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Mitsubishi Automation improves the productivity of Flow Packaging Machines:

Increased flexibility and throughput gained from a range of tailored automation solutions.

Mitsubishi Electric Spain has developed three automation packages to optimise the performance, flexibility and throughput of flow pack machines. The packages, for Low/Medium, Medium/High and Ultra-High production flow pack machines, integrate the benefits of Mitsubishi Electric’s AC drives, servo systems, PLCs, motion controllers, HMI’s, virtual software and - in the case of Ultra High production machines – vertical robots, to provide machine users with the maximum flexibility in operation, maximum throughput and repeatability in operation. 

Package 1 for Low/Medium production machines (see Fig1) provides synchronisation of 3/4 motors or more. These control the main conveyor belt, which carries the product to the packing area; the movement of the paper or plastic film by rollers, which seal the bag lengthwise; the rotary shear head which seals and cuts the bags – (this action is individually, synchronised with the two previous motors); and the paper feed for very fast machines, which helps to unroll the film in order to prevent unnecessary over-tension

Key to the optimised control of these motors is an automation system based upon Mitsubishi Electric’s ultra-fast FX3U PLC, with high speed counter inputs that make it possible to connect the main encoder on the belt, and to monitor the belt speed at any time (max. freq. 100 kHz). The PLC is interfaced, via an RS485 link to FR-S500 frequency inverters, which are synchronised bringing optimum speed stability and rapid response times to the respective motor functions. These units also ensure high torque at low revs to allow control with high levels of repeatability.

One of the FR-S500 inverters controls the products belt - feedback on the belt speed being provided by a fast encoder and fed directly into high speed counter inputs of the FX3U PLC. A second FR-S500 inverter controls the paper feed based on a calculated speed. Importantly, as FR-S500 inverters are controlled via an RS485 link, it is possible not only to match their frequencies but also to read the status of changes in speed parameters and alarms.

Interfacing to the FX3U PLC and providing enhanced transparency and simplified input to the flow pack automation system is a GOT 1000 operator graphic terminal (5.7” to 15” screen). This unit has the drivers necessary for high speed communication with the PLC, allowing the various Flow Pack application parameters to be adjusted simply and quickly. The GOT 1000 can be programmed in the same way as the PLC by its USB port; a very useful feature for programmers. Moreover, its digital input of data (including temperature) avoids the use of manual potentiometers for changing speed references.

The operator graphic terminal also enhances machine flexibility by storing machine operating speeds for the packaging of different product types. In addition, it also provides a historical record of alarms and their possible solutions; and the facility for storage of descriptive graphics of the machine and maintenance manuals to aid the operator.

Also integral to the Package 1 control solution is a temperature control module: a Mitsubishi Electric FX2N-2LC unit. This is incorporated to monitor the temperatures of the sealing and cutting components. The FX2N-2LC has 2- thermocouple or PT100 inputs, and performs the necessary PID calculations.

The integration of the FX2N-2LC offers advantages compared to external temperature controls, in that all equipment is included in the PLC. Moreover, the working temperatures can be stored in the graphic terminal. This means that, for a future production sequence, the operator simply indicates which product is involved, and the system automatically adjusts all the necessary parameters, saving time and associated cost.

Mitsubishi Electric’s higher level Solution 2 solution for medium / high production Flow Pack machines provides linear interpolation of 3 shafts - or axes, for paper feed, product movement and sealing rollers, with the QD75M4 positioning module. The interpolation cycle is based upon tables established inside the positioner module. 

The tables are updated cycle by cycle, based on the amount by which the reading of the start-of-package mark is out of phase. The updating process of the values for the following cycle is very fast, undertaken in a high speed adaptive process. This is the result of communication with the servo controllers via the SSCNET (servo system controller network) bus, and the very high response speed of the servos themselves. With this optimised system continuous readings of position and speed are provided, and reading of belt speeds with an external encoder is not required.

The automation system that provides these benefits is based upon high performance Mitsubishi Series Q PLCs and Q positioner modules (QD75M4); servo controllers and their respective servomotors, and the SSCNET. The high performance series Q PLC is one of the top PLCs in the Mitsubishi Electric range, offering the facility for multiple CPUs, with up to 4 working in parallel. The QD75M4 positioning modules integrated into the Q PLC control between 1 and 4 shafts, circular / linear interpolated or independent. They offer simplicity of wiring to the (SSCNET bus); high speed operation (5.6 Mbps) and positioning by look-up tables - up to 600 positions being provided.

Mitsubishi Electric’s third solution package, for Ultra High Production Flow Pack machines also employs Q Motion technology, but goes further with the integration of vertical and SCARA robots for loading, unloading and pick and place tasks. In addition, the Ultra High Production package uses virtual software to simulate actual operational patterns before they are integrated into the machine. This proves the efficiency of the automation technology - including robots - reducing design times and costs.

The extensive range of Mitsubishi Electric robots provides an ideal integration option for Solution 3, the Ultra High Flow package, ensuring that the next part of the production line has the capacity to keep up with the packaging process. These include vertical robots (anthropomorphic 6-axes), SCARA Horizontal Robots (for pick and place) and Auxiliary packaging robots. These units offer load capacities of up to 12 kg; very accurate repeatability (0.01 mm); high cycle speeds (SCARA 11.7 m/s); belt tracking functions; and the facility for connection to machine vision systems.

Mitsubishi robots can be integrated into all three flow packaging solutions, as an additional accessory. Whether performing simple pick-and-place operations or more complex packing and loading applications, their ease-of-use and simple programming means that using a robot to complete the flow packaging solution is far easier than people think.  

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Reader Enquiries:

Jordi Solaz Caritg
Factory Automation Division - Spain
Eng & Technical Department
Telf: +(34) 935653115
Fax: +(34) 935891579
 Editorial Enquiries:

Carlos Segura
DMA Europa Ltd
Tel: +44 (0)1299 405454



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