Times are good for the nonwovens industry. Over the past decade, demand for the typically disposable products has increased at an annual rate of more than 7 percent. Signifi cant growth is expected to continue through 2018 – fueled in part by an expanding global market for household and commercial surface disinfectant or cleaning wipes. Dispensed from central-pull rolls housed in plastic canisters, these products present unique packaging challenges. In fact, for many manufacturers the insertion of the rolls into the canisters is primarily a manual operation.
Product Handling Concepts (PHC), an engineering and design firm based in Appleton, Wisconsin, recently introduced a machine to optimize the process. Aptly named, the Momentum™ wipes canister loader is built to deliver new levels of speed and efficiency to the packaging line. Founded in 2007, PHC provides innovative conveyors, case packers, canister loaders and custom automation solutions to customers ranging from Fortune 500 companies to niche independents. “Our Momentum canister loader is designed to automate what is mainly a hand process in much of the industry,” said Jim Blair, mechanical engineer, PHC. “It's a constant flow machine built to help companies meet burgeoning market demand.”
The Momentum loader is a conveyor-based, eight-station turret machine fed by either one or two rewinders, which supply the rolled product. Entering the machine horizontally via conveyor, the Momentum loader inverts the rolls vertically, and then aligns and inserts the product in the canisters in a radial manner. An integrated depalletizer delivers the empty canisters to the system. “The rotary machine can handle the output from two winders and infeed conveyors – and automatically load up to 180 canisters per minute,” Blair said. “That's double the throughput of typical inline systems.” To keep productivity consistent, the loader includes a balancing laner between the two conveyors. If a roll change or other stoppage occurs on one of the winders, the machine automatically adjusts to supply both infeeding lanes with the output from just one winder. “The two rotary dials continuously feed the main center turret,” Blair explained. “There's no starting and stopping.” At the machine discharge, sensors help maintain quality control. Empty, tipped or partially filled canisters are rejected from the line.
The loader extends efficient operation to changeover functionality as well. To switch product sizes, operators select product SKUs – and associated run rates and rotational speed – from a menu-driven interface. Various dials and funnels are easily changed out, without special tools. Change parts are also color-coded for easy identification between SKU requirements. Thanks to tool-less changeover, the system can be ready for a new product run in just 30 minutes. To achieve both machine speed and flexibility, the Momentum loader relies on Rockwell Automation control and information solutions. An Allen-Bradley® CompactLogix™ programmable automation controller manages machine and power functionality.
Allen-Bradley PowerFlex® 525 AC drives control the rotary motion of the machine, and Allen-Bradley ArmorStart® LT distributed motor controllers handle the infeed and discharge conveyors. Allen-Bradley Guardmaster® safety relays help provide machine and personnel protection. The system is integrated on an EtherNet/IP™ network and monitored on an Allen-Bradley PanelView™ Plus 6 graphic terminal. “Maintaining a small footprint is a key requirement for our customers,” said Gary Freiberg, electrical designer, PHC. “The Rockwell Automation On-Machine™ control solution helps us minimize system size.” With initial installations in place, PHC customers are realizing increased productivity – and new operational efficiencies. A company converting from a manual inline system to the Momentum machine can expect to reduce human intervention by more than 80 percent. “We are pleased to deliver one of the fastest canister loading machines on the market,” said Freiberg. “Rockwell Automation provides the control capabilities we need to produce a leading-edge product – and in the markets we serve, it's the industry standard.”
For more information, contact: Product Handling Concepts, LLC Phone: 920.757.0900 Email: info@phcfi rst.com
Published September 1, 2014