Today filling and packaging thousands of bottles of perfume, tomorrow just a few tubes of cream and the day after batch size 1 – everything on one and the same system. How this works is demonstrated by the Multi-Carrier-System MCS®, a joint project of Festo and Siemens, put to work in a filling and packaging machine from the machine manufacturer Optima.
The days when large quantities of the same product were produced day in, day out on one line are very much in the past. A growing number of product and packaging variants, ever shorter product life cycles as well as the trend towards customised packaging and products are posing huge challenges to manufacturers of filling and packaging machines and their end customers. The Multi-Carrier-System now offers them a solution which provides more flexibility and greater competitiveness.
The Multi-Carrier-System already incorporates options which are relevant for Industry 4.0. These include the particularly flexible electromechanical design for cost-effective manufacturing down to batch sizes of 1, as well as the decentralized sensor and intelligence systems of the workpiece carriers and drives. Even the simulation function, including a virtual twin, is fully prepared for future system optimization and dimensioning. Program data can even be generated from the simulation.
Within the system, the containers that need to be filled, such as bottles, cans or flacons, move one by one on carriers that can handle multiple formats and are individually actuated. The self-propelled carriers are driven by linear motors. In order to avoid jams, they move according to the rules of swarm behaviour and in synch with the process – either individually or in groups. The carriers can be freely and seamlessly fed in and out of the Multi-Carrier-System. Linking to an existing intralogistics system couldn’t be simpler. The carriers can be accelerated, slowed down and freely positioned, independently of one another. Thanks to integrated RFID chips, they carry all the information that the machine needs to produce the end product. As a result, single-unit productions are thus, mechanically speaking, possible.
The Optima packaging machine comprises three modules: filling, closing and laser engraving. The modular machine design requires flexible transport: the machine can fill six bottles during transport and subsequently seal two of them at the same time. This means that carriers need to move in groups of two so that production can continue without jams. For the customised laser engraving, the system requires only one carrier – something that can be easily achieved with the Multi-Carrier-System.
Format changes at the push of a button are possible with the Multi-Carrier-System.
The Multi-Carrier-System travels at up to 3 m/s and achieves acceleration of up to 40 m/s² – completely jerk-free and with optimum precision. Shorter set-up times, reduced maintenance costs, lower rates of wear, and the ease of cleaning are further advantages of this versatile transport system.
The potential applications of the Multi-Carrier-System are practically unlimited; it is suitable for all industries that manage a large product diversity. These include the cosmetics industry with its huge number of product variants, the food and drinks industry with its quick seasonal changes and industrial manufacturing of one-off products ordered by end customers using an online configurator.