditions like these steer manufacturers and contract packagers towards machines that can be adaptable. Features like modular components, automated changeovers, and off-the-rack electronics integration all allow industrial packaging managers to maximize their investment on machinery while preparing for unpredictable demand shifts looming on the horizon.
To get a better idea of how resolutely packaging machinery has gone towards this direction, consider the following three biggest packaging equipment innovations we’re likely to see take root in 2018.
Quick Changeovers for Flexible Line Capabilities
Toyota pioneered the idea that product line changeovers should take hours, not days. Now, the expected time frame for a changeover is in minutes — sometimes seconds.
“Packaging machinery must be more flexible to accommodate consumer demands,” says Don Pham of IDEC. “This requires software-based automation of as many functions as possible including real-time control, operator interface and motion control.”
Key to enabling automation, says Pham, is the reduction of proprietary, built-to-task packaging machines. Instead, we need flexible machinery controlled by off-the-rack industrial electronics. Think PLCs (programmable logic controllers) instead of hardwired relay logic, touch interface panels rather than static buttons, servo systems rather than one-off electromechanical component designs, and so on.
A stellar example would be the Automated Unison Guide Rail System, which can be programmable to accomplish changeovers in seconds using a simple touchscreen interface.
Modular Components Bring Versatility and Agility to Automatic Packing Machine Design
Modularity is key to enabling line flexibility and upgradable performance.
Modular approaches allow packaging machine manufacturers to meet the unique and often-changing needs of their customers in an efficient and cost effective way, asserts Dassault Systèmes’ Francois Sychowicz. For instance, he says that the customer can request specific modules depending on their production or product strategy. “This will help the continuous improvement of your machine, allowing incremental innovation.”
As an example, Stacy Johnson of Dorner Manufacturing highlights the company’s Z-Frame conveyor system. The conveyors can be adjusted at two pivot points to multiple angles, taking products up and over other line components in order to maximize space as well as line flexibility.
Virtual Prototyping Lowers R&D Costs, Development Time
Today’s new machine designs can be facilitated by virtualized prototyping, allowing new designs or line configurations to be developed in a simulation rather than within real life.
“The digital twin runs virtual products, testing out product manufacturing feasibility and machine design,” explains Jim Hulman of Bosch Rexroth. “Redesign and adjustment are made electronically before even one part is made.”
Prototyping in a virtual environment greatly accelerates the process of testing new machine or product line designs while reducing the costs of physical testing and debugging.
Find the Best Packaging Line Equipment for Your Needs With Raab Sales
Raab Sales keeps up with the latest solutions in packaging line equipment, including automation capabilities and highly modular components with a huge degree of flexibility. Explore your options for making your packaging line more efficient and agile when you contact our industrial packaging equipment experts today.