GKS Packaging is an innovative machine builder, with engineering, production, assembly and service in a factory in Son, The Netherlands.
In its early days it examined the market for packaging machines to discover what was really required and which trends had an effect on this market. GKS then generated a basic requirements list for a new-generation of vertical form, fill and seal (VFFS) machines and started developing its first prototype, GKS Packaging ‘rewrites’ the rule books and steps ahead of the competition with help from Rockwell Automation Innovative machine builder creates new cleanliness standards for food-industry machines, with Rockwell Automation at the controls. the GKS Easypack EP200, which was launched at Macropak 2000.
This approach to innovation was reinforced by the recent unveiling of a brand new machine concept which, according to Ivo Geukes, owner of GKS Packaging, “has rewritten the rule books for VFFS machines”.
“The new machine’s design started from a blank sheet of paper, with no restrictions on the design,” Geukes explains. “We knew we CusTomeR ApplICATIonhad to get the right suppliers on board and it was our quest for stainless steel components that lead us to Rockwell Automation, with its Allen-Bradley MPS Series servo motors. We also looked at what our major customers were using in terms of automation suppliers and once again this lead us back to Rockwell Automation.
“We put together a list of needs for the new design,” Geukes elaborates, “and then fed these needs to the automation market. We then looked at hardware profiles and weighed them up against their price… and, once again, Rockwell Automation offered us the best match. Apex, a Rockwell Automation Encompass Partner, was also able to supply us with stainless steel planetary reduction gear boxes – another vital element of our design.”GKS Packaging also needed a good local software engineer, which Rockwell Automation had in its in-country CSM team.
The new machine offers an IP67/69K hygienic design: there are no trap points, no flat horizontal surfaces and the entire machine frame, parts and panels are made from stainless steel – but with some clever design tweaks to keep the overall weight down. What is more, all of the modules that normally festoon the outside of traditional VFFS machines are enclosed, including the electrical cabinet and film rollers.
At the heart of this new machine concept is an Allen-Bradley CompactLogix Programmable Automation Controller (PAC), running programmes that use PackML standards and signals, and the user interface is via an Allen-Bradley PanelView Plus HMI.
The machine’s motion solution comprises four Allen-Bradley MPS Series stainless steel servo motors, one for the seal jaw mechanism, two for the film-transport belts and one for moving the entire printer assembly. Three Allen-Bradley Kinetix servo drives control the motors. Completing the primary components is an Allen-Bradley PowerFlex drive, connected by Ethernet to the PAC, which controls the drum drive used for the film roll.
“We are a very pragmatic organisation,” explains Geukes. “Even though we are small and dynamic, the engineers from Rockwell Automation – a much larger company – adapted to our style very quickly. The support from Rockwell Automation in The Netherlands has been very good and we were given lots of help with component matching.”
GKS Packaging also exploited the skills of an embedded engineer from Rockwell Automation. Armed with packaging industry experience, the embedded engineer helped GKS Packaging to create a PLC programme structure based on PackML standards. “Our focus is on the big companies, so the use of PackML standards is essential,” Geukes explains.
“The most important thing,” Geukes elaborates, “is that the engineer was very flexible. We had to work non-stop for Interpack and he fitted into our schedule – there was no 9 to 5 in the run up to the show.Geukes explains. “You can only make a first impression once, so we had to make sure the machine was exactly what we wanted. I didn’t want to build five ‘first machines’. ”
Probably the most positive feedback that GKS Packaging has received is that, at Interpack 2011, one of its biggest competitors admitted that GKS Packaging now has a measurable lead in the design stakes when it comes to VFFS machines.
GKS Packaging also used the services of a Rockwell Automation Global OEM Technical Consultant (GOTC) who was responsible for the mechanical aspects of the architecture and for tuning the servo motors. Geukes explains. “His job was to make sure that the machine worked at the hardware level. He took the time to teach our people how to set up the hardware and incorporate it into the design. He also made sure that we knew – inhouse – all the information we needed.