Pack Expo 2012 Reveals Manufacturing Mood

Nov. 2, 2012
The non-cyclical packaging industry loves a big show and Pack Expo International 2012 did not disappoint. The devastating storm on the East Coast presented some challenges for some attendees, but topics such as higher production rates, quick changeover technology and mixed networking protocol applications prevailed once the show started.

The Pack Expo International trade show, held Oct. 28-31 at McCormick Place in Chicago, Ill., pushed aside a hurricane and delivered an event that saw attendees feeling optimistic about the packaging industry and, in general, manufacturing for 2013. Emerging themes were an increased push for robotics in more secondary packaging applications, smaller footprints for machine control and the integration of multiple automation technologies in one application—see VIDEOS below.

In general, the mood of the attendees was upbeat even with the East Coast super storm affecting arrival times for many attendees and suppliers. Still, in spite of the storm, Pack Expo welcomed 45,300 attendees to McCormick Place for the four-day event, an increase of 3 percent over the 2010 show. Much of this increase can be credited to the large growth in the number of international attendees, which was up just over 53 percent from 2010, according to the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI).

Below is a product roundup of automation suppliers and assorted video from the show.

ABB -  The Switzerland-based company demonstrated a palletizing and de-palletizing application with its IRB 460, 760 and 460 robotics. The IRB 760 is designed for high-throughput, full-layer palletizing and depalletizing, and comes equipped with a Schmalz vacuum layer gripper.  With a payload capacity of 450 kilograms and a reach of 3.2 meters, this 4-axis robot features a high inertia wrist that can handle large product and tooling payloads. Also making an appearance was the company's RobotStudio Palletizing PowerPac. This software provides a pre-configured palletizing cell operation—up to 90% of the configuration is done and reduces setup time for system integrators; other PowerPacs from ABB include welding and injection molding. 

Norgren - The pneumatic motion and fluid controls company showcased its new integrated valve and actuator control (IVAC) cylinder models, the Cleanline and Industrial. A fully modular concept, the unit combines the cylinder, pilot and control valves, position sensors and speed regulators in a single integrated unit; the Cleanline version—targeted for food, beverage and packaging envirorments—has an ingress protection rating of IP67.  Released in August 2012, the company says the new line can achieve a 50 percent reduction of compressed air needed due to the new design. Also on display was a Step-Up Actuator concept product that looks to offer high-precision accuracy with fourteen different positions, providing accuracy without the cost of an electric actuator. 

Lenze - Lenze America launches a hardware platform for machine-oriented visualization and control applications.  Based on the proven architecture of the controller 3200 C, the new panel controller p500 complements an extensive Lenze portfolio of motion control products and software. Available in three convenient screen sizes (7, 10.4 and 15 in.), the ‘all-in-one’ panel controller p500 series is equipped with a touch-sensitive thin-film transistor (TFT) display. Video coming soon.

Molex - With endusers and machine builders looking to go faster, the company showcased its Brad Micro-Change M12 Cat6A connector system designed for vision and high-speed data transfer applications in harsh environments. The sealed Micro-Change connector system features a complete 360 degree shielded design using 4-twisted pair construction. When mated, the shielding crosses of the connector and receptacle overlap to achieve optimal signal performance without system noise interference. X-coding alignment enables blind mating and recessed male pins prevent pin damage during mating. The Brad Micro-Change connector system mounts using a standard M12 threaded coupling nut. Molded cable assemblies come with 26 AWG shielded cable construction and have corrosion resistant hardware to assure optimal reliability in demanding environments. Other news included the announcement of the Conformance Class B Certification by the Profibus Nutzerorganisation in accordance with Profinet specifications for the IP67-rated Brad Harsh I/O Modules. 

Enfield Technologies - At the show, the company launched a new product for precision motion using pneumatic actuators. As written recently here on Automation World, the concept allows for pneumatic actuators to work like electric drives while supporting high loads and reducing machine footprint. See video demo from the show. Other products include electronic pressure regulators (EPR), proportional pneumatic valves and controls, servo pneumatic valves and controls, and pressure sensors.

Bosch Rexroth - The company highlighted its Mechatronic @ Work booth display with a renewed focus on multiple technologies, including linear components, pneumatic actuators, advanced PLC controllers and the company’s CKL module with an ironless linear motor and IndraDrive Mi integrated motor-drive unit into a working machine. The demonstration at the booth—see VIDEO below—showed energy efficiency, modularity and intelligent integration within the technology parameters of mechatronics. 

Advantech - The China-based company featured their Adam machine-to-machine modules, along with its Apax controllers.

Festo -  Following up on the theme of multiple technologies, the company demonstrated its Bionic Handling Assistant that includes pneumatics, effector technology, sensors, control and regulation technology, and bionics. For the engineering of the Bionic system, it was essential to use reliable components, which would allow the safe and reliable movement of the “trunk,” the company adds (Video demo from the show). I also talked to their Industry Segment Manager for the Converting industry, Jacqueline MacPherson, and she added they were pushing ISO13849, the machine safety standard, to machine builders. She also mentioned the converting industry is experiencing many updates, in terms of automation technology, for existing, larger plants. Another product on display was the Adaptive Robotic Tooling for quick changeovers in the food and beverage industries.

Intermec - The supply chain company announced the release of the CK3 Next Generation Series of rugged mobile computers used for manufacturing and supply chain applications. The CK3 includes two models, the CK3X and CK3R, which uses a 1GHZ architecture. The new series is  backwards compatible, allowing customers to easily migrate to the latest technology.

Siemens Industry, Inc. - The company touted a new and improved Simotion Scout 4.2, which is the engineering system used for configuring Simotion motion controllers. Simotion is the scalable motion control system that enables central machine functions to be implemented with just one controller, via drive-based, PC-based or controller-based. With its graphical-based programming, Scout 4.2 also benefits from new features such as automatic drive integration and detailed comparisons for graphics-based programming languages. 

ProSoft Technology - The company's Ethernet IP gateway allows you to talk to various legacy systems. Stand-alone gateways let you talk to multitude of manufacturers' control systems—100 different protocols for industrial automation as well as building control, fire control and air conditioning systems. See VIDEO DEMO from the show.  

Yaskawa -  A movement is now underway, from Yaskawa's perespective, to consider using robotic casing solutions in food and beverage. The company is an encompass partner with Rockwell Automation and Yaskawa displayed its MLX100 Robot Gateway solution, which was handling jars of peanut butter for case packing at the booth. The company added that the ability to program the robot from within RSLogix software opens new possibilities for packaging machine OEMs and end users. Using PAC / PLC language, the MLX100 allows users to program, deploy and support robotic system solutions utilizing their existing in-house PAC / PLC experience.

Beckhoff Automation - The AW staff visited the Beckhoof booth and Joe Martin provides a demonstration of multi-touch panels, see video below. 

Harting Inc. - RFID had its day in the early 2000s as Wal-Mart moved to tag everything under the sun in the supply chain. Now, Harting is reinventing and reintroduding the technology for machine builders shipping large machinery. The company showcased the Ha-VIS RFID hardware and software solution to track large crates for OEMs in the supply chain.

Be sure to visit for the latest show updates and information. Mark your calendars for PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2013! September 23 – 25, 2013