Instead of a traditional continuous conveying system, smart conveyors are made up of small sections that are joined together. Each section is powered by its own drive, which enables uniform spacing between the products as well as accumulation without back pressure. Absence of back pressure is particularly important as it secures a higher quality output and a much more smoothly running system. For example, if the case sealer runs out of tape, upstream accumulation of ready-to-be sealed boxes could create a large amount of back pressure at the case sealer in-feed. To ensure that only one box enters the taper once it is operational again, mechanical stops and clamps are used to meter cases into the sealer one at a time. Large amounts of back pressure could overwhelm the metering function causing jams as well as rubbing and scuffing, severely lowering the quality of the shipping case, which is of particular concern if it is a display case.
In addition, stops and clamps are mechanical parts that add complexity and points of failure. Smart conveyors, on the other hand, can eliminate the need for these parts in addition to belts and drive chains, which vastly simplifies conveyor maintenance and increases uptime.
Furthermore, if cases don’t touch each other, operators in a hand pack or hand palletizing station can easily grasp the product reducing opportunities for injuries or backups.
This aspect of end-of-line packaging system optimization addresses the need for the various functions within a system to communicate with each other to coordinate and synchronize all parts to function as a whole. For example, if a case erector runs out of corrugate; the packing machine would be informed, which in turn would tell primary equipment upstream to stop sending products. The packer could then load any product already on the infeed conveyor into the accumulated boxes and stop without dropping any product if the situation remains unresolved. Operators would not have to clear conveyors full of product that cannot be used at the time.
The interface between machines typically relies on a communication platform such as Ethernet protocol or discrete signals between machines using relays. Relays are a low cost, yet reliable and easy to troubleshoot option. Communication networks are more complex but can serve a dual purpose of data collection.
The final part of this article series will conclude with a closer look at three packaging line optimization aspects that are specifically geared towards making an operator’s job easier and more efficient.
Pearson Packaging Systems specializes in the design, production, integration and service of secondary packaging automation solutions. As a systems provider, Pearson offers a full line of customizable machinery to erect, pack, seal, and palletize top-loaded cartons, cases and trays. Our integration services cover the full range of product handling and distribution, controls, installation, commissioning, training and service as well as support.
Call us at 1-800-732-7766 to discuss your project.