Heightened Flexibility in Blister Packaging

Flexibility is a goal that can be approached from many angles, as Algus Packaging Inc., DeKalb, Ill., recently demonstrated with the release of its Universal-8 (U8) blister packaging machine.

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Algus, a packaging machine builder and a contract packager, was hearing from its customers that they wanted more flexibility in their blister packaging machines.

“We look at all the different types of packaging scenarios that customers do,” says Larry Aska, vice president, engineering/manufacturing for Algus, “and we found that they needed a much more flexible packaging system, so we developed the Universal 8 packaging system. We found that customers needed to adapt the machine to different packaging products whether it be an insert card, foldover blister, RF seal, ultrasonic seal, or heat seal job. What we needed to do is make a machine with flexible feeders that we call satellites.”

The feeders are designed for in-plant reconfiguration. “They come off and you can position them in different spots for different applications,” Aska explains. “Let’s say you need to feed two or three items before you load product, you can put the feeders over on one side, load the parts in where you need to, close the packages and seal it up. Or if you need to do more of the automation after you load the product, with this machine we can do that too.”

The system allows users to handle different packaging formats, from simple face seal packs to complex club store packs. The standard model measures 78-in high x 102-in wide x 96-in deep, with a 12 x 16-in seal area. It has an independent electro-mechanical drive system as well as a servo-driven turntable.

“This machine uses a virtual axis so that all the machine feeders are synchronized to look like a fully mechanical machine but in reality this machine is servo operated,” stresses Aksa. “Feeders can run multiple cycles for product, various feeding of pill strips, gum and so on. The software and hardware allow offline PLC and HMI simulation for debugging and the ability to troubleshoot the system remotely.”

Control is furnished by an Omron Machine Automation controller. This, says Aksa, is a big plus. “The new system uses one main control versus multiple PLCs and an expensive interface, as was previously the case. The Omron control also allows the use of standard Ethernet cables to connect all our satellite stations to operate this packaging system.”

Edited by Automation World Contributing Writer Greg Farnum from material supplied by Omron Scientific Technologies.

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