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Smooth, consistent linear motion for inkjet printing

18 December 2012

A sector that has consistently taken advantage of turnkey motion control products provided by the R A Rodriguez/IEF Werner partnership is the dairy industry. A number of prominent yoghurt and dessert food producers have specified the German manufacturer, IEF Werner’s product handling and linear positioning systems, which are installed and supported here in the UK by R A Rodriguez.

A common application - and one that requires a high degree of precision in frequently aggressive environments - is inkjet coding of food containers. R A Rodriguez/IEF Werner systems are widely employed in the UK for this purpose to control the precise linear movement of many different brands of printing heads across a variety of food container formats.

These systems are easy to programme and operate, and are flexible enough to cope with the variety of products handled by modern food production lines. A wide choice of control interface options is also offered by R A Rodriguez, from something as simple as a manual selection switch to a touch screen HMI, depending on the end user’s budgetary and application needs. 

The main demand placed on these systems is that they faultlessly deliver high quality printing for ‘best before’ and ‘sell-by’ dates as well other traceability data such as batch codes – often at great speed and in difficult operating environments. The readability of these codes on product containers is essential for any food packaging and labelling operation.

A typical system offered by R A Rodriguez and IEF Werner is based on the latter’s easyLINE linear positioning module, an axis of which is integrated into the packaging machine and used to transport the inkjet print head across a conveyor carrying rows of pots, as shown in the photograph on this page. easyLINE is a fully integrated linear position module comprising a geared stepper motor driven toothed belt drive, servo control electronics and fieldbus connectivity (Profibus or CANbus).

Each row of the application described here holds multiple pots and the conveyor indexes to the next row every few seconds. Smooth acceleration and deceleration, and consistent control of speed are vital to the efficient operation of the inkjet printing process. easyLINE offers an acceleration of 10m/s/s, a maximum speed of 830mm/s and a repeatability of +/-0.05mm.

An IP65 rating ensures that this system is tolerant of inter-batch wash down procedures, while its freely programmable controller accommodates a variety of different products and print positions.

While this particular application involves a single axis, the IEF Werner linear motion product programme provides elements that can be freely combined to create bespoke, multi-axis handling systems with high load carrying capacity, high rigidity and quiet operation.


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