Be sure to check out next month’s issue of Packaging World for our annual PACK EXPO Innovations Report. In the meantime, a few random observations of the October 23-26 show.
Supply chain challenges were a topic of discussion at countless booths, including that of Hamrick Packaging Systems. Especially difficult to get were controls components like servo motors and drives and HMI screens, noted President Jordan Hamrick. “So we found new vendors in some cases,” he explained. Take the Model 600D/TS tandem servo drop packer being introduced at the show. Servo drives and motors came from Mitsubishi, while the HMI is from Weintek. “We’ve been very impressed by the expanded capabilities of the Weintek HMI,” said Hamrick. “You can play training videos on it, or store manuals with it, and the interface is so intuitive.”
One thing that leaped out at me was how remarkably interconnected the exhibitors at the show are. One good example was on display at Triangle Package Machinery, which, by the way, just marked its 100th anniversary. Featured by Triangle at PACK EXPO was a cartoner whose capabilities were pretty impressive in their own right—like recipe-driven automated changeover in six minutes. But what’s also striking is that the system on display at the show included contributions from at least four other PACK EXPO exhibitors: Rockwell Automation for controls, Markem-Imaje for date coding, Valco Melton for adhesive application, and Cognex for a vision system.
Another good example of this interconnectedness involved Universal Robots, Columbia/Okura LLC, and Rocketfarm. UR chose PACK EXPO as a good place to introduce its biggest cobot yet. The UR 20 handles a payload up to 44 lb and has a reach of 1,750 mm (5.75 ft). Robotic palletizing integrator Columbia/Okura will leverage the capabilities of the UR20 next year when it unveils its miniPAL+, a compact palletizing system that features an integrated lifting column for tall loads, dual stacking locations for continuous load building, and built-in fork pockets that make it easy to reposition it within a plant. Among the things that Columbia/Okura President Brian Hutton likes about robots from UR is thier compatibility with Pally software from Rocketfarm. A palletizing software that not only optimizes case configuration but also offers a digital twin simulation tool, it is certified to work seamlessly with the UR robots through the UR+ platform. “It’s a way of quickly determining if a new pattern or speed or case size will work or not,” said Hutton. “Without this software, you’re looking at a lot of trial and error, a lot of building things out and physically testing them. Instead of that, this software lets you just put in a set of parameters and have the software run the algorithms to answer questions like can this reach or lift or speed be done or not?”
Sometimes it’s machine builder and packaging materials converter that team up to bring a new solution to market, which is what we saw at the booth of Mpac Group. Well-established as a maker of tray and carton erecting machines, Mpac showed an impressively compact carton erector capable of erecting corrugated cookie trays from flat blanks at 200/min. And to bring a touch of sustainability to its offering, Mpac teamed up with PilloPak as the supplier of the unique F-flute corrugated tray material, which has grease-resistant properties yet is perfectly acceptable in the regular paper recycle stream.
Finally, it was fascinating to see how creative packaging machinery OEMs have become in their use of independent movers using linear servo motors. To get an idea of the modularity, versatility, accuracy, and speed that can be gained with this technology, click here and see what Westrock is doing on its CanCollar Fortuna machine thanks to Acopos intelligent servo drives from B&R.