Packaging Success Stories

Beckhoff: Optimized with EtherCAT: horizontal conveyor is the innovative choice for food packaging

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High production output, flexibility and efficiency while fending off high cost pressures are the guidelines for mechanical engineering in the food packaging business. Innovative and flexibly designed processing and packaging systems are called for in order to keep pace with current trends in the food industry. While developing its new tna roflo® HM 3 horizontal conveyor, tna Australia, a manufacturer of food packaging systems, chose to use a Beckhoff controller to boost system power while streamlining the architecture. The feeding and distribution system can be integrated seamlessly into a packaging line for food products and impresses end users with its high flexibility and speed of operation.

tna Australia Pty Ltd., based in Silverwater, Australia, is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of turnkey, integrated packaging and processing solutions  for the food industry. The tna horizontal and vibrating conveyors distribute and transport products such as snacks, confections, nuts, pasta, fresh produce or  pet foods and feed them to the packaging system. The most recently developed  horizontal conveyor system, the tna roflo® HM 3, is an innovative solution for the  transport and distribution of food products. “It was specially developed with a  view toward simple integration in upstream or downstream seasoning, weighing and packaging modules and enables the development of customer-specific  solutions. With the tna roflo® HM 3, different products can be conveyed at the  same time on a single line and moved in different directions,” explains Kerryn  Ball of tna Packaging Systems.

Perfect control using EtherCAT communication

The tna roflo® HM 3 horizontal conveyor gives the operator complete control  over the speed and direction of movement of the conveyed food products by  implementing control commands virtually in real-time.

With a view to performance optimization, tna’s aim in developing the  tna roflo® HM 3 was to implement a distributed control system with real-time  Ethernet as the basis for communication. “Prior to the start tna had considered a  range of communication options. Ultimately EtherCAT was the only system that is proven to work efficiently on standard hardware without having to install a  processor board especially for the communication,” Kerryn Ball stresses.

“Since EtherCAT is an open standard protocol, we were able to develop our own  EtherCAT master for real-time communication with the horizontal distribution  system. The openness of the EtherCAT platform also gives us the option to use  devices from different vendors. That offers both us and our customer’s valuable  flexibility,” says Kerryn Ball.

Simplified cabling, lean control structure

tna has now installed EtherCAT into all non-stand-alone tna roflo® HM 3 systems  worldwide. Currently, the most extensive system of this type is located in France:  21 servo axes for three production lines are controlled by just one computer.

There are further large-scale installations in Korea, with 18 axes, and in Mexico,  with 19 axes. A single communication network can be used for several tna  roflo® HM 3 systems

The connection to the field level takes place via the EK1100 EtherCAT  Coupler. Digital inputs such as level sensors and all universal inputs are connected via standard input terminals. Air-operated doors, warning lamps etc. are  connected to the digital output terminals. The EK1122 branch terminals increase  the topology options of the EtherCAT network in the case of larger systems for  which a star topology is suitable.

Highlights of the EtherCAT solution

In the example of the system installed in France, 21 tna roflo® HM modules make  up a distribution system that is perfectly tailored to the needs of the customer’s  application. A single tna “switcheroo” or “lifteroo” feed line – a mechanism  that separates, tilts and turns the tna roflo® HM pans – is able to distribute  three different products from the processing line to the waiting packaging machines. This innovative function changes the way in which processing lines are  interconnected and enables the simultaneous movement of products in several  directions on a single packaging line. “Previously we needed three conventional  feed lines for this – with the corresponding costs and space requirements. With  the EtherCAT-based controller, the 21 servo axes distributed throughout the  entire factory are controlled by just one powerful computer,” says Kerryn Ball  outlining the advantages.

“Thanks to EtherCAT we can build and test the tna roflo® HM modules at  our production site. All cables are located in the roflo® HM modules; in addition,  information is exchanged over the network so that no ‘spaghetti cabling’ is created and the system can be designed very simply,” explains Kerryn Ball.

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