i4.0 in practice: the 5 automation trends in the packaging industry
Next-generation packaging machines are being designed without control cabinets and are increasingly vertically and horizontally connected. Big data analyses, smart maintenance and model-based engineering have unleashed tremendous potential. But even conventional automation tasks can be handled more easily with open interfaces and integrated functions. What are the five major automation trends in detail?
What the packaging lines of tomorrow will be able to do
When I look at the highly dynamic packaging industry, I see four major challenges faced by machine builders: more individuality when it comes to packaging, more flexibility in terms of formats, higher availability and less space required for machines and lines. These challenges lead to five major trends in automation:
(1) Connected – the connectivity trend
As a user, I need transparency, whether I want to improve system availability through smart maintenance, make my line more flexible, or optimize complex packaging processes. Without knowledge of subprocesses and plant conditions, I can’t analyze anything – neither on premise nor via the cloud. Modern automation technology and sensor systems now provide all the necessary data. I have to retrofit existing systems, but preferably without the need for programming or intervention in the automation. The IoT gateway fulfills this requirement extremely elegantly and can be set up in just five minutes. Machine builders can also opt for Starter Kit, which includes the Software Production Performance Manager (PPM), for a complete analysis platform from a single source.
The sweet side of Industry 4.0
There is also enormous potential in cross-vendor and system-wide networking via IIoT protocols such as MQTT or the open i4.0 standard OPC UA. At interpack, four machine builders and Bosch Rexroth will showcase the “ChoConnect” project as an exciting example of authentic M2M communication: Four locally distributed exhibition machines from LÖSCH Verpackungstechnik, SOLLICH, THEEGARTEN-PACTEC and WINKLER and DÜNNEBIER Süsswaren exchange information as a virtual production line for chocolate products using OPC UA in accordance with the Weihenstephan standard and create an end-to-end transparent value chain at the shopfloor level – without the need for an MES or control system. The individual steps of mass processing, molding, primary and secondary packaging automatically adjust performance according to individual capacities. The production process becomes more flexible; system efficiency increases.
Merging of automation, IT and IIoT
The fact that inflexible line PLCs will soon be obsolete is also a consequence of a merging of automation, IT and IIoT. With open interfaces such as Open Core Interface, ERP systems can be directly linked to machine automation, simplifying inventory management for machine components. Obviously, there must be also be a security strategy for regulating access to the control system.
(2) Simple – Make it simple!
The current trend towards fewer personnel per line has increased the need for intuitive control units such as HMI with multi-touch. Transparent and seamless visualization solutions are required – on the production line itself and at other locations in the company – in order to continuously improve processes and respond quickly when necessary. The ActiveCockpit interactive communication platform shows that such solutions are already available today.
Companies often need the ability to easily integrate new machines or lines into existing systems – this can already be done mechanically using standardized chain conveyor systems such as VarioFlow plus in combination with the MTpro planning tool. In the future, open M2M interfaces will allow for easy electrical integration.
With the growing need to simplify diagnostics and maintenance, we will see even more web-based service tools and innovative LED concepts at machines in the future. Augmented and virtual reality are sure to play a part here, too. It has been repeatedly demonstrated at trade shows how the digital twin integrates itself into the real picture using open interfaces so that complex technical relationships can be visualized and understood more quickly. A product orientation module for beverage packages by WestRock will be showcased at interpack.
(3) Efficient – end-to-end digital engineering
Ever more complex design needs and shorter time-to-market requirements are fueling the demand for model-based engineering with simulations and virtual commissioning. As a technology partner with industry expertise, Open Core Engineering not only ensures seamless integration of the machine control with simulation platforms such as MATLAB/Simulink or 3DEXPERIENCE by Dassault Systèmes. For immediate creation of a digital twin that can be simultaneously used by mechanics, electricians and software programmers, Bosch Rexroth delivers digital behavior models of its automation products as standard.
Bosch Rexroth also provides a comprehensive library of prepared technology functions along with the machine control. By emphasizing parameterizing instead of programming, flow wrappers, secondary packaging systems, fillers or sealing machines can be commissioned more quickly. Integrated standard kinematics and functions for delta, parallel and palletizing robots are also available. Object-oriented PLC programming and high-level languages, such as Java and C++, facilitate creation of the machine control software. The controllers feature a web server for easy integration of Internet technologies such as visualization using HTML5. Of course, standardized programming templates support the creation of machine programs following OMAC/PackML standards as well as the Weihenstephan standard and PLCopen.
(4) Adaptive – the adaptivity trend
What if the packaging line automatically adjusted the product stream in the event of a fault, instead of jamming and displaying a lot of error messages? Prefabricated software functions such as intelligent infeeds or product grouping are already available, even for these trend-setting M2M scenarios. For the use of robots and flexible transport system a separate controller is not needed anymore. These are managed by the standard machine controller, and the number of interfaces and the effort required to use transport systems or robotics are reduced.
In view of increasingly complex packaging processes, there is also a need for machines to automatically adjust to their environment. Machines require Smart Sensor Nodes with MEM technology like XDK in order to “learn” from their current state. Virtual sensors like servo motors and drives, including the intelligent MS2N servo motor, provide useful information.
Last but not least, next-generation packaging machines automatically adjust to the current format and regulate process speed as well as product handling. Adaptive software functions have also been developed for this scenario of the future. The spectrum ranges from flexible electronic cams in the machine control (FlexProfile), drive functions such as auto-tuning and anti-vibration to frequency response measurements and innovative filter functions for minimizing resonance frequencies in mechanical parts.
(5) Cabinet-free – much more than just space saving
This trend in packaging is not just about saving space in the automation technology, machine footprint and control cabinet space. Instead, it’s about a modular machine configuration that allows machine operators and customers to respond flexibly to different requirements. The individual modules are connected to one another only by a single hybrid cable and can be easily integrated into the machine or retrofitted later. This reduces the installation area and increases servo density in favor of greater flexibility. Installation space, cabling and maintenance costs are also reduced. Such modular approaches are especially useful for secondary packaging and rotary machines such as filling and capping machines as well as retrofit projects.
Solutions for these packaging trends are already available. Use them now!
Manufacturers and users of packaging machines already have numerous options for boosting their competitiveness through intelligent and connected automation solutions. But to achieve this, they need an industry-oriented, expert partner with a broad ecosystem of solutions. At interpack 2017, Bosch Rexroth will give visitors the opportunity to experience the trade show theme of “Connected Automation i4.0 now“ live in all of its facets – including modern networking, simple design, model-based engineering and groundbreaking service. The future of automation has already begun and is ready for “installation” in the latest generation of packaging machines. Now!
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