Five Recent Developments In Packaging Machinery

It isn’t often that I write about new developments in packaging machinery. Mainly because the inventors, engineers and manufacturers of packaging machinery haven’t found the way to publicity as their colleagues at the packaging design side of the spectrum.
Over the last few months I collected five interesting developments. Three for the bottling industry, the “Virtual Engineer” for general use in the packaging machinery field and an exceptional pick-and-place unit for fragile items.

Next Generation Hysteresis Capping Head

Bericap hysteresis capping head

Since more than 7 years Bericap, a global manufacturer of plastic closures, offers the BVK capping head. The BVK capping head is equipped with a hysteresis coupling, providing a constant application torque independent of the head speed and hence independent from the filling line and capper speed.
Recently Bericap released the next generation capping head, the BNX. According to the manufacturer, the BNX provides an application torque at an even narrower range independent of the head speed compared to the previous solution. The height of the BNX is shorter to make the head mountable in all major capper configurations existing in the market. The BNX is liquid tight to prevent washing down of lubricants.
Last but not least, the company states, that the BNX capping head allows adjusting the application torque simply by hand, without any special tooling.

A Multi-Neck Universal Clamp For Neck Transfer Of Bottles

Serac universal bottle clamp

Serac in France, designs aseptic and ESL lines for neutral pH and acidic products. Mastering the sterile filling process means filling a sterile product without contamination in order to prolong its best-by date without having to use refrigeration techniques or preservatives.
Recently Serac introduced the patented Universal container transfer clamp which enables perfect centring of the neck between the three fingers of the clamp thus allowing transfer of containers with neck diameter ranging from 25 to 45 mm and 35 to 60 mm without the need for a change of tooling.
Elimination of the tooling change time considerably improves productivity and a considerable reduction in tool purchasing costs. The company stated that it should be further noted that a version of the clamp is available for aseptic filling of milk and beverages.

Linx Visicode Laser Coding Technology
UK company Linx Printing Technologies says that its innovative Visicode technology, developed to deliver a much clearer code onto cold glass, will keep bottlers’ running costs low without compromising on line speed.

Linx Visicode Laser Coding Technology

A change in the pulse frequency encourages the formation of micro cracks in the top layer of cold glass to increase the visibility of the mark. Different types of glass used for specific market sectors (such as perfume or wine bottles) require a specific pulse frequency to produce optimal contrast, but in all cases the strength of the glass is not reduced.
To achieve effective contrast, the pulse frequency must also be balanced against the marking speed, to produce the correct amount of micro cracking on the glass.
Due to the nature of how micro cracks evolve on the surface of the glass, Linx, is said to be able to produce the code with less power than is normal for this type of application. As a result, the use of Visicode can greatly contribute to a longer tube life (up to 45,000 hours), higher throughput and lower running costs.

With two tube wavelength options and the extensive choice of marking heads and lenses, the Linx SL301 can be fine tuned to better utilise laser power and improve performance. In addition to Linx VisiCode technology, the optional QuickSwitch allows fast and easy code changes using a barcode scanner or other external device.

Linx Visicode, the company claims, represents a significant breakthrough in glass coding, in that it uses the coldness of the substrate to encourage micro cracks for a clearer, higher contrast code. The coder can be customised to suit individual applications for optimum compatibility and is also suitable for coding a wide range of substrates in addition to glass, such as PET and other plastics.

Festo’s Super Gentle Robotic Gripper
In many a technique or technology nature has been modelling. It’s no different with the robotic gripper solutions Festo AG of Esslingen, Germany, is offering. One is said to be inspired by fish fins and the other is said to be imitating an elephant’s trunk.

The Bionic Handling Assistant is a lightweight, fully flexible system whose structure and mode of operation are modelled on an elephant’s trunk. Its inherent flexibility creates the right conditions for direct and safe contact between human and machine.
State-of-the-art generative manufacturing technologies are a crucial part of the production of the Bionic Handling Assistant. Additive manufacturing allows the production of customised, movable system parts made of polyamide applied in thin layers and fused using a laser. This enables customised 3D printing of sophisticated products. The high flexibility and low density of the polyamide at only 0.95 grammes per cubic centimetre are ideal for the Bionic Handling Assistant. Pneumatics and mechatronics serve as the basic technologies for harnessing these natural principles.

Festo FinGripper

The Festo FinGripper is a super-gentle robotic gripper made with layered polyamide in thicknesses of 0.1 mm to create a three-dimensional component, inspired by fish fins. It can grip irregularly shaped fruit or fragile chocolate eggs without damaging a light aluminium foil wrapping.
The gripper consists of a bellows-like pneumatic actuator and three gripper fingers arranged in the pattern of the tail fin of a fish. The structure consists of two flexible bands that meet to form a triangle. It adapts to the shape of a work piece when pressure is applied laterally, even when the piece is leaning to one side or is incorrectly positioned. Much like a human hand, but faster.
The weight of the component is 90% less compared to a conventional metal gripper.

The proportional pneumatic valve ensures correct pressure and allows acceleration and pressure ramps to be applied. Cylinder pressures can be adapted to production or sorting processes with variable flow rates provided by proportional valves. Everything is connected to a robot controller.

The “Virtual Engineer” running your factory
Machines in many processing plants are running day and night and an unscheduled stoppage causes havoc and results in huge costs. Researchers at the University of Portsmouth in the UK have created a “virtual engineer” which uses artificial intelligence to predict when machines need maintenance. The technology learns how a machine works and uses this to make accurate predictions about when it needs maintenance, thus avoiding the need for regular maintenance shutdowns or waiting for a machine to fail before calling in an engineer.

SFDS orange juice bottling plant

Sensors are placed on vulnerable parts of the machine, such as the bearings. Predictive software monitors and analyses the signals, alerting technicians when it detects that a part is not working properly or needs replacing.
It’s the first time this kind of technology has been used on this scale in the processing industry.
According to Dr David Brown, head of the University’s Institute of Industrial Research (IIR), the really clever part is that the system is adaptive. “During the process of monitoring the machine, the software learns more about how it works, which parts are becoming worn, and anything else that could potentially cause mechanical failure,” he explains.

The new system has been tested at some of the processing plants of Stork Food & Dairy Systems (SFDS), a developer and supplier of processing equipment for the dairy, juice, food and pharmaceutical industries
The IIR is collaborating with Stork Food & Dairy Systems as part of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), a UK government scheme which helps businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity by partnering with academic institutions.

I enjoyed writing this article and hope that in the near future more machine developments applicable for the packaged consumer goods industry will be announced. I keep you informed.

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