Boosting shrink-sleeve speed and accuracy

January 29, 2014

6 Min Read
Boosting shrink-sleeve speed and accuracy


Axon Styrotech Corp. ( is a leading designer and manufacturer of fully automated heat-shrink labeling, tamper-evident banding and stretch-sleeving equipment. The company has more than 30 years of experience designing and manufacturing integrated packaging machines that are used in the production of food and beverages, health and beauty aids, household goods, pharmaceuticals and industrial products. Axon distinguishes itself in the industry by its ability to produce high-quality, custom-made machines that are extremely versatile and user-friendly.

In many of today's high-volume production environments, manufacturers are demanding greater speeds and accuracy from their packaging operation. Simply put, the packaging line cannot be the cog that slows the movement of product from the plant floor to the consumer. This is putting increased pressure on original-equipment manaufacturers like Axon to build machines that are reliable, fast and flexible.

While Axon has made significant strides in boosting the speed and versatility of its heat-shrinkable sleeve-labeling machines, it saw an opportunity to expand its market share by producing even faster machines. These high-speed systems would allow Axon to meet the performance demands of customers in a wide range of high-volume applications. Equipment flexibility is equally critical for these large-scale producers. From a packaging perspective, equipment must be flexible enough to keep up with frequent line changes and scalable enough to handle the introduction of new products.


The Kinematics Integrated Motion solution provides high system performance, fast application development and a lower overall cost.

With increased pressure to build high-performance machines in very compressed schedules, Axon also wanted to create an automated, standard sleever machine that would allow it to use off-the-shelf automation products and reuse engineering designs and resources throughout its product lines. Axon approached Rockwell Automation ( for a control solution that would help it meet the speed requirements, while providing the extremely accurate product positioning.

Previously, Axon had used a stepper-drive system to control the film feeding and cutting on its machines, but after some internal discussion, it decided to test the performance capabilities of servo-motion control.

Axon worked with Rockwell Automation engineers to define the technology requirements, prepared a conceptual design and then developed a prototype machine. After some additional refinements, Axon introduced its first servo-based sleeve labeling machine—the EZ 400SL. The machine offers a production rate of 400 containers/min, which is double the capacity of its previous model. Axon used this same approach in building an even faster system—the EZ 2-400SL, a three- or six-axes servo-operated sleeve labeling system with a production rate of 800 containers/min.

Axon engineers significantly enhanced the performance and flexibility of its sleeve-labeling machines by employing a Rockwell Automation Kinetix® Integrated Motion solution featuring an Allen-Bradley® ControlLogix® controller, Kinetix® 6000 multi-axis servo drives and Allen-Bradley PowerFlex® variable-frequency drives. Together, they are responsible for coordinating and controlling all major functions within the sleever. In addition, the machine uses EtherNet/IP to connect the controller to other equipment, allowing the machine to seamlessly communicate and coordinate activities. Using the Logix Control Platform, Axon is able to connect machine components in an open, integrated environment.

While traditional motion-control systems require multiple controllers and programming packages, the Kinetix Integrated Motion solution performs all discrete, drive and motion-control functions using a single software package. Motion functions are embedded in both the ControlLogix controller and the RSLogix™ 5000 programming software, while a SERCOS interface reduces wiring time and provides seamless integration with the compact Kinetix 6000 servo drives.

“The integrated-motion instruction set in the RSLogix 5000 software eliminates the need to write and coordinate two programs on different controllers, simplifying the application programming and enhancing system performance. The integrated control architecture allows us to reuse engineering resources, which helps eliminate the need for repeat work and retraining, while significantly minimizing our design efforts,” says Grant Chen, engineering manager at Axon. “This enables us to design an affordable machine that provides our customers with the highest level of flexibility and quality, while meeting their demanding speed and throughput requirements.”

The ControlLogix controller automatically configures the servo drives over the SERCOS interface at power-up. This allows drives to be powered-up right out of the box with minimal configuration, says Rockwell. Detailed drive and motor status information is easily accessible from the controller. Graphical trending capabilities in the software allow users to collect and view critical motion parameters. Operators have a window into the machine through an Allen-Bradley PanelView™ Plus touchscreen human/machine interface. Other Allen-Bradley products incorporated into the design include safety relays, circuit breakers, and stack lights.


Servo-control technology provides precise feed lengths at high speeds for improved accuracy and throughput.

The new EZ Seal 2-400SL is one of the fastest machines of its type in the market, and it is only about one-third the size of competitive sleeve-labeling machines. The servo-controlled film feed provides precise feed lengths at high speeds for superior accuracy and throughput. The integrated control platform, single-programming environment and standard interface connectivity results in higher system performance, faster application development, easier maintenance and lower overall cost. Packaging performance is enhanced because all system-control elements reside within the same multiprocessor-control architecture. The result is real-time communication and data manipulation for motion control, which yields enhanced precision and throughput.

With all of this information available, fault tracing and correction is easier, and lost production is minimized. The integrated solution has provided additional benefits, such as plug-and-play connectivity with minimized wiring, and a smaller physical size, which not only simplifies installation but tangibly reduces installation costs as well. In addition, Kinetix servo motors use Smart Motor Technology to provide automatic identification of correct motor-to-drive connectivity, reducing commissioning time.

The machine's user-friendly features allow customers to easily manage product changeovers. Operators only need to enter the parameters once, using the touch screen PanelView interface. Operators simply indicate the container size and the servo drives adjust accordingly. With servo control, mechanical adjustments can be made with a simple keyboard entry. As part of the Kinetix Integrated Motion solution, the servo drives also reduce machine design, operation and maintenance time with real-time reporting of critical motor data.

Axon was able to design a fast, high-performance machine that meets its customers' throughput demands, while providing maximum flexibility and ease of use. More importantly, the high-speed capability has enabled Axon to expand its customer base in several key markets. As speed of delivery becomes more and more important, Axon's customers will appreciate the new sleever machine and the technology on which it was based.

More information is available:

Axon Styrotech Corp., 800/598-8601.

Rockwell Automation, 414/382-2000.

Sign up for the Packaging Digest News & Insights newsletter.

You May Also Like