Home > Machine builder targets resurgent plastic bag making market with novel Ethernet-based motion control architecture

Machine builder targets resurgent plastic bag making market with novel Ethernet-based motion control architecture

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article image ABB's Ethernet Powerlink motion control range powers a new plastic bag manufacturing machine with all-servomotor control of web feed, cut and seal, and picking-off finished bags

Two plastic bag machine support specialists have collaborated on a machine based on ABB's Ethernet Powerlink compatible motion control range. 

Offering new levels of programmability and bag production flexibility, the new machine - a joint development from UK machine builders Hartech Engineering and GPL Machinery - features an all-servomotor architecture and a user interface developed from the operator's point of view. 

Modern plastic bag making machines often have two servomotor based axes - web feed and cut/seal - plus a mechanically linked third axis for 'picking off' the finished bags. The new machine also implements servo control on this third axis to provide programmable 'electronic cam' control of pick-off action. It allows users to finely adjust pick-off so the machine can avoid the sealing problems that commonly arise in conventional machines, helping to minimise scrap and downtime. 

The BBM1100 is built on the mechanical framework of a common bag making machine from Woodbank, who ceased production around a decade ago. Both GPL and Hartech have been servicing and refurbishing these old machines for more than a decade, and developed numerous add-ons and upgrades based on ABB motion control technology, including replacement servomotor axes and a new user interface. 

This proven technical know-how, plus a number of new developments, are now being brought together to create the re-engineered machine. The developers believe a strong market exists for this type of new machinery in local UK and Irish markets, due to the rapidly rising cost of sourcing plastic bags or bag making machines from maturing Asian economies that are now having to pass on substantial material cost and wage inflation.

Key benefits of the re-engineered all-servo machine include inherently finer control over manufacturing, quality and productivity than many current competitors, as well as the competitive price tag, costing up to 30% less than a brand new machine.

The BBM1100 bag making machine's three axes are powered by drives from ABB's three-phase MotiFlex family, linked to the company's BSM brushless servomotors. Control is provided by the ABB NextMove e100 machine controller with a touchscreen colour operator panel. Numerous features of the NextMove motion control family have helped GPL to design a bag making machine with more flexibility and productivity. 

The Ethernet Powerlink interfaces of ABB's drives and machine controller with their single network cable interface substantially reduce cabling to speed system building and lower hardware costs, and simplify subsequent machine commissioning as well. 

The ABB NextMove controller also includes enough onboard digital and analogue I/O to satisfy all the I/O requirements of the bag making machine. In addition, a high-speed digital input on the drives provides a direct interrupt that captures positions to within a microsecond resolution. This feature is used to support high speed print registration on the BBM1100, which will operate right up the machine's fastest production rate. 

ABB's MINT programming language additionally provided the machine with high level keywords for many of the motion control operations employed during the bag making cycle. ABB also provided Hartech and GPL with in-depth application programming support during the development of various parts of the new machine. 

In addition to implementing core performance features in the new machine, the design team has emphasised usability and reliability throughout the design. For example, the user interface has been developed from the point of view of the operator. The machine can be set up for a new batch with just a few touches on the control menus. Operators can also change action on the fly. Users have access to deeper configuration possibilities via a password-protected screen. Such settings can be saved and renamed so that operators are able to load a proven bag making setting for any particular job or material within seconds. 

A number of hardware features also endow the new machine with high reliability. Bag making machines have an inherent stop/start movement, and there is always a degree of vibration. The machine builders chose to use resolver feedback to measure rotational position, a preference simplified by the broad encoder support options available on ABB's MotiFlex drives. 

The re-engineered BBM1100 machine is a first step for GPL Machinery and Hartech Engineering. The two companies already have plans for an all-new own-brand machine, which will feature a mechanical chassis of their own design, and a number of new advanced features for this segment of the packaging marketplace.

The ABB Group is represented in Australia by ABB Australia .

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