Clever lidder drives packaging throughput for Visy Automation

AUTOMATED packaging machines lie at the heart of many modern industrial manufacturing processes. Originally developed to ease the burden on labour-intensive applications, automated packaging machines have evolved to incorporate sophisticated control technologies and other complementary systems. Today, much is expected of automated packaging machines – there is an increasing demand for such machines to deliver increased product quality, while at the same time optimising throughput and reducing operating costs.

The challenge for modern packaging solutions providers is to develop customised machines that improve efficiency and the manufacturer’s bottom line. Here, robotic handling and packaging equipment solutions provider, Visy Automation, is a leader, pioneering innovative machines aimed at optimising packaging processes across a variety of industries.

When Visy Automation embarked on the development of its second-generation in-line VL18 Lidder machine for Australia’s largest meat processor, Bindaree Beef, the company called on SEW-Eurodrive to provide an innovative motor and drive solution. All of the new Lidder’s motion processes rely on SEW-Eurodrive electronic drive control technology, and servo geared motors. The result is a fast and efficient in-line Lidder machine, adaptable to nearly any box that comes off Bindaree Beef’s production line.

Visy Automation’s new VL18 Lidder machine features a clever dual-purpose conveyor design coupled with precision automation and a rapid-fire ‘head compression’ lidding system. Together, they ensure lids are glued onto unlidded boxes at rates of up to 25 per minute. 

In operation, un-lidded boxes are transferred into the head compression area for lidding via two side-by-side dual-chain conveyors. Each chain conveyor is equipped with two sets of ‘paddles’ positioned at opposite ends of the chain-set. One of the paddles from the first chain-set is used to push the incoming box into position and hold it in place from the incoming side. Once in position, a paddle from the second chain-set acts as a ‘torque-control’ paddle, holding the positioned box in place from the opposite side. 

The head compression system then delivers and glues the lid to the box in less than one second. Once the lid has been attached, the ‘torque control’ paddle releases the box by rotating under the conveyor. The first paddle then over-travels, effectively pushing the lidded box off on to the outlet conveyor. This first paddle then takes on the role of the ‘torque control’ paddle for the next box. 

According to Peter Somogyi, Visy Automation Project Manager, the dual functionality of the paddle system is a real feature of the packaging machine.

"The fact that each paddle does not have to go back to the start position after each box is lidded is a real time saver," he says. 

"By minimising the number and length of machine movements, we have been able to develop an extremely fast Lidder machine with the ability to deliver high throughput rates. This was made possible thanks to the clever application of SEW-Eurodrive’s drive electronics."

The VL18 Lidder machine is equipped with four SEW-Eurodrive geared servo motors – one on each of the chain conveyors, one on the head compression system, and one for the lid-transfer system, which is responsible for feeding box lids to the head compression system. Similarly, each of the Lidder machine’s four servo motors is combined with its own dedicated SEW-Eurodrive MOVIDRIVE ‘B’ application inverter; all of these drives are linked to a single programmable logic controller (PLC) via an EtherCat Fieldbus.

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