Over the last 20 years, the traditional Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) has dominated the global control landscape across food and beverage plants. Over the last ten years, however, we have noticed significant increases in the speed and flexibility demands of packaging lines that are challenging the use of traditional PLCs. The biggest focal point for investment in the food and beverage sector is in packaging, as this is the area most likely to generate added profit. This area, too, is where the largest proportion of factory labour resides. There is, however, an ever-compelling case for the use of automation and robotics as access to low cost labour gets more difficult, the minimum wage increases, and there is more focus on health and safety. At the same time the cost of the technology is reducing. Whilst PLC based automated packaging

equipment was commonplace twenty years ago, packaging equipment was often synchronised with mechanical cams and product picking done almost entirely by humans. In 1999, the picker robot was introduced and

was controlled by a standard automotive type of robot controller. This was able to pick, orient and place products from one location to another, running up to 150 moves per minute. At the same time, the motion capability of

a number of leading PLC manufacturers was beginning to change. Additional modules were added to the PLC backbone to control motion axes and, as the number of axes and machine speeds increased, the CPUs continually needed upgrading to keep up with and on top of the end machines. In the 2000s we saw many

picking and packing lines with a combination of PLCs and robot controllers, each with their own programming


Two new graphic display controller ICs from Bridgetek, that target the development of next-generation graphics displays for human machine interface (HMI) applications, are now available from RS Components. Delivering support for display, audio and touch capabilities, the BT815/816 controllers enable high-resolution displays and robust HMI solutions to be quickly and efficiently designed. The architecture used in the series can support adding display capabilities to a wide range of 8-, 16-, or 32-bit enabled MCU systems, over a simple SPI interface.

RS Components RAFI 22 DECEMBER/JANUARY 2019 | DESIGN SOLUTIONS 

environments but joined by a network. In the last 5-10 years we have witnessed OEMs

building or buying standalone mechanical robot arms and integrating PLC based motion control of the same type used to control the rest of the packaging line. Whilst the control systems are consistent they require multiple controller and often many control cabinets for the complex lines. Today, we’re witnessing increasing demands

for faster lines that require multiple robots and sequenced motion axes. These need to fit into existing factories that have limited space and be fully IIOT enabled. The traditional PLC based architecture

becomes more and more limited as the number of robots increases – since fast robots each typically require one PLC system. For this reason, I feel traditional PLC based control architecture will be phased out for this type of line in favour of a new generation of ultra-high-performance motion and robotic controllers, that also have PLC sequence capability. These controllers can sequence 120 high speed axes of motion across multiple robots and multiple machines. These controllers also offer full IIoT connectivity and benefit a whole series of digital tools for remote tracking, monitoring, optimisation and remote services including the latest augmented reality support tools. Schneider Electric’s compact

PacDrive3, for example, can be used to control a series of Schneider Electric picking robots and a wrapping machine all from the one controller. Furthermore, by using motors with integrated drive electronics, panel space is kept to an absolute minimum.

Schneider Electric

Author: Martin Walder, VP Industry, Schneider Electric


Now available from RAFI are heavy-duty joysticks for outdoor machines and other applications in which control components must meet extremely demanding requirements. The platform concept enables a robust standard design base

to be combined with customised multi-function joysticks. RAFI integrates buttons, rocker switches, thumb joysticks, rotary encoders and LEDs, as required. Employing wear-free non-contact electronic 3D Hall sensors for motion detection, the new heavy- duty joystick variant is built to sustain five million operating cycles, even in extreme conditions and at environmental temperatures between -40˚C and +85˚C. The compact joystick has 110Nm impact strength in the X and Y

direction. It also handles pressure up to 1000N and tensile loads up to 500N in the Z direction. Due to its high centre of rotation and large 20˚ tilt angle, the joystick only needs a 65mm wide mounting hole.


In cooperation with Pilz-Safe Automation, STOBER has designed the new SE6 safety module for its SD6 drive controller. Easy to use, the module allows for safe drive monitoring in safety-related applications up to SIL 3, PL e (category 4), in accordance with EN 61800-5-2 and EN ISO 13849-1. The low worst case response time of less than ten milliseconds enables fast stopping, allowing the design engineer to keep safety distances to a minimum, the company explains. Features include ‘safe brake

management’, which consists of Safe Brake Control (SBC) and Safe Brake Test (SBT) with test cycle monitoring, which enables the drive controller to fulfil the requirements of the soon to be released EN 16090-1 and is based on a publication of the German Social Accident Insurance (Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung, or DGUV). In addition to the Safe Torque Off

(STO), Safe Stop 1 (SS1) and Safe Stop 2 (SS2) stop functions, SE6 also enables functions for safe movement and safe motion monitoring. The Safely Limited Speed (SLS) and Safe Speed Range (SSR) functions ensure that the drive does not exceed the configured velocity limit values. Safe Direction (SDI) monitors the

configured direction of motion, and Safely Limited Increment (SLI) limits the increment reliably. Safe Operating Stop (SOS) monitors an active stop. Of further benefit, the SE6 allows the

user to respond variably when a limit value is exceeded, or in the event of an emergency stop; while special motors, encoders, cables, or stall or speed sensing switches are no longer required. The user can reuse existing drive configurations or switch to components that are suitable for the application. As with many STOBER drive products,

replacement is easy, as the user only has to swap the removable data storage and confirm the replacement. This transfers the overall device configuration to the new drive controller and can be done without the need for specialist knowledge or software tools. Featuring a consistent two-channel structure, the SE6 tests the integrated components upon every device start-up, after every STO and during operation.

STOBER Drives T: 01543 458858

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