3D printing + an automated changeover tool

Nov. 5, 2013
Among the contributing editors we assigned to help us cover Pack Expo Las Vegas was Special Projects Editor Bob Sperber, who reports here on an Innovation Stage presentation on automated changeover.

Among the contributing editors we assigned to help us cover Pack Expo Las Vegas was Special Projects Editor Bob Sperber. At The Innovation Stage he heard a presentation on automated changeover. It was by Chris Canna, Project Manager with Schneider Packaging Equipment. Sperber’s excellent report is below. But first, while we’re on the subject of Schneider Packaging Equipment, a word about something they were showing at their Pack Expo Booth: a robot with end-of-arm tooling that had been 3D printed. It was being used to pick and place empty PET containers. I’m sure Schneider isn’t the only packaging machinery OEM to make parts this way, but it was the first example I’ve seen—not a prototype or model or one-off, but a real live printed part on a functioning packaging machine. I’d like to hear from other OEMs who are using 3D printing to make machine parts. As this technology spreads, what will be its impact on the spare parts business that forms such a sizeable part of many an OEM’s business? 

Changeover times are hard to control, and they can compromise productivity. Areas that are hard to control include operator error; complex adjustments for various machine settings and sequences; the need to make ongoing adjustments; and variations in the level of employee training and expertise at a given machine.

Automating changeovers can reduce changeover time, increase throughput, and improve OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness), explained Chris Canna, project Manager with Schneider Packaging Equipment, in a presentation at the 2013 Pack Expo innovation stage. In one application of his automated system, a machine with 14 points of adjustment yielded a 28-minute changeover time savings to provide system payback in four months.

Canna explained how his company's  ProAdjust solution makes such automatic adjustments on common types of machinery, including fillers, cartoners, stamping presses, laser cutters, mixers, case packers, palletizers, and case loaders. The solution consists of a controller and integrated "power packs" that provide the motion. These can scale-up from a single mechanical adjustment point to hundreds, and they can be added to new equipment or retrofitted to older equipment in the field. The solution is targeted for use no matter the control or machinery make installed at the plant. 

No programming is required. The solution features a disk-shaped "teach pendant.” It looks a bit like a hand-held flying saucer, but actually it’s a rugged, wireless user interface that uses simple touchscreen and scroll/jog wheels to let users enter machine changeover recipes. 

The pendant uses simple point-and-click touch screen interface components for easy creation of “recipes” of parameters for each SKU running on a machine. It communicates with power packs that can adjust each axis automatically, or be moved with a hand wheel or jogged using the remote hand-held teach pendant to teach new positions or adjust for material fluctuations.

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