Wireless communication of box dimensions

This OEM needed a complete solution for box-making, including not just a way of measuring items to be boxed but of communicating those dimensions wirelessly to the cutting and scoring heads of a servo-driven box-maker.

T-ROC builds box-making machines that take large sheets of corrugated and convert them into the corrugated cases that are in greater demand than ever since e-commerce has taken hold the way it has. Now that shipping costs are based not only on weight but overall box dimensions, too, the ability to accurately size a box has never been more important to T-ROC’s customers. So the firm set out to find an easy-to-use way of sizing the item or items to be boxed and loading those dimensions into its box makers automatically.

What T-ROC was trying to improve upon was a semi-automatic approach where an operator had to select an icon on an HMI screen that represents a box blank style. The HMI screen then led the operator step by step through the entire process of choosing dimensions, quantity, and tabs for every style. The touch screen prompted the operator when to start feeding sheets of material.

In place of this semi-automatic approach is newly automated box sizing, something that T-ROC was able to develop with help from Power Motion, a distributor and supplier of industrial automation solutions. Items to be packed are set upon a sizing table and scanned with a measuring light screen from Banner Engineering that uses an array of closely spaced light beams to determine the precise profile of what’s on the sizing table. The sizer also measures the weight of the items to be packed. This data is sent wirelessly to the Mitsubishi FX5 PLC that controls the T-ROC box-making machine. The cutting and scoring heads in the box-making machine, whose servo drives and MR-J4 servo motors are also from Mitsubishi, immediately set up to create a box suitable for the dimensions it has just received from the sizer.

“The sizer helps the operator determine the exact size of box needed without having to try to measure anything,” says Ron Cowell, Owner and CEO at T-ROC. “At the same time, because the system is integrated with the customer’s software, it automatically calculates what it would cost to ship that particular set of items via UPS or FedEx or whoever, and it picks the least expensive way and generates a shipping label.”

Thanks to Mitsubishi Electric’s precision PLC and servo system, boxes can be quickly sized without manual guesswork, resulting in less wasted material. Most important, shipping cost analysis based on box size, weight, and delivery time is showing that right-sizing the box can save a significant amount in shipping costs.

“The Mitsubishi PLC was the exact fit for our control needs on the Automated Box Sizer and helped us meet customer needs within budget,” says Cowell. To see the T-ROC solution in action, see video above.

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