State-of-the-art packaging machines cannot always completely replace manual procedures. However, manual work is time-consuming and limits production capacity. With innovative automation components and extensive expertise, so-matec epple GmbH made the seemingly impossible a reality for Erdal. An electronic cam disc in combination with electric toothed belt axes perfectly mimic the movements of the human hand.
Austrian company Erdal, based in Hallein near Salzburg, produces cleaning products for key export markets such as Eastern Europe and Japan. Trigger products, shoe care products and fragrance products are produced for the core markets of Germany and Austria. The annual production volume is around 13,000 tonnes, which corresponds to about 34 million individual products from a range of 600 different items. Although the plant is extensively automated, there are still key areas in product packaging that require manual intervention and therefore prevent further improvements in performance. What long appeared to be too complex has now been accomplished by so-matec epple GmbH. Using Festo components and the expertise of the Festo commissioning service, the specialist for the design and installation of machines for the automation and packaging industry integrated a fully automated packer into an existing production plant.
A perfect fit: so-matec installed the machine in a very small space in the running process.
The Erdal filling and packaging machine fills, closes and packs pear-shaped soap dispensers containing different varieties of liquid soap. A conveying system transports the empty bottles to a bottle unscrambler, which stands them up automatically. Eight bottles are then filled simultaneously in the filling station. The capping machine puts on the pump heads automatically and screws them on. After the capping stage, the system checks that there is a cap and that the required torque has been reached. Faulty bottles are rejected.
The finished soap dispensers are then transported to the so-matec machine, which inserts them in folding cartons. From the conveyor, two bottles are pushed into the pick position of the machine and the pump head is precisely aligned. This ensures that the dispenser doesn’t damage the folding carton. While the bottle is aligned on the sequencer, the machine extracts two folded cartons from the magazine, spreads them open and transfers them to a handling unit. The motion sequences are defined by two electric toothed belt axes type EGC with servo motors EMMS-AS. These provide
a simplified simulation of the former manual movements and allow the bottles to be positioned precisely in the folding cartons. An electric rotary module ERMB ensures rapid and precise rotation of the packaging. All electrical components used have been perfectly harmonized and integrated into the control curve. These free-flowing motion sequences would not have been possible without electrical components. The only exception is a pneumatic standard cylinder in the plant, which forms the cartons into a concave shape to make it easier to push them over the bottles.
The rapid movement of all components involved in the packaging process is made possible by the electronic cam disc integrated on the axis controller CMMP-AS. A deciding factor in using the cam disc was the fact that the subdivision of the process into individual intermediate steps took too much time. The electronic cam disc also helped to achieve a cycle time two tenths of a second faster than the 1.3 seconds required by Erdal. Whereas four employees were able to pack 1000 bottles in an hour, the new fully automated packer now produces up to 2400 units.
The high-speed camera from Festo played a key role during commissioning. It ensured that the system was perfectly adjusted and optimised, particularly for the axial movements, as the motion sequences are so fast that they cannot be followed by the human eye.
Given the highly complex nature of the task, so-matec relied on the expertise of the Festo technical consultants during the planning and development phase. Through close cooperation between the mechanical engineering and control engineering departments of so-matec and the Festo commissioning service, the electronic cam disc was programmed by Festo and tailored precisely to the customer’s requirements. The vacuum design was also provided by the Festo commissioning service. This involved carrying out various tests with the packaging at Festo headquarters to decide which vacuum generation was needed for the required cycle times. This early cooperation accelerated the entire development process for so-matec.