Digital data, communication and connectivity were among the most pervasive themes at this year’s Pack Expo, held Oct. 14-17 at McCormick Place in Chicago.
Manufacturers showcased how communication both within equipment and to outside data collection points improved both operations and information gathering. Some manufacturers used enhanced communication as a selling point for integrated, turnkey systems.
For example, the Ishida unit of Heat and Control displayed a snack packaging system comprising a bagger, seal checker and case packer. All these components are sold separately, but end users who buy all three can take advantage of feedback loops from the seal checker. When it detects a variation in the amount of air in the bags, which affects the bags’ thickness, it can signal both the filler to correct the situation and the case packer to accommodate the variation.
Van der Graaf showcased a new smart drum motor for conveyors that combines the durability of an AC motor with the flexibility of speed variation. A variable frequency drive is mounted next to the motor, avoiding the problem of current attenuation that can occur with a long drive-to-motor connection.
At a press conference, Kevin Roach, CEO of Harpak-ULMA, used the phrase “smart, connected machines” repeatedly to boast about his company’s equipment, which includes primary and secondary packaging machinery. He was announcing a new partnership with Rockwell Automation, for which he rolled out a big gun: Blake Moret, Rockwell’s CEO, who showed up in person to extol the latest in Rockwell’s OEM partnerships.