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Smart Track conveyors run up to 400 products/minute

26 August 2015

Lenze in partnership with food & pharmaceutical packaging experts Tekpak have used the latest in drive technology to achieve precise product spacing at speeds up to 400/minute.

The spacing is done by servo driven conveyors in a process known as Smart Track or Smart Belt. This new series of high speed in-line phasing machines developed by Tekpak will be marketed under the model name “Accufeed“ and is now available in variants from 2 to 8 belts.
Tekpak Automation Machinery are experts in end of line packaging machinery such as robotic pick & place, case packers, carton erectors and feeding systems to flow-wrappers.   With their production site in Wexford, Ireland and a U.K. based sales and technical support office, their customer base includes Danone, Unilever, 3M Healthcare and Abbott Medical to name but a few.  The co-operation with Lenze was begun when they  needed a controller for a high performance Smart Track product spacing system. In particular they needed faster speeds, a guarantee of no product gaps and high reliability.

The requirement for the Smart Track system is to take irregularly spaced products from an upstream process and to place them accurately and evenly onto a flighted belt.  The Accufeed conveyors designed by Tekpak feature items such as pneumatic tensioning system, quick change belts (1 minute), small end rollers for short products, hygenic design for food and pharma applications and modular stainless steel construction. The new Tekpak design uses up to eight small conveyors in series, each 350mm long and driven with individual Lenze servo motors.  These motors dynamically adjust the belt speed faster and slower to achieve even spacing.  The process starts with a fast touch probe sensor signal that indicates a product is approaching the Smart Track conveyors.  The signal is processed in a Lenze controller using new  Smart Track software.  This gives speed control through an EtherCAT bus to individual servo drives and servo motors.  Subsequent products entering the conveyors are automatically speeded up or slowed down to achieve the required spacing.

The complete drive system is supplied by Lenze. The servo axes have i700 servo drives with resolver feedback from MCS09 servo  motors. These connect to the conveyors with a 8:1 toothed belt reduction.  As well as the 3200 C controller, Lenze I/O System 1000 is used for fast handling of signals.  Operator visualisation is done with a 7 inch Lenze p300 touchscreen through a DVI-D link on the controller.  Furthermore there are an additional six axes for the infeed and row equalisation using i700 drives in open-loop configuration.

Lenze application engineers worked closely with Tekpak’s design team to achieve the particularly high speed of this new design, matching the requirements of fast running downstream machinery such as a horizontal form, fill and sealer. Tekpak required that there should never be a product gap and this was achieved by some non-contact buffering within the Smart Track conveyors together with adjusting the speed of the downstream flighted conveyor.  The Smart Track system is user-friendly when it comes to product changes as these can be done in the software without having to change the sensor positions.

The Smart Track software is part of the Lenze FAST pre-configured application software.  This covers machine operations such as linear motion, registration, synchronistation, pick&place robotics and winding.  Each module contains proven software for motor drives which can be combined through a template into a complete machine control system.  The task for the software engineer becomes more of parameterisation rather than program writing.  As a consequence the creation process is much faster leaving more time for the core expertise of the machine designer.  The resulting program is already proven and optimised from many years of international experience so errors are reduced and commissioning is easier.

This new “Accufeed“ Smart Belt system extends the end of line machinery range offered by Tekpak.  The high speed capacity and easy product change gives increased productivity for their customers. The key to the fast and reliable operation is the Lenze Smart Track software together with the complete package of controller, visualisation, drives and motors that are easy to interconnect.

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