Five ways servos improve packaging machines

Upgrade your next machine design with servo motors to decrease downtime, decrease footprint, increase throughput, make equipment last longer, and provide better diagnostics.

By Jerry Tyson and Michael Miller September 3, 2015

Innovations in automation are drastically changing the world of packaging. Here are five reasons to consider using servos in machine design:

1. Less downtime for product changes: Historically, packaging machines have been made with very intricate mechanical designs. This allowed for precisely synchronized movement from motion technologies incapable of such precise movement. Intricate designs often came with the burden of downtime for changing the mechanical system to accommodate a change in the product. With the precision of a servo system, these changes can be accomplished with the downloading of a new recipe or cam table when an operator touches a virtual button on a human-machine interface (HMI). This significantly reduces downtime and alleviates the need for services from a skilled mechanical technician for the changeover.

2. Smaller machine footprint with higher torque: Factory floor space is expensive. A smaller machine footprint can allow for more machines in the same space. Servos can provide a much higher torque-to-volume ratio than other technologies. This can allow for automation of processes that were previously impossible. Servos also are available in a wide variety of sizes. A thumb-sized servo motor can integrate an absolute encoder with a resolution of 131,072 pulses per revolution.

3. More throughput with less shock to the product: Sometimes the motion profile is just as important as the accuracy of the final position. Using methods of electronic camming, servos can provide very smooth accelerations and decelerations with very fast moves. This can provide more production per hour without stressing product being packaged. In some cases if a product is liquid or fragile, past automation technologies have limited the cycle rates or damaged the product.

4. Longer lasting machines: Just as less shock is better for the product, it is also better for the machine. Mechanical wear can be drastically reduced by using servos, providing a longer life for the machine and less costly repairs. They can also reduce the audible noise, giving the impression of a higher quality machine and helping to improve the production floor environment. More efficient servo technology runs at cooler temperatures, further increasing lifetime.

5. Less downtime with better diagnostic tools: The modern multi-axis servo system uses a network, and this architecture provides improved diagnostic capabilities over past solutions. This allows for high bandwidth information from the motor to the controller. This provides a superior method of detecting and resolving issues that arise. A servo system provides feedback on position, velocity, torque, and alarm codes that can represent excessive temperature, friction, and many other conditions that may occur. Trending and comparing these values to baseline values can detect issues long before they cause machine breakdown. These diagnostic tools are becoming web-based so that someone could log in and check the machine remotely.

These machine design improvements can help machine builders, system integrators, machine builder customers, and final product consumers.

– Jerry Tyson is the southeast regional motion engineer, and Michael Miller is the regional motion engineering manager, at Yaskawa America Inc. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering,

Key concepts

  • Servo motor advances are driving machine design capabilities.
  • Increased reliability, more throughput, smaller footprint, higher torque, less wear, and easier maintenance may result.

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More about the authors

– Jerry Tyson is the southeast regional motion engineer for Yaskawa America Inc. He has 26 years of experience in the motion control industry and has worked with Yaskawa for 25 years. He has a BSEE from Georgia Institute of Technology.

– Michael Miller is the regional motion engineering manager at Yaskawa America Inc. where he has worked for 16 years. He has a BSEE from Kettering University.

See additional information about servo motor sizing, application requirements, and servo-system performance below.