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Improving the flexibility of high-speed packaging systems

27 March 2006

Can-handling machine engineers T W Hi-Cone of Slough has developed a fully automatic multi-packaging system that features programmable settings, reprogramming on the fly and 'tool-less' operation, to enable the quick changeovers between product runs. The Model 9352 is controlled by InteractX, a software suite developed by CTC Parker specifically for high speed machine control.

“The InteractX is run on a CTC Parker PX PowerStation graphical interface, which holds a number of programs for different product runs in non-volatile memory,” explains Andy Markgraf of UK distributor AJM Automation in Derby.

The Model 9352, which applies a continuous strip of Hi-Cone carriers to cans, separating them into 4, 6, 8 or 12 multi-packs, is suitable for any beer and beverage operation. It can work at speeds up to 2,400 cans per minute with speed determined by sensors monitoring the line operation

It includes diverters and turner-diverters designed to position the multipacks into a suitable discharge pattern for the case packer and can be supplied as either a right or left hand unit with a powered reel stand designed for installation at either end. Part of its programmable flexibility includes the ability to incorporate merchandising panels, easy carry handles, zipper opening and other features to attract shoppers.

Hi-Cone’s Mark Prodger, says that his customers need high performance equipment to remain competitive in the battle of the brands, but nonetheless still find such technology daunting. “The speed and complexity at which such machines operate is awe-inspiring, and it’s a big responsibility to be in charge of them. So we always encourage customers to make full use of the AJM support services, such as InteractX training seminars”.

”Once you apply yourself you realise that InteractX is very OEM-friendly. It runs on Windows on any office or industrial PC and is configured for reliability, ease of application, and reduced long-term costs of ownership. The advanced graphics make it a joy to use.”

InteractX includes ActiveX tool enhancements, and real-time data acquisition automatically optimises the amount and efficiency of data being acquired from controllers.

Further key features of InteractX include OPC server capability, enhanced ActiveX control support, Tag Editor updates, COMM Server updates and additional support for Ethernet drivers. InteractX’s ActiveX support integrates HMI seamlessly with other, third-party applications such as vision products.

InteractX runs on Windows/2000/NT/XP and Embedded NT operating systems and, as HI-Cone chose, on CTC’s PX PowerStations.

The philosophy behind InteractX, explains Markgraf is to create a universally affordable control platform. “The unlimited tags allow machine builders address their functional requirements, without having to pay individually for each tag or deal with system features they don't need – dragging them into the IT world.”

PX Series PowerStation workstations provide a bundled HMI solution for users who want higher Windows functionality along with a choice of 10”, 12”, 15” or 18” high-resolution touchscreen displays. “This bundling lets OEMs avoid the integration issues with hardware and software products from different companies, another major cost and impediment to efficiency.”

Hi-Cone has been so impressed by the InteractX/PX PowerStation combination that it is standardising on it around the globe, reckoning that it is one of the key elements that allows it to compete against OEMs from low cost economies. The confidence it inspires in their end-users is perhaps the single greatest value-adding feature of the Model 9352.


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