Labelling machine accuracy and throughput increased


A large labelling machine OEM in the USA has upgraded the motion controllers on its machines to boost throughput and increase label application accuracy. The labelling machine builder has integrated controllers from motion control specialist Trio Motion Technology to increase throughput by over 25%, with labelling accuracy improving to +/-0.5mm.

Founded over 100 years ago, the OEM designs and builds hundreds of machines every year for packaging and labelling applications, primarily in the food & beverage market as well as the medical and pharmaceutical industries. In addition to packaging meat, poultry and seafood, the packs have to be labelled, placed with a high degree of repeatable accuracy over thousands of units. High volume production also means that high speed is required to maximise throughput.

The machines can include both top labelling for branding and bottom labelling displaying product data such as nutritional information. Added directly after the packaging machine, the inline labellers form part of the production process and must coordinate with the speed of the infeed conveyor, which can vary based on multiple factors, including conveyor loading, mechanics, and voltage fluctuations to the driving motor. The next challenge is for the labelling machine to accurately apply the labels, maintaining accuracy even when the infeed of packs is high. Previously, the labelling machine OEM used a programmable HMI to provide control. However, the OEM’s customers required greater accuracy in label placement, which decreased with variation in conveyor speed.

The labelling machine OEM turned to motion control manufacturer, Trio Motion Technology, to provide a solution that improved accuracy, which would not deviate at high throughput. The controller also had to provide easy integration as well as increased reliability to maintain productivity. Trio’s Euro404 Motion Coordinator was selected to control two stepper motors and accept a line encoder for precise conveyor tracking. The Euro404 accurately registers and feeds the top and bottom labels to the incoming packs.
Equipped with precise 64-bit motion calculations on an ARM11 Processor and floating point math, Trio’s Euro404 controller has increased accuracy in label placement by 50%, from +/1.0mm to +/-0.5mm. Crucially, the Trio controller maintains high accuracy repeatability irrespective of the speed of the conveyor and product inflow, meaning that throughput can be increased. This is achieved with standard features in the controller for registration capture-to-motion triggering and electronic gearing. The gearing feature tracks the speed of the conveyor via encoder input and precisely synchronises the label feed motion.
Total throughput depends on the size of the pack, but the machine is now capable of placing up to three labels per second, or 180 labels per minute. This has increased machine throughput by over 25%. The previous system was unable to track the speed of the conveyor and the incoming packs in real-time, resulting in the throughput versus accuracy trade-off.

Time and cost savings
Interfacing with a control panel and e-stop, all settings on the Euro404 are managed through a compact touch screen. Flexible control is provided though the user only needs to set the label size along with a calibration run in order for accurate, high throughput operation to start. As Trio’s environment for motion and machine control is a single integrated system, it’s easier to work with and doesn’t require an HMI or PLC to coordinate and control additional devices required for label registration.

A more stable programming system compared to the previous smart HMI approach is also combined with more reliable hardware in a robust package and a single unit, reducing the volume of required connections. For the OEM, this has significantly reduced downtime contributing to more productive machines.

Combined with increased accuracy and throughput, Trio’s controller has also helped to reduce cost, with fewer maintenance requirements, less development time required, and better value hardware compared to PLC or HMI options. The OEM manufactures around 150 labelling machines per year, meaning that significant cost savings are achieved.


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