Integrated automation products make packaging machines smarter

Kate Bertrand Connolly 1, Freelance Writer

September 25, 2018

4 Min Read
Integrated automation products make packaging machines smarter

A new portfolio of automation products, called Pak/iQ, targets the pain points of end users deploying smart packaging machines. Pak/iQ machinery parts and code can be used with bottling, pillow-pack and wrapping equipment to increase production, reduce downtime and lower total cost of deployment.

From Mitsubishi Electric Automation Inc., Pak/iQ “can be described as a complete offering of automation products and value-added solutions designed for the packaging industry to achieve smart manufacturing, predictive maintenance, integrated robotics and engineering productivity,” says Lee Cheung, product marketing engineer with Mitsubishi Electric.

Designed to run on Mitsubishi’s iQ modular, programmable automation controllers, the Pak/iQ product line includes both hardware and software. The products comprise controllers, servos, robots and human-machine interfaces (HMIs) that can be combined in custom solutions tailored to specific user needs.

Pak/iQ incorporates machine learning algorithms, which provide end users with easy machine setup and efficient tuning. In addition, secure remote access affords real-time checks on machine status, from anywhere. Machine performance is geared to high response and accuracy, with synchronized servo motion control and closely integrated controls and robotics.

The portfolio also includes pre-configured diagnostic/maintenance screens and operator screens and an application code library for faster development of packaging machinery and HMIs (a boon for original equipment manufacturers).

Cheung and Elaine Wang, senior product marketing engineer with Mitsubishi Electric, jointly answer Packaging Digest’s questions about Pak/iQ.

How does Pak/iQ boost the intelligence of smart packaging machines?

Cheung: Pak/iQ offers real-time analytics, push notifications of critical events and remote visualization of the status of a packaging machine. The additional capability to push manufacturing data to a database also allows an end user to track key performance indicators (KPIs), identify areas of concern and plan ahead for consumables and spare parts. This solution bridges the gap between information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT).

How can Pak/iQ lower the cost of deploying smart packaging machines?

Wang: Pak/iQ brings IT-level technology within the capabilities of controls engineers, so OEMs can develop value-add features without needing to hire additional IT engineers.

Pak/iQ can also save engineering development time of packaging machines, which normally is a big portion of adjustable cost.

How do the packaging machines communicate with the iQ controller? What is the communication protocol?

Cheung: The iQ controller is the brain of a smart packaging machine. Although a variety of communications are supported to connect upstream and downstream equipment, we recommend CC-Link IE Field, which is a deterministic 1-Gbps [gigabytes per second] network with the capacity and guaranteed speed to deliver time-critical information where it needs to go, without risk of data collision.

Can Pak/iQ be used to retrofit an existing packaging machine?

Wang: Yes, Mitsubishi Electric has a network of systems integrators that can help retrofit existing packaging machines. Furthermore, Pak/iQ solutions enable the latest technology, to allow customers to stay ahead of the packaging industry.

How does Pak/iQ help reduce unscheduled downtime and increase production?

Wang: Smart servos continuously tune to minimize wear-and-tear and ensure peak performance. Predictive maintenance capabilities allow component health of relays and servos, and enable mechanical stress levels to be monitored so that maintenance can be scheduled just-in-time, decreasing the amount of downtime.

Can you give us a packaging machine example of how Pak/iQ enables machine learning? What is the benefit?

Wang: A case packing machine picks a pack of loads and places them into a carton, facilitating productivity and machine throughput by machine learning. A machine learning tuning function allows machines to handle different load weights without any transfer-process impact.

How does Pak/iQ simplify robotic integration?

Cheung: Mitsubishi is the unique company offering products from controllers, servos and variable frequency drives (VFDs) to robotic products. Robotic integration is very complex due to handshaking procedures and making things work between the robot and other devices it must communicate with. With Pak/iQ, communication between a sequence controller and the robot controller is automated on a single high-speed backplane, for simple implementation and highly accurate operation.

What does Pak/iQ track, from an operational point of view?

Cheung: All machine data, including sensor readings and remaining component life, can be customized and read by the user.

What is the benefit of having information for operators and maintenance engineers in the same controller, via the Pak/iQ pre-configured diagnostic, maintenance and operator screens?

Cheung: By including diagnostics and maintenance information on the machine itself, there is never a question of where to find documentation, enabling quick and efficient maintenance.

What’s the benefit of Pak/iQ’s fast motion control response time to the machine user?

Wang: Motion control response time is not the only factor to improve machine performance. Fast motion with full synchronization by the compact PLC for continuous-motion form-fill-seal machine, for example, is a Pak/iQ outstanding benefit for OEMs, too.

Are all the features of Pak/iQ available as standard, or are some optional and included at an extra cost?

Wang: Certain features are inherent in the hardware products, whereas others are available through additional options.

Does a machine builder have to use solely Pak/iQ products, or do Pak/iQ products work in conjunction with products from other manufacturers?

Wang: Individual Pak/iQ products will provide incremental benefits, but a complete system of Pak/iQ products will unlock the full benefits of Pak/iQ.


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About the Author(s)

Kate Bertrand Connolly 1

Freelance Writer

Kate Bertrand Connolly has been covering innovations, trends, and technologies in packaging, branding, and business since 1981.

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