How to do packaging automation, revised


Discrete Control

There’s a resource that might offer everything you ever wanted to know about packaging automation, but may have been afraid to ask. Packaging equipment manufacturers, automation suppliers, end-users, and system integrators can download a free revised document on how to automate packaging machinery in standard ways: “Guidelines for Packaging Automation, Version 3.1,” from OMAC Packaging Workgroup (OPW) .

OPW is part of the Open Modular Architecture Controls Users’ Group, an affiliate organization of ISA . More than 40 organizations and over 70 individuals contributed to the revised document, available free at OPW’s Website, .

Such guidelines are said to help prevent incompatibility nightmares in design, architecture, and ways of doing things with packaging machinery. Such unification brings cost savings in new installations, upgrades, and training, and can speed line restarts after product switchovers, according to those involved. OPW recommends applying digital motion controls to packaging machines, offering “higher machine output, more machine flexibility, lower maintenance, faster product changeover, increased accuracy, increased reliability, improved quality, and lower machine price,” the group says.

What’s new: library

This version of the guidelines includes those for PackAL, an application library of common software elements used in packaging machinery applications developed by the PackSoft subgroup of the OPW. The new PackAL guidelines ( AL stands for application library) offer common software elements used in packaging applications. The application library has 23 functions; 13 are machine functions; 9 are communication functions; and one is for the PackML machine state model. The library aims to create a common look and feel in software elements, for better functionality, communication, scaling, machine organization, and timesavings.

Also included in the document are four packaging line types, definitions, tags, state models, architectures, components, programming language, skills required, and related diagrams, illustrations, and tables.

How it’s made

Five OPW subgroups assemble the document.

  • PackSoft develops programming guidelines like PackAL;

  • PackML develops a common machine language including a machine state model and PackTags (a tag naming guideline);

  • PackConnect develops industry network standards for packaging applications;

  • PackLearn promotes education needs in packaging automation; and

  • PackAdvantage promotes the business benefits of OPW guidelines.

As the subgroups complete work, guidelines are submitted to the OPW executive committee for approval. The executive committee—end-users, technology providers and machine builders—are elected by peers. That committee authorizes periodic updates to the guidelines to incorporate approved changes. Certain technology providers and machine builders have adopted and are incorporating OPW guidelines in products; end-users have begun to specify OPW guidelines on packaging machines they purchase.

OPW says as an organization it aims to provide a “forum where packagers, machine builders and technology providers from around the world will work together to achieve the benefits of advanced packaging machinery automation.” The working group has adopted the “Connect and Pack” logo (shown) to promote industry standards and guidelines to facilitate plug-and-play packaging machines.

OMAC has about 500 member representatives from end-user companies, OEMs, and technology providers and integrator companies. OMAC has three Work Groups: Packaging Machinery, Manufacturing Infrastructure, and Machine Tool. OMAC is a founding charter member of The Automation Federation .

—Edited by Mark T. Hoske , Control Engineering editor in chief

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