Unified platform helps robotics for packaging

Application Update: Multinational maker of secondary packaging systems, Cama Group, standardizes robotics on a unified platform to deliver simplified, high-speed automation software and hardware including a programmable automation controller (PAC), I/O modules, motors, servo drives, ac drives, and operator interfaces.


Cama Group, a multinational maker of secondary packaging systems, standardizes robotics on a unified platform to deliver simplified, high-speed automation software and hardware. The company switched from a proprietary technology mix to one automation vendor’s hardware and software. The challenge was to migrate the automation and motion control systems used by Cama Group’s robotic loading units into the new platform.

Using the Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture system, Cama Group robots are easily integrated into packaging modules, machinery, or complete lines. Courtesy: Rockwell Automation


Integrated motion control, safety

  • Programmable automation controller (PAC) provides an integrated platform for motion and machine control, and one programming environment accessible to operators via an operator interface.
  • Multiaxis servo drives allow easy speed and position adjustments, and fast product changeovers.
  • Safety system provides safety and standard control in one package, and simplifies integrating robotics into a production line.
  • Safety relays provide compliance with global safety standards when integrating robots into machines.
  • Drives with safe-off function reside on the same Ethernet network as other components for simplified machine design and production line operation.

Results: Less cost, leaner

  • Lower costs
  • Leaner production line
  • Common platform reduces spare parts
  • Common interface reduces complexity
  • Meets high-speed and performance requirements.

Secondary package systems

A Russian confectionary, a large yogurt producer in China, and a maker of single-serve “capsule” coffees in Italy are three companies using the Cama Group to custom design, engineer, and build secondary-packaging systems.

“Our strength lies in combining robot technology with packaging machinery,” said Paolo Mosca, electronic department manager at Cama Group. The company delivers solutions primarily for the bakery, dairy, and coffee industries, and increasingly for manufacturers of nonfood consumer items, such as cosmetics and toiletries.

Cama Group provides specialized, advanced robot technology for the secondary-packaging industry. The company engineers four types of robotic-loading units, ranging from two to four axes, each with a different payload capacity and application capability.

Beyond pick and place, Mosca said, these “are robot machines that carry out complex technical tasks, such as managing and loading products on a continuous motion packaging line.”

For example, Cama Group’s Triaflex robot—coupled with an intelligent vision system—can work in three dimensions, with 360-degree head rotation, picking random products from the production line belt and positioning them correctly into packaging. The Triaflex robot is equipped with four controlled axes and carbon-fiber arms for gripping or placing products in all positions at up to 150 cycles per minute. Manufacturers can use the robot to load a moving flow pack into a horizontal cartoning machine.

“We design and develop our own line of robots in-house, and integrate them with an array of automated packaging machines,” Mosca said. “The result is a complete packaging and handling solution tailored to each customer’s unique requirements.”

Simpler controls wanted

Increasingly, Cama Group’s customers have asked for packaging systems with simplified controls. In response, the company decided to research how to migrate the automation and motion control systems used by its robots from a mix of multi-brand technologies to a unified platform.

“We strongly believe that the uniformity of our systems is absolutely fundamental, especially in gaining authority in the market and the trust of customers,” Mosca said. “If the machines on a line are different with regard to hardware architecture, software design, and motor type, product reliability can’t be optimized, and more importantly, neither can the price for the customer.”

Cama Group’s engineers recognized that one platform would be much easier to commission, operate, and manage for customers’ engineers, technicians, and maintenance personnel. And, they wanted to meet customers’ consistent need for more compact packaging systems. However, simplification and a smaller footprint couldn’t come at the expense of performance.

“There’s enormous pressure in our industry to give the customer a high-speed solution they can’t find anywhere else,” Mosca said, with “accuracy and efficiency of packaging processes.” Market competition created a compressed time frame to develop and deliver a new solution that standardized on a common control system that could meet these needs.

See next page for more about mechatronics, industrial networks, time to market, and another photo....

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