As one of the most vocal proponents of so-called Generation 3 (Gen3) packaging automation equipment, controls vendor Elau Inc. is gearing up to promote the concept further at next month’s Pack Expo packaging show in Las Vegas.
The company will roll out three new backward-compatible additions to its PacDrive controller line at the Oct. 13-15 event, says John Kowal, Elau global marketing manager. The new controllers—the PacDrive C200, C400 and C600—are designed to provide scalable control solutions for Gen3 packaging systems, and will supplement the company’s current PacDrive MAx-4 controller. “What we’ve simply done is try to go both up and down in terms of performance, with the one in the middle (the C400) pretty close to where the MAx-4 is today,” Kowal explains.
Like the MAx-4, each of the new controllers is designed to take advantage of Gen3 machine architectures, which feature servo-centric designs with integrated motion and logic control on a single processing platform. Compared to first generation all-mechanical machines and second generation servo-mechanical hybrids, Gen3 machines are designed from the ground up to exploit electric servo motor technology and open, integrated control systems. The result, say proponents, are mechanically streamlined packaging systems that offer significant improvements in flexibility and performance, as well as lower cost of ownership.
Elau’s new low-end entry, the C200 controller, is designed to bring Gen3 performance at an affordable price to small machines that have up to four servo axes, Kowal says. “We’ve taken off a few of the features that the simpler machines don’t need and reduced the price accordingly.”
The mid-range C400 can easily handle “mainstream” packaging machines with servo axes counts rising to 40 or more, and falls in the same capability range as the existing MAx-4, Kowal says. “The C400 has got some things built into it, such as Profibus, CANbus and Ethernet interfaces, that are options on the MAx-4,” says Kowal. “So if you don’t need some of those things, we could save you a few dollars by going to the MAx-4,” he notes. Kowal says the MAx-4 will continue to be available. “But I think eventually, people will migrate toward the C400 for the same class of applications,” he adds.
Elau’s new high end controller, the PacDrive C600, will feature a 1-gigahertz Pentium M class processor, and is geared toward use on today’s largest packaging systems. “Let’s say you’re running a whole packaging line or even some of the newer packaging machines that are going up over 50 servo axes now, then you’d go with the C600,” Kowal says. The C600 can handle systems with up to 99 servo axes, 99 additional virtual axes and hundreds of input/output, he adds.