What are new ideas for addressing performance and cost issues?
We promote the idea of OEMs running motion, HMI and sequencing all in one controller, using a high-speed, Ethernet-based network to help collapse and simplify the system architecture. The key is fewer disparate products that you need to connect and program, which results in dramatic cost-value advantages compared to other solutions.
Our approach is one network and the bundling of hardware and software into one solution wherever possible. In packaging, there is always a need for more speed and throughput. With a more powerful package, OEMs can be thinking of what else they can do in addition that might have been too expensive to add in the past.
What are the most important issues for OEMs designing control systems for packaging?
From our perspective, the continuing trend has been how to do more servo-based control. OEMs are designing machines for the global marketplace that don't include too many disparate packages to achieve optimal cost. One of our challenges is that some packaging OEMs are selecting control systems based on what the end user specifies, rather than building the best control system for the application. There is more dialogue on the value of standardization versus the OEM doing what he believes is best for his machine.
What are the key trends in motion control for packaging automation?
There is a continuing move to digital drives rather than analog, plus fieldbus motion control for better loop control and to achieve connectivity. PC-based control offers better performance and price-value and the PC provides integrated connectivity to line or cell controllers, along with MRP and ERP systems.
Centralized architectures can be used to pack more power in one PC and it provides a manageable platform for programming. One control and HMI package all running on one system, as long as you have the processing power and network bandwidth, is a powerful solution.
What control technologies offer unique benefits for packaging OEMs?
When OEMs open up the bandwidth on networking and engineers can get more accuracy, speed and resolution from I/O devices, what else can you do better on your machine such as more real-time analysis of events? Scientific automation is the buzzword for new technology that offers 24-bit analog inputs that provide high speed, accuracy and resolution.
A multimeter-voltmeter capability can be used for measuring events on the machine, tracking signals and integrating this information into the control loop. A new high-speed scope feature provides a digital-level scope built into the programming package to provide more diagnostic and troubleshooting capability. Packaging machinery builders should be able to do more adaptive control in the future.
What other important factors are influencing packaging machine design?
More robotics is being used but they need to be more integrated into the main control loop on machines. If a PC can run the machine and the robot from one central controller, that would be a powerful solution. A big issue for packaging is shorter product runs requiring more flexibility in the machines to handle multiple products without significant shutdown and set-up times. It is clear that marketers want to make tweaks to products, how they look and how they are packaged, which is a challenge for many traditional packaging machines designed for one product. More and more, machines need to be adaptable.