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Integration of robotics is on the rise throughout the field of machine automation, and the packaging industry is certainly no exception. Playing a vital role in today's most innovative smart machine designs, robotic applications can have a profound impact on productivity. Using off-the-shelf software components from B&R's mapp Technology framework, ACG Pampac developed its next-generation robotic solution in a fraction of time, and its integrated blister and cartoning lines are already deployed and running full throttle with unprecedented performance and flexibility.

2017 was a milestone year for ACG Pampac, a leading provider of customised blister packaging and cartoning equipment, who is known for innovative solutions to meet the technological demands of the pharmaceutical industry. The company's intensive R&D activity yielded an innovative new high-speed robotic transfer system that offers unprecedented levels of performance and flexibility for its integrated blister-cartoning lines. "Rising consumer demands call for faster production speeds, greater flexibility and higher return on investment," says P H Deshmukh, VP-R&D, ACG Scitech. Scitech is an R&D center, consulting and helping all ACG units in developing innovative products. Explaining the company's focus and motivation in upgrading the design of its high-speed packaging machines, Deshmukh adds, "Integration of robots in our packaging line ensures flexibility, coupled with shorter product cycle times, new packaging designs and batch manufacturing. It also reduces bottlenecks and alleviates repetitive tasks."

PackX line – Blister X, Carton X and robotic transfer systems is capable of achieving a rate of 900 blisters and 300 cartons per minute.

Next-level packaging with robots

The conveyor systems used for loading, unloading and transfer tasks in conventional packaging lines have limited ability to perform product splitting and stacking. "By using a robot to pick blisters from the blister machine outfeed and stack them on the infeed of the cartoner machine," says Balamurugan K, Deputy Manager of Design, ACG Pampac, "we were able to add a great deal of adaptability to the packaging processes." Integration of robots in the packaging line also gives the machine exceptional precision and repeatability, allowing for 24/7 operation. The robot mechanics were developed in-house by ACG Pampac, and the robot is mounted on a conveyor system that adds a fourth axis for forward and reverse movement.

Flexible yet simple technology

The technical requirements of the new-generation of blister and cartoning machines were very high. "With its mapp Technology, B&R was the undoubted choice as our automation partner for the robotic transfer system," explains Balamurugan. "It drastically reduced our programming effort and gave us complete control over every aspect of the automation system. We were able to configure our customised in-house developed robot with ease using standard mapp components." As machines increase in complexity, so does their software. As a result, the cost of developing and maintaining machine software is skyrocketing.

Customised 4 axis robot by ACG Pampac.

mapp Technology components allow engineers to create and support even the most complex programming tasks with ease – doing more configuring than programming. For ACG Pampac, this meant being able to control a customised robot using standard mapp components from B&R. With mapp Technology, the robot was effortlessly incorporated and perfectly synchronised with the machine's automation software.

X20 CPU and ACOPOS servo drives networked on the high-performance, high-precision real-time Ethernet POWERLINK for achieving fast cycle times and precise drive-to-drive synchronisation.

Speed & safety: Top priorities

"The fully integrated B&R solution, along with the single-cable motor connections, provided our robotic machine with higher speed, accuracy, productivity and also helped us reduce cabling and cabinet space," notes Jawed Shaikh, ACG Pampac's Assistant Manager of New Product Development. The single-cable solution enables power, encoder data and digital security information to be transmitted between the drive and the motor on a single cable, reducing both component costs and cabling. For highly dynamic and precise processes in the packaging industry, extremely fast movements must be controlled with absolute precision and safety. "With B&R controls and ACOPOS servo drives networked on the high-performance, high-precision real-time Ethernet POWERLINK, we achieved fast cycle times and precise drive-to-drive synchronisation," says Balamurugan.

"B&R has provided not only outstanding and innovative technology but also the support needed for a successful completion of our project. Implementing this technology in our pick-and-place transfer system has helped us achieve a rate of 900 blisters and 300 cartons per minute."

mapp Technology

With mapp Technology, ACG Pampac is able to control a customised robot using standard mapp components from B&R. Thus, the robot was effortlessly incorporated and perfectly synchronised with the machine's automation software.

P H Deshmukh

VP-R&D , ACG Scitech

"Integration of robots in our packaging line ensures flexibility, coupled with shorter product cycle times and new packaging designs."

Sights set on the future

To support ACG Pampac in this new challenge, B&R assembled dedicated teams for training, testing and support. The robotic transfer system is the latest success to come out of 17 years of collaboration between ACG Pampac and B&R, and the groundbreaking machine features a full range of B&R's innovative technologies. "The support we have gotten from B&R has always been impressive," says Balamurugan, "and we look forward to building on our successful relationship. The flexibility and performance of B&R solutions gives us plenty of room to continue adding improved functionality and new features." ACG Pampac already has plans for its next project with B&R technology. Development of a new PackX system that will take packaging lines to the next level. "We plan to integrate our complete PackX line – Blister X, Carton X and robotic transfer systems – with B&R controls," says Balamurugan. "We're also looking to leverage various Industrial IoT solutions offered by B&R in this system, including secure remote monitoring and diagnostics," he concluded.

Balamurugan K

Deputy Manager of Design, ACG Pampac

“The support we have gotten from B&R has always been impressive and we look forward to building on our successful relationship. The flexibility and performance of B&R solutions gives us plenty of room to continue adding improved functionality and new features.”

Jawed Shaikh

Assistant Manager, ACG Pampac

“The fully integrated B&R solution, along with the single-cable motor connections, provided our robotic machine with higher speed, accuracy, productivity and helped us reduce cabling and cabinet space. Implementing this technology in our pick-and-place transfer system has helped us achieve a rate of 900 blisters and 300 cartons per minute.”

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