A collaboration between Festo and PCE Automation has helped recyclable packaging experts Frugalpac™ Limited to achieve the high throughputs and precision assembly necessary to meet increased demand for its innovative paperboard Frugal Bottle.
Frugal Bottle is the world’s first paper wine and spirits bottle. Its innovative design comprises an outer made from 94% recycled paperboard with an inner food grade pouch. Frugal Bottle is fully recyclable, is five times lighter than glass and has a much lower carbon footprint than traditional wine bottles. It also offers 360-degree branding for better impact on the shelf.
Frugal Bottles are manufactured from two paperboard blanks that are precision cut, glued and then wetted front and back, before being stacked ready for feeding into the bottle forming machine. Achieving the desired throughputs is a major challenge because the glue pathway is complex and must be tailored to the profile of the bottle. In addition, the correct amount of glue has to be applied to prevent malformation or unsightly glue excess on the finished bottle.
Frugalpac had approached an adhesive systems company for a solution, but they were unable to achieve the desired cycle times. Working closely together, PCE Automation and Festo developed a fully automated gluing and wetting line to meet the tight tolerances and complex gluing patterns necessary to deliver throughputs of 630 bottles per hour.
Ronan Quinn, project manager for PCE, says: “The gluing process was more complex than anything we’d encountered before. Tight tolerances on the gluing pattern combined with a short cycle time and critical bead thicknesses were a real challenge. We would usually undertake the entire design and assembly inhouse, but on this occasion Festo supplied the handling gantries to us fully assembled which added real value in terms of component compatibility and commissioning.”
Making it stick
The automation cell provided by PCE Automation requires minimal human intervention. An operator loads the blanks for the front and back of the bottles at the front end. The machine then picks, loads, transfers, glues, transfers again, wets and conveys the prepared blanks into a container at the end of process. The prepared blanks are then transferred to the bottle forming machine.
PCE Automation used the Festo Handling Guide Online (HGO) to design the automation cell. This free online tool dramatically reduces design, assembly and delivery time and enables customers to create a ready-to-install handling system: whether for a single-axis system, a 2D linear and planar surface gantry or a 3D gantry. With just a few clicks, the HGO delivers the right standard handling system, including CAD model, animation, and complete EPLAN schematic documentation. The individual steps (including RFQ, layout, quotation and CAD design), which previously could take 10 to 15 days, can be completed in a matter of minutes. The reduction in design and documentation time enabled PCE to meet Frugalpac’s delivery expectations.
The unique gluing and wetting solution was tested and sized at Festo’s UK Application Centre to prove that the desired cycle times could be achieved. It uses the Festo CPX-E-CEC Controller as the PLC to deliver interpolated soft motion, controlling multiple axes at the same time to achieve the complex curves on the glue paths. Festo CMMT servo controllers feature in the three handling systems for precise and repeatable loading, gluing and unloading. Festo core pneumatics products, valve terminals and process valves are also used extensively throughout the gluing and wetting system.
The PCE automation cell needed to achieve a cycle time of just 19 seconds to meet Frugalpac’s requirements. The gluing and wetting solution delivers a gluing time that is 50% faster than specified, enabling the entire machine to meet the overall cycle times required. It achieves this by batch-gluing eight bottles simultaneously, with different glue patterns being applied to the front and back blanks. John-Paul Grogan, Product Director at Frugalpac, says: “Frugalpac is committed to the development of more sustainable packaging. The application of automation in the production of Frugal Bottle will help us to achieve our aim of reducing the carbon of wine and spirits packaging.”
Festo and PCE are now working with Frugalpac to develop an automated method for the forming of the Frugal Bottle itself.