Trends in the automobile industry are increasing demand for glues and adhesives that are packaged in tubes. Recognising that these industrial applications pose a different set of demands than its traditional customers in pharmaceuticals and healthcare, filling and cartoning specialist, Parle Kovai developed a new tube filler for the job. When the time came to design a second generation, they turned to B&R to solve some persistent accuracy issues, while also adding enhanced functionality. B&R's integrated motion control technology provided a boost in performance and functionality, while its development software and expert engineers ensured the project was completed in record time.
Whether you're headed to a meeting, a wedding or for a night out: looking your best is likely one of your top priorities. As you complete your personal grooming routine and apply your cosmetics, you may not give much thought to all the effort and high-tech automation involved in making the healthcare products you rely on.
Parle Kovai – a joint venture of Parle Global Technologies and Kovai Machineries – is known as a pioneer in the construction of tube filling and cartoning machines for the healthcare, pharmaceutical, F&B and cosmetics industries, with an installed base of over 800 fillers and various integrated systems worldwide.
With a product portfolio that already satisfies both primary and secondary packaging demands, Parle Kovai nevertheless knew that the key to remaining competitive is continuous innovation. "In addition to our traditional customers in pharma, healthcare and F&B, growth in the automobile industry has increased demand for chemicals such as glues and adhesives," says Parle Kovai's CEO & Director, Clifford Edward. "That in turn has resulted in increased demand for tube filling machines and opened up the industrial application sector for us."
Having identified the demand for tube filling machines that meet demands of industrial applications, Parle Kovai developed its first such machine three years ago. Although it is successfully up and running, the first machine has been unable to achieve 100% accuracy due to peculiar problems.
"To stay ahead of the competition, we decided to take the challenge head-on and enhance the machine with better features, while eradicating all older problems,” explains Clifford. Parle Kovai had its first interactions with B&R at Germany's Interpack trade fair in June 2017. "We talked with B&R's experts at great length about the problems we were having," recalls Clifford. "We discussed how a B&R solution could help us achieve our goals of increased performance, productivity and energy efficiency, along with reduced costs for implementation and maintenance.”
"Most companies have no problem doing consulting, presentations and discussions that go into creating a strategic document," says Clifford, "But we have seen many falter and fail when it comes to executing those strategies. B&R's flawless, streamlined and focused approach gave us confidence from day one that the objectives we had laid down for ourselves would be met or exceeded."
The PK 60 AL is a high-tech combo linear tube filling machine, successfully developed and designed by adopting advanced technology from B&R. This machine is capable of filling ointments, cream jellies or any other viscous material in tubes and then sealing or tail-folding them automatically. The machine has a capacity of 60 tubes per minute. This machine is ideal for aluminium tube filling. However, with some simple modifications, it can also fill plastic tubes.
Tube filling starts with the transfer of empty tubes from the cassette on the machine. They are then loaded one by one into the holders on the turret, where they are centered and oriented on the turret. On each track of the PK 60 AL, the tubes are mounted next to each other on a filling tube sledge, which features a hydraulic system for lateral and longitudinal movements.
At the filling station, the dosage and movement of the dosing pistons use servo technology. The tubes are sealed depending on the type of tube. In case of metal tubes, the tubes are flattened and crimped twice, coding the batch details on the crimped area. They then are sent to a transfer system for cartoning. All machine operations can be configured via the HMI and all the parameters for different tube sizes are stored on the controller.
PK 60 AL machine is automated entirely by B&R – from controller to drives. It can accommodate tubes of four different sizes or weights, for example 15, 25, 85 and 100 grams. "Tube filling occurs at high speeds, and our machine is capable of achieving speeds of over 60 tubes per minute. We are able to achieve a filling accuracy of ±1%, which greatly limits waste," says Clifford. A "no tube - no fill" device adds intelligence to the machine, allowing it to sense whether or not a tube is present.
The machine's controllers, I/O modules, servo drives, stepper and servo motors are all connected via POWERLINK. Having a single real-time network for all the control components simplified the machine design and improved performance, accuracy and precision, allowing Parle Kovai to not only save cabinet space but also reduce wiring.
"In our PK 60 AL machines, we have synchronised the mechanics, pneumatics, hydraulics and the automation system,” says Clifford. "B&R's integrated approach to motion control allowed us to synchronise servo drives, stepper and servo motors using POWERLINK as a single communication network. The increased speed and accuracy have improved both ROI and the ability to meet our customers' needs.”
"Our customers demand quick support, and B&R's Secure Remote Maintenance solution helped us further reduce our servicing times,” says Clifford. Parle Kovai technicians are now able to view machine health and diagnostics information on their phones and tablets. "For our customers, that means timely support with minimum downtime and improved performance," adds Clifford, "and for us it means saving time, labour and travel costs with far fewer on-site service calls while providing the same high level of support.” All the necessary service functions are already integrated in the System Diagnostic Manager (SDM) tool, which does not require any programming or dedicated software. It is able to run on any standard web browser.
This, coupled with Secure Remote Maintenance, allows the machine builder to have seamless, secure connectivity to machines on the customer's shop floor anywhere in the world. The PK 60 AL machine is able to provide information of the health of B&R hardware and diagnostics data down to the variable level from any remote location. Parle Kovai can access its machines without interfering in the IT network of the factory. Local IT personnel simply grants necessary access rights and only authorised personnel can access the network. This offers a perfect mix of security and data integrity. "These solutions from B&R offer huge advantages to both our business and that of our clients," says Clifford.
"In the past, we have used different tools to program our various automation components,” says Clifford. "However, Automation Studio from B&R gives us a single tool for programming all B&R hardware – control, motion, HMI and safety." Automation Studio and its mapp Technology components helped reduce time and cost of programming and finish the project ahead of schedule.
"We never expected B&R to finish this project in such a short time, because it was a completely new project for them," recalls Clifford. "Our first machine took two months to complete, but the PK 60 AL was completed in just 21 days thanks to the B&R development team, who easily understood our requirements and quickly delivered results."
"I was involved in the project from day one, and I couldn't name a single area where we could have asked B&R to improve,” says Clifford. "B&R team was confident they could complete this challenging project, and within 21 days we had the results in front of us." The PK 60 AL successfully achieved every goal that had been set for it, Clifford concludes: "We plan to further strengthen our partnership with B&R in the years to come and equip more Parle Kovai machines with B&R technology to streamline their development and add premium features that build our competitive edge."
CEO & Director , Parle Kovai
“In our PK 60 AL machines, we have synchronised the mechanics, pneumatics, hydraulics and the automation system. B&R's integrated approach to motion control allowed us to synchronise the servo drives, stepper and servo motors using POWERLINK as a single communication network. The increased speed and accuracy have improved both ROI and the ability to meet our customers' needs.”