Cerulean and Festo improve tube packing efficiency02 September 2019

Tube packing solutions manufacturer Cerulean has collaborated with industrial automation specialist Festo to simplify the design of its FPS-1 tube packer.

Traditionally tubes of product for personal care, such as cosmetics, suncream and toothpaste, can be difficult to stack as they are light weight and cap heavy. The transition between batches of tubes being completed and entering the packing stage requires either a bespoke automation solution or hand packing. Pausing production inevitably leads to inefficiencies and disruption and Cerulean was looking to upgrade its system to simplify this transition in a continuous production and high-speed environment.

“When Cerulean enquired about Festo’s latest components and capabilities, we took the opportunity to ask what they wanted their packing machines to be capable of in the medium to long term,” explains Josh Roberts, Festo business development consultant. “It quickly became clear that we could work in partnership to make significant improvements to the FPS-1 system: not only in terms of pneumatic efficiency, but also to make it Industry 4.0 ready.”

Festo developed a new design concept for the FPS-1 packer by conducting an air analysis of the existing and concept machines to prove the theoretical design. This project was also Cerulean’s first utilisation of a new third-party PLC and Festo provided integration support.

The Cerulean solution is based on standard Festo components – including VOFA Performance Level D safety valves, MS air preparation and the CPX controller. Incorporation of Festo’s CPX controller over EtherCat ensures that the tube packer has a platform that can accommodate I4.0 enabled products in future.

The automation and pneumatic upgrades to the tube packer are designed as two kits: a valve control kit and an actuator kit. Each kit has the same footprint as the equipment it is intended to replace. Each kit has its own unique order number – eliminating the need to order multiple components – and is supplied fully assembled and ready to install.

“The simple kit design makes upgrading and servicing as simple as possible for Cerulean and its customers,” adds Roberts. The existing FPS-1 machine bulk-packed tubes in a range of sizes, from 10-60mm in diameter and 50-300mm in length. Now, the upgraded system – which is called the FPS-300s – can pack tube sizes with a wider range at up to 300 units/min and pack up to 28,800 more tubes over a 24-hour period than was previously possible. The improved system also uses 5% less energy than its predecessor.

The packing process is now fully automated, which results in less time and less cost. Festo’s pneumatics allow the FPS-300s to introduce the correctly sized standard carton and to push a layer of tubes into place without any human intervention. Then pneumatic grippers release the carton and allow it to fall to the next level so filling and packing can continue uninterrupted. When the carton is full, it is lifted onto an overhead conveyor and taken on for palletizing.

Adam Offord

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