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Packaging machines are now incorporating robotics and vision

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Packaging machines are now incorporating robotics and vision to boost their markets and to make businesses in the area more competitive.

Packaging professionals are confronted with numerous challenges: increased international competition, reducing delivery times, splitting up batches, product hyper-personalisation, and safety and ecological constraints. This means that the most innovative production technologies are being harnessed to meet the demands of customers and consumers. As part of the Packaging Trade Fair, Symop is setting out the contribution they make to this major sector of the French economy.

Packaging lines: guaranteeing efficiency

We already know that in Europe the trend is towards concentrating factory output by speciality (skin products, shampoos, etc.) or by product in order to optimise efficiency. These goods have to be customised according to the market. At the same time, segmentation is increasing (products for men, women or children from 2 to 5, etc.). The potential to differentiate products at a late stage thus becomes a necessity – but bringing a line to a halt for more than an hour is unthinkable when we live in an era of 0 stock and 0 delay.

Packaging lines are adapting to these requirements for hyper-flexibility and manufacturers are responding by offering highly modular machines and focusing not just on a large number of innovations but innovations that are more compact (to save on costly m²). The industry is re-inventing itself to ensure efficiency, moving from mechanics towards automation with the integration of brushless motors and servo drives as a means of increasing productivity. The current hyper trend is the use of lasers for coding. Industrial vision is establishing itself as a natural solution in the quest for 0 defects and in response to the demand for customisation and product traceability.

Vision and robotics: an increasingly important role in the service of competitiveness

The reputation of French companies in the areas of luxury goods, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and agribusiness is already well-established. These highly-competitive industries require technologies that ensure modularity and quality. Automation, robotics and vision are, therefore, widely leveraged for making frequent format changes, stylising packaging, intensifying the pace or for designing multiple batches.

Industrial vision and robotics are essential for precision handling and consistent control at high speeds. In packaging, the rate can reach more than 900 packaged parts per minute, or more than 15 parts a second. In 2011, 352 robots were delivered to the packaging sector in France for palletising, packing and packaging itself – a figure that is 10 % higher than for 2010.

One of the latest trends is to improve the payload of the robots used, whether larger in size or to increase their load capacity from 200 kg to 500 kg. A greater quantity of products can then be shipped at the same time, where once several steps were required, and the cycle time is thereby shortened.

Businesses, clients, consumers: technologies that guarantee productivity and quality

Vision technologies are growing in all sectors where quality and safety are a prerequisite. The increased use of 2D, 3D or X-ray inspection can reduce defects to a minimum or even achieve the required “zero defects” status.

Thanks to the reduction in packaging, and to save on costs and preserve the environment, QR Code (well-known in industry as the heir to Datamatrix) is making an impressive entry into the field of packaging. Adaptable and easy to implement, it can be used for tagging and reading and makes it possible to communicate product information and composition to the consumer without overloading the packaging.

French industry must be able to take advantage of the best technology to be more productive. In packaging, as in other sectors, the modernisation of the production processes remains a major factor in competitiveness for the nation’s businesses

Symop is launching its “Productivez!” campaign to help businesses, especially small to medium-sized companies, modernise and adapt their production facilities as a means of improving their competitiveness. The members of the association will present a range of pragmatic and applied services at the trade fair.

Every day the Forum Symop (stand 5a, C136) will offer on-site experts and technical conferences to provide adequate answers to the problems encountered by visitors when optimising their manufacturing facilities. There will also be an innovation this year: Symop has joined forces with Ubifrance, who will organise free, individual meetings at the Forum from 3 pm to 6 pm that will be reserved for exhibitors so that they can have a better understanding of the market openings and opportunities for agribusiness in South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

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