Established in 1948 in UK, Bradman Lake Group, part of Langley Holdings plc, describes itself as a one-stop-shop for complete packaging systems; offering standalone or fully integrated systems custom-engineered to meet the exacting standards demanded by today’s fast moving consumer markets worldwide.
With an impressive product portfolio, comprising the world-renowned brands of Autowrappers, Europack, and Ibonhart, Bradman Lake specializes in the design, development, and manufacture of tightly integrated primary, secondary, and tertiary packaging machinery to a wide range of global organizations, including companies in the bakery, confectionery, frozen foods, dry foods, consumer, pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors.
Award-winning company & technology
A recent recipient of the UK’s prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise 2022, the company’s primary packaging machines use flexible packaging materials, such as co-extruded OPP films; its secondary packaging technology can use rigid packaging materials, such as carton board or various grades of corrugated board; and, finally, its tertiary packaging technology includes machines that use polythene shrink film, or various grades of corrugated board.
According to Bradman Lake managing director, John Marlee: “We have taken an innovative approach to our machine design in order to optimize production. In all instances they have been designed to connect and interact with each other across a common automation platform supplied by Rockwell Automation.”
By adopting this common, scalable solution, Bradman Lake can develop a wide range of machines capable of up to 1,200 products-per-minute utilizing fully scalable automation architectures. The company also standardizes, where feasible, on single-variant servo drives and motors for its motion solutions, making its customers’ stock/spares holding far simpler.
Agility & flexibility
A recent innovation that deploys this control platform is the company’s new IMF Intelligent Motion Feeder, which leverages the incredible agility and flexibility of the Rockwell Automation iTRAK intelligent track system.
The iTRAK unit is mounted (cantilevered) above the primary-feed conveyor and uses programmable motion of the individual movers – with mounted pusher assemblies – to correctly pitch and phase the random product feed, depending on the desired packaging recipe, prior to transfer into the infeed of the flow wrapper.
“Traditionally when you’re feeding products into packaging machine,” Marlee explains, “a typical approach would involve product positioning and/or servo-controlled belts to position products at the correct pitch and position, but with our IMF we don’t need to worry about where the product is. iTRAK allows us to automatically find the gaps between the products and it then positions/synchs them into the desired pitch. We used to move the product to the machine, now we move the machine to the product.”
Faster, simpler, gentler
This approach is highly favorable for a number of reasons. First, there is no need to anchor the products – using physical clamps or vacuum – when they’re moving at high speed, as the iTRAK movers keep pace with the primary belt and gently push the products into position. Secondly, as the product is not physically restrained or gripped, there are far fewer quality issues, and finally, the whole system is simpler, requiring fewer positioning belts.
“We can also run different products and pitches without significant re-engineering,” Marlee adds, “as well as running more challenging products at higher speeds. The iTRAK’s adaptable motion profiles also mean we can use the feeder as a buffer, to regulate the speed of the infeed to the wrapper. There’s no need to queue products before machine, which is ideal for fragile/messy/sticky items.”
Internationally accepted automation solution
“Rockwell Automation helps us with our mission of openness and transparency,” Marlee explains. “We also exploit their worldwide presence. If a customer needs a spare, they can speak to a local Rockwell Automation representative or distributor, they do not need to go through us. This is one of the primary reasons for our adoption of an open, internationally accepted automation solution.”
“We also like the fact that our engineers only need to ‘talk’ one automation language and it is the same for our customers,” Marlee concludes. “They may have separate machines that all go to make up a complete line, but they all run on one language, one platform and one protocol. Product development at Rockwell Automation has mirrored our machine development and suits our diversity from the simplest machine up to the most complex production line. What we want is happy customers that have no hesitation in coming back to us and I think Rockwell Automation helps us achieve this.”
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