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PackML shows its value outside of packaging

Who knew that PackML had applications outside of the packaging space? But that’s what Senior Automation Controls Engineer Art Smith at Corning Inc. discovered once he learned of PackML’s existence some time around the end of 2012. His reaction? “It’s absurd that it isn’t used everywhere for automation. It makes perfect sense.”

Though Corning is a global operation with products in a number of categories and markets, the kind of thing that Smith’s group focuses on is thin glass, as in the glass on your tablet, smart phone, or TV screen. Here are the highlights of a recent conversation I had with Smith on using PackML outside of packaging.

  • It’s the standardization of modes and states that makes it so useful, especially when there are so many different vendors we work with who interpret such things so differently. PackML takes away interpretation of machine states. It creates such a solid framework and then eliminates so much confusion.
  • There seems to be a stigma about PackML that says basically this: “I’ve got this piece of hard automation or this robotic cell. I can’t use PackML on that because PackML is just for packaging.” That’s a stigma that needs to be addressed. That became clear to me when I was working on a project where I had to deal with multiple PLC programmers who were all going in different directions. The lack of standardization was something I’d seen many times before. It became even clearer when my PLC code didn’t work on one of the projects I was supporting at the time. Just by chance, someone mentioned a modular programming document from Rockwell. I looked further into it and that’s when I realized what PackML had to offer outside of the packaging space. A lot of where we apply it involves robotics and automation, a lot of it proprietary in nature. But within all machine applications there’s a flow of how a machine works, and from an automation standpoint it’s all the same flow. It has the same states.
  • So a project comes across my desk a short while after I’d learned about PackML and I decided it was time to try PackML. It involved a couple of robots and such. I was blown away by the power of this programming language. All these years I was writing ad hoc code to accomplish the same objectives that PackML had in place in a software template with add-on instructions incorporated. Eventually I downloaded the Rockwell PackML template, and I decided to use that as the base for the code I’d been writing for various implementations. I’ve found the Rockwell template useful, though it’s different for other Corning divisions. Some of them use Beckhoff, or Mitsubishi, or others. PackML has the potential to bridge these controls suppliers. That’s part of the power behind it. It’s not dependent on a specific platform. So if machinery is a Rockwell machine, or a Siemens machine, or a Beckhoff machine, or a Mitsubishi machine, the pre-defined Pack Tags makes integrating them seamless. It doesn’t matter whose platform or controller you are using.

Be sure to attend The Automation Conference May 19-20 in Chicago, where Smith will be on the May 19 program to talk about PackML Beyond Packaging. He’ll also be joining Doug Buschor of E-Technologies Group and Steve Schlegel of the Alliance for Innovation & Operational Excellence (AIOE) in a special OMAC PackML Workshop that precedes The Automation Confrence on Monday, May 18. See here for more information.

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