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Article | January 31, 2006
Entering the realm of robotics
John Burleson, president and CEO of English Mountain Spring Water of Dandridge, TN, talks about robotics and other new developments in the world of packaging machinery.
PW: How significant a change in packaging operations was your robotic installation?
Burleson: It was definitely a departure for us. We’re in a pretty rural area so the labor pool is not the same as what you might find in a bigger city. The builder of the robot itself and the systems integrator we worked with were very helpful even to the point of offering classes we could attend.
PW: How much programming did you need to learn?
Burleson: Programming expertise is not something we needed to get into all that much. A lot of what we need to do with the robotic cell is menu driven on the touch screen panel that’s part of the Human Machine Interface.
PW: Robotics aside what other parts of the packaging machinery world have you intrigued these days?
Burleson: I like how integrated some of the equipment is becoming. It was only back in ’97 that we started this business and back then it was rare to see an integrated system that could rinse these 5-gallon plastic bottles fill them and cap them in a monoblock unit. I also like what I’m seeing in the new vision systems. Empty-bottle inspection fill-height sensing label detection—these all appeal to us as we look for ways to improve overall quality control. One problem in particular we face is when a piece of stretch wrap somehow gets detached and finds its way into a bottle. It’s possible for that plastic to stay there even through the rinse cycle. Then because it’s clear it’s not easy to detect with a machine vision system. All we can do is rely on the human eye. But we are working with some folks on finding ways to detect such things. We had some conversations at the recent PMMI show in Las Vegas and we’ll be attending the upcoming show in Chicago so that should be a good time to learn more. It’s exciting technology.
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