Flexibility Cubed

Feb. 13, 2007
(Sidebar to "Easy As Changing Hats" from the February 2007 issue of Automation World)
Packaging machine builder BluePrint Automation Inc., of Colonial Heights, Va., has focused in recent years on making its machinery more flexible. “Everything’s flexible now,” observes John French, BluePrint’s director of sales and marketing. “The products are flexible, the people are flexible, so the packaging machine needs to be flexible. It’s flexibility cubed.”One of the goals for BluePrint is to create machines that can be changed by entering commands on a touchscreen rather than by moving equipment. “Changeovers need to be tool-less. Our machines are very un-mechanical,” says French. “We try to use components from SEW-Eurodrive to make changes that can be done on a touchscreen so you don’t have to change cams. That’s important to the smaller customer who has to respond to frequent changeovers.”BluePrint has developed integration tools that take packaging data into manufacturing execution systems (MES). “We’re involving MES to do the interactive programming or provide the capability to integrate with control systems,” says French. “It’s very simple. It’s just communication about the equipment on the line, stop and start signals.”He notes that the integration allows the packaging machinery to be controlled by other equipment, as opposed to creating a human-machine interface (HMI) just for the packaging machine. “We build interfaces into the machine, and sometimes it has its own HMI,” says French. “The trend is for it to go to different equipment rather than to an individual island for the package machinery.”To see the main story this sidebar was taken from - "Easy As Changing Hats" - please visit www.automationworld.com/view-2921