Across the packaging industry, speed and flexibility are the watchwords that guide every investment. At the end of the line, palletizers must quickly respond to new marketing trends and retail demands that alter product packaging and pallet configurations.
“New packaging equipment and methods can dramatically impact downstream processes,” Yeigh said. “Our goal is to build solutions that can meet the demands of the products our customers are familiar with today – as well as tomorrow’s unknown products.”
A leading supplier of palletizers in North America, Columbia Machine manufactures equipment built to meet the diverse needs of the food and beverage, personal care, tissue towel, chemical and other industries. The company boasts more than 4,000 installations worldwide, and the most complete line of conventional and robotic palletizers available.
Packages are typically stacked using either an interlocked or column pattern. Interlocked patterns are intrinsically more stable. However, column stacked patterns can have more structural integrity since weight is concentrated vertically at the strongest part of the case – the corners.
“Column stacked patterns are often the choice for heavier loads as well as loads containing small cases, but these loads can become unstable,” Yeigh explained. “To optimize load stability, the FL6200SW can wrap each layer on the pallet concurrently – as the load is being built – without impacting palletizer throughput.”
“With variable speed drives controlling the film carriage rolls, pre-stretch can be precisely controlled throughout pallet wrapping cycle,” Yeigh continued. “So you can pre-stretch at 250 percent or more for most of the wrap – and decrease the pre-stretch at the beginning and end of the pallet when more film adhesion may be desired.”
One of the keys to the palletizer’s impressive performance and flexibility is the incorporation of servo technology.
“The servo technology delivers the accurate, smooth movement you would expect with a robotic system,” Yeigh said. “The palletizer can handle a vast array of package types because it never picks up the product – and it isn’t constrained by traditional robotic arm and end effector limitations.”
In addition, the smart machine features “zero-time” changeover. The FL6200SW can transition from one package type, layer pattern or wrapping pattern to another automatically, based on information received from barcode scanners or other input methods.
Safety is a key priority for Columbia Machine and the FL6200SW system features an industry-leading safety and guarding package that includes Category 3, Performance Level D safety components.
To minimize complexity, the FL6200SW is built on a single control architecture featuring an Allen-Bradley® CompactLogix™ controller. For integrated motion, the palletizer includes Allen-Bradley Kinetix® 5700 servo drives and VPL servo motors. And for variable speed control of the hoist, turntable and film pre-stretch, the wrapper relies on Allen-Bradley PowerFlex® 525 AC drives.
“There is no separate robotic controller or subsystem,” Yeigh said. “Our customers have a comfort level with Rockwell Automation technology and this equipment offers that familiar control environment for the entire machine.”
Operators will also appreciate the intuitive HMI screens, designed to speed diagnostics and improve overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). The company’s Product Manager HMI software is built on the Rockwell Automation platform.
“The analytics and data the Product Manager HMI can deliver are significant,” Yeigh said. “Over the years, we incorporated input from customers and collaborated with Rockwell Automation as we developed and perfected that platform. We look forward to our continued partnership.”
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