Food processing and packaging technology is the second most important area of application for pneumatic drive systems, and it continues to get more appealing. Pneumatic drives are known for simple and robust operation, as well as high power density. In food processing technology they make it possible to meet the hygiene requirements of the various protection rating categories – from production to packaging. A reasonable initial cost, overload protection and the ability to hold steady without using energy speak for pneumatics. Automated packaging of food and beverage products, pharmaceuticals or non-food items requires reliable systems with fast cycle times and a near-zero failure rate. Highly dynamic drive systems ensure superior productivity, precision and flexibility, as well as minimal downtime during product and format changes.
Industrial Image Processing
Ever-smarter measurement and control systems
Industrial image processing provides data to facilitate the control of machines and robots, as well as documentation required for traceability purposes – fast, precise and contactless.
Sorting of asparagus spears by thickness and quality or of ham slices by fat content.
Classification of round fruits according to size and shape.
Inline quality control to detect colour, shape or surface errors, faulty sealed seams or damage on the packaging.
Monitoring of the labelling process for correctness (content and label position)
Control of robots and synchronisation of robots and conveyor belts.
Equipment monitoring to ensure workplace safety.
Automated processing and packaging of food products, beverages, cosmetics, pharmaceutical products or non-food items requires intelligent sensor and measuring technology for predominantly non-contact measuring:
• Shape and volume • Humidity and temperature • Fill level and weight • Position and orientation • Printing of labels • Integrity of packaging
Material Handling Technology
Grippers play a central role in robot-assisted automation.
The size and shape of robotic gripers depend primarily on the type and nature of the products to be gripped, as well as the task they are supposed to execute. Consequently there are grippers that use vacuum technology to suction in products or that grip in interlocking and force-fitting ways using clamps, jaws or mechanical fingers. Special pick-up technology makes it possible to grip from below floppy foods such as sliced deli meats or cheeses. Thanks to intelligent sensors, grippers can handle highly sensitive products such as chocolates, biscuits or other delicate baked goods in rapid pick-and-place applications – they can even perfectly execute the looping motion required to make pretzels.
Industrial Software & Communication
Nervous systems of modern production and automation solutions
However companies often run several networks simultaneously. These networks may not be able to communicate with each other or are able to do so only with major efforts. Collaboration becomes more difficult this way and significant friction losses occur. Many companies therefore rely on a unified protocol to relay information from point A to point B. Ethernet and TCP/IP have become the standard in this area. Industrial Ethernet is the solution that allows for homogenous intra-company vertical communication from the planning stage to the field level.
Forming shoulders play a key role for bag forming, filling and sealing machines
Due to the high wear and hygiene requirements for forming shoulders, they are mostly produced from stainless steels. Tabletting tools must have a long operating life. But above all they must be consistently precise over the course of their entire serviceable life because the powders to be pressed into tablets can sometimes be highly abrasive. That’s why manufacturers use high-alloy stainless steels in this case. The forces impacting the die depend mainly on the measurements of the tablets to be pressed. The transition from flat-edged to sharp-edged shapes also plays a critical role here. When implementing this process in real-world applications, the effects of shear force, abrasion, thermal load and other forces produce major challenges for design engineers. That’s why they rely heavily on powerful simulation and FEM software when designing tabletting tools. That’s the only way to guarantee that customers get the customized tool they need.
Highly flexible automation solutions with intelligent electronic systems
These solutions can help to synchronise several axes, increase equipment output or reduce changeover delays when converting equipment from one product or format to another. Furthermore, in order to gain market advantages in today’s fast-paced global economy, customers must significantly reduce equipment start-up and new product rollout times. Intelligent control technology in conjunction with an appropriate software environment is a key success factor in this regard.
PC-based control technology makes it possible to control and monitor the entire process chain not just of individual packaging machines, but also of entire packing lines, which include tasks such as filling, moulding, sealing, labelling, collecting, re-packaging and palletising, to name but a few. Modern control technology paves the way for processes that are leaner, faster and – most importantly – safer. In addition it helps conserve energy and resources.