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Getting value from standards

Machine builders and end users of packaging machinery need to be increasingly aware of standards developments in their arena. Beyond simple awareness, however, is evaluation and application of standards to gain value for the business. Each group stands to benefit from today's evolving standards.

A significant source of standards and guidelines for packaging-machine automation is the OMAC (Open Modular Architecture Controls) Users' Group, which is an affiliate organization of ISA—The Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society. A recent development from OMAC's Packaging Workgroup (OPW) is its approval of new PackAL guidelines—an application library (AL) of common software elements for packaging machines.

One user benefit of the library is a common look and feel in software elements for functionality, communication and packaging machine organization, according to OPW. A common way to program different control hardware and packaging machines of various manufacturers should be welcome. It has high potential for cost savings and for shortening design projects.

PackAL consists of 23 functions: 13 apply to commonly used machine functions (e.g., wind/unwind, dancer control, registration and indexing); nine to horizontal line communications; and one to the PackML machine state model (PackML, which stands for "packaging machine language," strives to standardize on a packaging-specific vocabulary to describe states and modes of operation, commands and data used with these machines). The latest version of PackAL guidelines is slated for release in April 2006 and will be added to OPW's Guidelines for Packaging Machinery Automation.

Talking the same language is equally important for both machine and human communication. To be fully effective, a critical mass of "speakers" among machine builders and end users is needed. Beckhoff, Bosch Rexroth and Siemens are already onboard, announcing PackAL libraries as add-ons to their control platforms. More supplier participation can be expected.

Take a look at what the PackAL guidelines have to offer.

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