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Article | September 30, 2002
Machine builders speak out on servos (sidebar)
Are servos worth it?
“Servos are better but the complication may be too much for the end users to maintain properly or to diagnose problems.”— supplier of paper packaging equipment. “It depends what the machines are doing. The more sophisticated the operation the better servos perform. There are many functions that can be controlled mechanically and less expensively. Servos have their place when delicate machine control needs to take place but in our experience they have been more expensive to use. But we still build them into our standard equipment because we like being cutting edge.”— supplier of shrink-wrapping equipment.
Advocates of servos say that when applied correctly packaging machines can be manufactured at less cost with fewer parts and with more performance. Critics say servos are too expensive too difficult to work with and don’t live up to their promise. We asked machine builders for their view. Here are a few representative responses:“We believe that they will eventually reduce the overall cost of our machines and enhance our equipment’s capability and flexibility. We also feel the costs will come down as servos become more refined and more widely used in the industry.”— supplier of secondary packaging equipment.“We have found that both the advocates and critics of servos have valid points regarding the adoption of servos. In new designs we find servos are easier and cheaper to use than traditional mechanical motion devices.”— supplier of horizontal form/fill/seal and flexibile pouch packaging equipment.“Here in Brazil it is very difficult to work with servos because they are expensive and the customer and operator think the technology is difficult to learn and to work on.”— supplier of filling and cartoning machines.“Servos typically require a plant person to have the knowledge and equipment (notebook PC) to help program and troubleshoot the machine. A lot of smaller companies do not have this ability.”— supplier of cappers and fillers.“Servos are much more reliable than clutch/brake drive configurations. However it does drive up the cost on our equipment.”— supplier of horizontal and vertical form/fill/seal equipment.“Servos are essential to machine flexibility.”— supplier of bagging printing and tray padding machinery.“Servos quite often are used as a negotiation point instead of a performance point. The fact is they do raise the price but they often raise the performance level as well.”— supplier of liquid fillers powder fillers stoppering and capping equipment.
“We have used two types of ‘servos.’ Current controls technologies allow standard AC motors and higher-level variable-frequency drives with encoders to achieve a ‘poor man’s servo.’ We use the technology very frequently in applications where a true servo is overkill.”— supplier of palletizers and depalletizers.
“All of our machines use servomotors. We find the initial price of the machine is higher but cost to operate over time is considerably less. This is due to fewer parts less downtime and in our case improved accuracy resulting in savings from reduced product giveaway.”— supplier of auger fillers.
“Servos work well and are cost-effective when applied correctly.”— supplier of bottle filling and capping machines.
“We have limited experience with servos using them only on nonstandard pieces of equipment that require a higher level of performance. We are not considering using them on our standard equipment but will use them for specialty applications in the future. The additional cost of the servo is built into our pricing in this circumstance.”— supplier of automatic baggers.
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