Western Cape Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  18 Dec 2008

PACKAGING: Linear Motion at Best


Recent Western Cape Business News

THE packaging industry requires accuracy and repeatability of processes in order to maintain high productivity levels and product quality, for minimal error margins and operating inefficiency.

In addition, a combination of evolving pack styles and materials, developments in technology, and growing legislation place considerable demand on production systems. As a result, linear motion technology is increasingly gaining importance in production and automation systems, due to its capability of delivering efficient solutions for accurately positioning components and products in a wide range of packaging applications.

The technology is being driven by industry demands for smaller, faster and more reliable technology with virtually zero maintenance requirements. For example, the latest linear motion guides are capable of achieving high speeds at sub micron levels of positional accuracy, enabling packaging companies to meet and exceed increasingly high customer demands and tight deadlines. Furthermore, with a minimum number of moving parts and extended operating life, end users can be assured of substantial savings on time and maintenance costs.

Modern linear motion guides and actuators are smaller, lighter and more robust than ever before, yet offer exceptional levels of performance. Just as importantly, this has been achieved in combination with a quieter, cleaner and smoother movement, with a far longer service life than conventional devices are able to offer, and a simple interface to higher level PLCs and drives.

The latest high load capacity ball screws from SKF provide dependable and cost-effective drive solutions ideally suited to the demands of the packaging industry. In many cases, they can be used as a superior alternative to hydraulic actuators, eliminating the need for expensive, inconvenient and environmentally unfriendly hydraulic power packs, the company claims.

These drive systems can be utilised in collaboration with the latest guiding systems, such as profile rail guides that offer excellent levels of rigidity, able to withstand moment loads in all directions due to the square configuration of the raceways. The systems allow unlimited travel, making them a flexible solution for diverse packaging applications.

To achieve the best cost and performance benefits from this class leading linear motion technology, linear guide selection should be taken into consideration as early as possible during the machine design process; this is now assisted considerably by the fact that leading manufacturers of linear motion technology, such as SKF, are offering complete packages, with linear motion guides being supplied already integrated with drives, cabling and interface devices.

Linear guides have the ability to enhance many aspects of the packaging process, offering improvements in productivity and reductions in operating costs.

For example, many modern packaging systems are used to handle a wide variety of pack shapes and sizes, but in relatively small volumes with frequent tool and guide changes.

Traditionally, mechanical cam, lever and bearing assemblies have been used as part of the drive and changeover mechanisms, but these units generally require regular maintenance and can be unreliable.

By comparison, the latest linear motion guides used in conjunction with ball screws provide a simple yet efficient method of achieving the same results, without servicing.

Similarly, conveyor widths often take up to an hour to be adjusted manually, while in comparison, one actuated linear guide permits automatic adjustment within seconds, with small, precise linear guides used to actuate the gates on a conveyor.

Typically, these gates have to be adjusted each time the line is changed, causing air cylinders to suffer, resulting in a reduced lifespan without maintenance. The linear guide reduces adjustments from one hour to mere seconds, with the bearings in the carriage easily handling the offset load.

The development of linear motion technology has exponentially improved the performance of automated applications such as pick and place systems, position control devices, and handling mechanisms within the packaging industry. With linear motion systems able to offer unprecedented levels of performance and efficiency, now available form SKF, technology looks certain to provide further benefits to the packaging industry long into the future, the company says.

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