Ball Corp.: New controls architecture brings speed and versatility to vertical case packer

Servo motors—instead of steppers—and a controller that integrates both logic and motion control make this case packer special.

SERVO CONTROL. Governing both logic and motion, the controller (above) now used in Yamato's vertical case packer (left) has enha
SERVO CONTROL. Governing both logic and motion, the controller (above) now used in Yamato's vertical case packer (left) has enha

Long known and highly regarded as a maker of high-speed weighing and bagging equipment, Yamato Scale Co. Ltd. ( began selling a line of case packers into the North American marketplace about seven years ago. The controls architecture on these machines—PLC, stepper motors, and pneumatics—recently underwent a serious upgrade to bring customers who install them a whole new level of speed and functional versatility.

The Model FCP-550VA case packer now sold by Yamato relies on Yaskawa ( servo motors for all eight axes of motion. And rather than having a PLC combined with a separate motion controller, the machine's MP2000 Series controller, also from Yaskawa, offers an integrated logic and motion control software and hardware environment. The modular controller offers remote I/O, a digital network linking the servos, and real-time control and monitoring of all eight axes of motion.

According to Yamato product manager Jeffrey Crangle, Yaskawa was chosen as the controls technology provider primarily on the strength of its total package. “It wasn't just their integrated logic and motion control that we found appealing, but also how compact their servo motors are,” says Crangle. “With these controls components we were able to build a machine with a six-foot-square footprint. And that includes collating and rejection stations.”

Described as a “vertical case packer,” the FCP-550VA is versatile enough to handle packs weighing as little as a half pound or as much as 15 lb. Units being case-packed can be pouches, cartons, or even round objects such as cups or a package shaped like a tennis ball container. Pack patterns can vary greatly, depending on customer needs. Units per row can range from two or three to 22; rows per layer can range from one to four; layers per case can be from one to 10. RSC and HSC corrugated shippers as well as trays can be handled.

The case packer uses a dual system of flights to control, orient, and unitize groups of products. The flexibility that comes with servo control lets customers go from case-packing cartons to case-packing pouches in less than 30 min. No tools are required for changeover.

With the switch to servo control and the integrated logic/motion controller, Yamato now offers a case packer that is 20% faster than it was in its PLC/stepper/pneumatics configuration. Speeds to 150 units/min are possible, says Yamato. Maybe best of all, says Crangle, the new controls architecture gives the case packer the functional versatility and changeover capability that today's Consumer Packaged Goods companies are seeking.

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