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Article | January 8, 2009
Building better vacuum
A new breed of suction cups and a more efficient vacuum delivery system let this OEM build a better case packer.
BluePrint Automation Group is a well-known maker of secondary packaging solutions for a variety of primary packages, both rigid and flexible. But it has a reputation for being especially good at secure gripping of tough-to-handle plastic bags. It’s HVP (Horizontal Vertical Packer) series of case packers is a good example. Available for several years, BluePrint now offers a model that’s marked by a number of advantages over its predecessors. Essential to the development of this machine are an energy-efficient vacuum delivery system and a new breed of suction cups. Both are from Piab (www.piab.com). The BL40-3P polyurethane suction cups have a very thin, flexible, and forgiving lip to give them a secure grip even if the surface of the bag being lifted is uneven or wrinkled. The cups also feature an extra-long bellows that adds forgiveness at the moment where cup meets bag. This cushions bag contents from damage.As for the energy-efficient vacuum-delivery system, it’s a combination of the Piab P6010 vacuum pump and a Piab feature called Cruise Control option. R.M. Hoveling, R&D manager at Blueprint, describes the vacuum system’s benefits by comparing it to a more conventional alternative. “A standard machine uses a centralized vacuum pump that works reliably enough. But it makes a fair bit of noise if you don’t enclose it in some sort of sound-dampening cabinet, and if you do that you wind up occupying a lot of floor space. It also runs nonstop, whether you are picking bags or not. So energy use is a bit higher than you’d like.Also, because the pump is a centralized source providing vacuum to a multitude of suction points some distance away, you need a lot of tubing to carry the vacuum flow from the pump to the suction points. The size of the pump prevents you from mounting it anywhere near the suction points. “This new Piab solution lets us put the vacuum source close to those suction points. That means less tubing and less chance for loss of vacuum. In addition, the compressed air is turned on only when needed. So we gain energy savings, more reliable vacuum, and a quieter operation.”
When Hoveling says compressed air is turned on only when it’s needed, he’s referring to Piab’s Cruise Control feature. It shuts off pressure flow when a pre-set vacuum level is reached. Consistent and reliable vacuum level is guaranteed at the suction point and not wasted somewhere between a centralized pump and the suction point.
Hoveling says the HVP series machines can have anywhere from five to 11 axes of servo motion. Operating speeds, he adds, are up to 35 cycles/min.
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