PC-based Control for Packaging Machines

Open automation solutions for the packaging industry

Packaging made from a vast range of materials and in different designs is part of the daily life of billions of consumers. The ever-changing requirements for packaging machines are as diverse as the products to be packaged: Packaging must keep products safe, fresh and hygienic, and at the same time meet criteria for appealing designs. This requires a wide variety of packaging shapes, styles and materials, in many cases for a single product.

Packaging machines therefore have to become increasingly flexible and productive in order to be able to remain competitive. In addition to constant demand for smaller production lots and higher production speed, traceability and extensive electronic process documentation and validation are becoming more and more significant in the packaging industry.

A wide range of existing packaging applications indicate that automation technology from Beckhoff can help to significantly enhance the productivity and flexibility of packaging machines. PC-based control technology can control and monitor the complete process chain for individual packaging machines and complete packaging lines: Beckhoff Industrial PCs and the TwinCAT automation software can be used to manage a wide range of packaging functions such as filling, forming, sealing, labelling, collecting, re-packing and palletising.

For the entire packaging machine sector, Beckhoff offers high-performance Industrial PCs with motherboards specially designed for industrial applications, compact Embedded PCs, a wide range of electronic I/O terminals, versatile Servo Drive Technology, cost-effective Stepper Motor technology, the high-speed EtherCAT fieldbus, TwinCAT PLC and Motion Control software, and Control Panels as operator display units. From these integrated, scalable, and modular control components, the optimal packaging solution can be configured to meet the demands of each application related to computing power, complexity and cost.

TwinCAT: Flexibility with PC-based technology
With the PC-based control system, Beckhoff has created a flexible standard to accommodate a wide range of requirements from different industries. This led to the development of a uniform, fully scalable and, most importantly, open system. This openness, both in terms of the software and hardware interfaces, helps machine builders adapt their systems to today’s diverse and changing industrial requirements without repeatedly incurring high implementation costs and effort.

TwinCAT integrates PLC and Motion Control functions and controls all process steps of high-performance packaging machines. TwinCAT PLC programming is based on the international IEC 61131-3 standard. A wide range of software modules are available for different packaging tasks such as cam plates, synchronisation and interpolating movements of several axes. With TwinCAT, solutions for practically any packaging application can be implemented due to highly flexible master and slave axis combination options and diverse, high-performance motion functions. High-performance tools such as the TwinCAT CAM Design Editor and TwinCAT ScopeView support easier system design and commissioning. PLC libraries with function blocks based on the PLCopen Motion Control and OMAC PackSoft standards simplify programming and permit the use of standardised components.

Open communication interfaces support integration into existing visualisation and control systems. Depending on the requirements of the automation components, the Windows operating system enables the installation of further software components (in addition to TwinCAT) on the same hardware. The Industrial PC as an open, uniform platform facilitates communication between the selected components.

Maximum performance with EtherCAT
The basis for ultra-fast process communication is the EtherCAT Industrial Ethernet system, which is ideally suited for use in packaging machines. The high-speed communication between the controller and the I/O terminals – without special hardware – offers the machine manufacturer previously undreamt-of possibilities: Motion Control with numerous axes synchronised through EtherCAT distributed clocks with nanosecond precision.

With XFC (eXtreme Fast Control Technology) from Beckhoff, any programmer is able to create exceptionally fast and highly precise control solutions for packaging machines simply and elegantly based on standard components. The distributed clock functionality enables highprecision printing mark control, for example. High-speed touch probe inputs of 1 μs can be achieved with EtherCAT time stamp terminals.

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