Out of the pyramid

Picture of a packaging machine by SEW-Eurodrive.
Control cabinet of a high-performance flow wrapping machine with the basic package "StarterSet VFFS" with extensive extensions such as Power & Energy plus Safety. (Image: SEW-Eurodrive)

What do a car racetrack in the children’s room, an individually assembled food box for the relaxed preparation of favourite meals and the start in automation have in common? Curious about drive and automation technology that arrives at the machine builder? This way to the machine automation solutions …

Packaging machines are an indispensable part of the process in a wide range of industries. Their automation, functions and movements are determined by product characteristics such as size, weight, volume and, especially in the case of food or pharmaceuticals, a multitude of other criteria. Quick changeovers and frequent product changes require a modular and flexible machine design. At the same time, many application and movement sequences are comparable. This approach offers the possibility of simplification through standardisation.

With the image of a conveniently adapted cooking box for a meeting in the kitchen in mind, SEW-Eurodrive packs ready-made automation packages. With this strategy, the Bruchsal-based company is going beyond the approach of prepared technology templates. But what is behind the new “StarterSet”? Alexander Hack, Strategic Portfolio Manager at SEW-Eurodrive, provides information about this:

Picture of a smiling man holding packaged goods in his hands and standing in front of a packaging machine.
"Automation is complex and our StarterSet helps to simplify it." Alexander Hack is Strategic Portfolio Manager in SEW-Eurodrive's Maxolution Machine Automation business field. (Image: SEW-Eurodrive)

Mr Hack, in the automation industry people often talk about a kit, so what is so different about your company's StarterSet?

Unlike a kit that is self-contained, we are talking about a freely expandable StarterSet. With this, you buy a package that can run on its own. I can think of the car racetrack in the children's room as a comparison: There's the StarterSet, which has everything you need to have fun. And the great thing about a set is that it offers the user the unlimited possibility of expanding this basic package individually again and again.

But it doesn't stop there, not even in the children's room.

That's right. If you want more, you can invest specifically in expansions, for example lap counters or looping for more players or more fun. With our solution, it's more axes, condition monitoring, integrated safety technology, energy modules or more computing power.

How should one imagine a StarterSET, for example for a packaging machine from the food sector?

Especially with packaging machines in the food sector, you see a lot of synchronised movements, temperature controls, monitoring and many other special functions and standardisations. And it is precisely these requirements that the StarterSet meets. This includes the required functionalities and also the software components. On the one hand, they fulfil the PackML standards in an application template - and also include the basic equipment of drive and control components from the Movi-C modular automation system. In concrete terms, this means that the "Form Fill and Seal Vertical" (VFFS) starter set is available for a typical vertical form, fill and seal machine. With the StarterSet, the customer receives an immediately usable basic package of pre-selected drive and automation components and the necessary accessories, such as cables, plugs or clamps. As I said, everything is in there, the contents are coordinated and ready for use. This saves time and reduces sources of error already at the selection stage.
Picture of sustainable packaging.
With the support of automation technology from SEW, the production of sustainable packaging materials that need to be handled more sensitively in the manufacturing process can be better controlled and regulated. (Image: SEW-Eurodrive)

That sounds a lot like a complete cooking box that contains all the recipes you need for a two-course meal in addition to the ingredients. Apart from the hardware, how is this concept implemented in the software?

The comparison with these cooking sets actually fits well. All the components are included, such as hardware and software. The quantity of ingredients and the method of preparation can be individually adapted. You can see it in a similar way with the software. So, it is in the hands of the programmer, how he puts together the software modules (ingredients) and coordinates them to realise a perfectly running machine. We supply the standardised ingredients and the result is the responsibility of the machine builder.

Does the customer need to know in advance how his machine is to be driven and, if necessary, automated? After all, there are many ways to reach the goal.

In principle, yes, but nowhere near as much in detail as he is used to. If we stay with the form-fill-seal machine, then first of all we are dealing with recurring functions and motion profiles such as the flying saw for synchronising the sealing station with the continuously passing film. So, a certain range of motion control functions is required. But how does the user want to implement these functions? In the drive? In the motion controller? In the PLC? In a higher-level control system? We are now in the classic automation pyramid, and it is precisely this pyramid that we are leaving behind with our StarterSet. Users don't have to worry beforehand about where the intelligence in their machine will ultimately work. In the past, this question arose because various licences were associated with it, and thus a decision had to be made in advance. This decision is eliminated here through the use of a comprehensive software bundle related to the machine.

How do users benefit from this?

This gives the user maximum degrees of freedom. The necessary flexibility in the automation concepts increases. And these sometimes have to be modified at short notice to meet the end customer's needs. This is exactly where the advantages of the software bundle come into play. A single-axis function envisaged at the beginning can later become a coordinated multi-axis movement depending on the situation.This would result in a corresponding licence extension and the expenses associated with its purchase if it were not already included in the software bundle.
Picture of a packaging machine.
The software makes the difference: All the necessary functions of the form fill and seal machine are included in the Movikit FormFillSeal software bundle. (Image: SEW-Eurodrive)

What is the path like?

Those who value convenience use the extensive licence and function libraries and adapt the whole thing with targeted parameterisation. The software bundle included in the StarterSet also allows use beyond programme modification to free programming based on Codesys IEC61131-3. The user can freely select different routes. True to the motto: Everything can and nothing must, that is particularly important for us to mention.

Which users are the focus of the new StarterSet?

Due to its expandability and flexibility, the StarterSet is suitable for companies in special machine construction that meet the strongly increasing customer-specific requirements. In addition, due to the possibility of individual standardisation, the StarterSet is also designed for the standard machine series business. The bottom line is: I have everything in one package and I can be sure that everything fits together. Everyone talks about one-stop shopping. With the StarterSet, we offer exactly that, and it is infinitely expandable with SEW-Eurodrive's extensive product portfolio. To my knowledge, this type of package solution does not exist on the market.

More packaging news