Packaging machinery and systems found at ProMat that are highlighted in this Slideshow include units for bagging, palletizing with and without robotics, high-speed box inspection, load handling and a Cloud-enabled labeler. Among these you’ll find a smaller Octopus, a Load Transfer System that answers food safety regulation concerns and an efficient and highly personalized bagger.
Held in Chicago’s expansive McCormick Place, last month’s ProMat/Automate 2015 tradeshow centered on the latest manufacturing, distribution and supply-chain equipment and systems. Among those in attendance were several industry “rock stars” including “The Woz,” Apple founder Steve Wozniak, and Google’s Renee Niemi, who I heard speak in a keynote presentation regarding the digital revolution in manufacturing (see Google on Industrial Revolution 4.0).
And then there were the thousands of rank-and-file industry “groupies” including yours truly.
This was not one of those packaging-centeric tradeshows like a Pack Expo, EastPack or PackEx where virtually every booth on every aisle has something package-y. This was, in keeping with the season, more like your old-fashioned Easter egg hunt that took some walking, searching and assessment. You can see what "packaging treats" I uncovered during my packaging hunt over the following pages.
First up and shown above is the new Octopus model stretch wrapper from Muller. The distinction of the 1717C Series Automatic Rotary Ring Stretch Wrapper is that it is a compact, entry-level unit that’s rated in the 30-50 loads an hour range. It is equipped with Muller’s patented Easy S Film Carriage for simple film loading that maximizes prestretch performance and minimizes wear.
What’s a show without robots? There were plenty of them on display, especially in the North Hall housing the Automate portion of the show (see John Henry’s report on 13 game-changing robots and more) . However, I found FANUC Robotics North America’s new M-710i C/45m palletizing robot working in ProMat’s South Hall. It is stronger, faster and offers a larger reach than the previous generation: It handles up to a 45-kg (99 lb) payload and an envelope that extends from the previous 2.0m to 2.6m (6 ft to 8.5 ft), all using 6 axes of movement. Bottom line: It can palletize 40% faster at rates to 28 cases per minute.
Columbia Machine’s Load Transfer Stations (LTS) have been upgraded with Rockwell Automation’s Allen-Bradley controls. The LTS strips away the pallets or slipsheets from inbound loads and transfers them onto internal-quality pallets or sheets. Booth personnel informed me that they’ve seen “tremendous growth” in LTS sales as a result of FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that mandates higher standards including that manufacturers need to eliminate “dirty pallets within plants,” according to my contact. I learned that one major brand owner purchased 35 of the systems in 2014. Shown is the LTS-C Model.
Inside the Cognex booth was a live demo of an inspection system that uses an “Xpand25” mirror array and bar-style light source to read bar codes and check for label defects as boxes are conveyed at high speeds. The setup featured the company’s DataMan 503 high-speed logistics bar code reader. I was told by product marketing specialist Matt Angstadt that while the demo was operating at a blazing speed of 500 feet per minute, they have run the system up to 600 fpm. He said that Cognex can install systems capable of inspecting up to 5 sides of a box and are working on one that can inspect all 6 sides including the bottom.
The system included Cognex Explorer Real Time Monitoring (RTM) that automatically evaluates each captured image and categorizes them into groups such as packages with “no label present” or packages with “poorly printed labels.” Categorized images are stored in a database and accessible for future viewing through any device with a web browser.
In a change of pace from the other packaging booths that generally involved boxes in some way, Automated Packaging Systems’ AutoBag 850S Mail Order Fulfillment Bagger is capable of running bags up to 22 inches wide. The innovative bag opening technology grabs and secures the bag in a ready position. A wide-open loading area features pressure sensors that eliminate the need for bulky guarding and safety switches around the heat sealer portion. That results in ergonomic and conveniently fast loading by operators. It also offers AutoTouch control screen and on-board diagnostics and an inline thermal imprinter for individually personalized mail order fulfillment applications. Bags can be provided printed in up to 10 colors for an impactful impression with customers.
Fox IV Technology’s display of print-and-apply systems highlighted units more suitable for warehouse and supply chain applications. One example was an efficient, labelstock-saving printer-applicator that produced printed labels cut to size according to the amount of printed copy required. That was interesting enough, but what caught my eye after having heard the Google presentation earlier as being instantly on-trend was a Cloud-enabled printer-applicator. CEO Rick Fox pointed out that they have had “interest from factory-floor personnel for Cloud-enabled capability, but the security and permissions challenges associated with that access was a sticking point with IT personnel.” The feature allows monitoring of different machines as well as download of settings per recipe.
Fox also pointed out that his company, too, has added Rockwell Automation’s Allen-Bradley PLC controls to the equipment.