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Servo-driven folder/gluer machine

BCS-Andrew & Suter’s (UK) Supernova folder/gluer machine folds and glues cardboard blanks of different styles into flat-form boxes for easy transport. A drive technology introduced in a partnership with Lenze (Germany) simplifies the structure and control.

At 12 m long, the folder/gluer minimizes floor space (Photo: Lenze)

“ALMOST EVERYTHING COMES IN A CARDBOARD BOX these days” comments Simon Penwright, General Manager of BCS-Andrew & Suter about their folder/gluer machine. The machine produces what are known as “four cornered trays”, commonly found on supermarket shelves, and “crash-lock boxes” of which the classic cardboard wine box is an example. The starting point is a pre-cut cardboard blank supplied from either flat bed or rotary die cutters.

The Supernova can be set to different blank dimensions, for a new production run. With line speeds up to 120 m/min, the blanks are folded into box format with the aid of two servo-driven fingers that create back-folds at the rear of the blank. A glue section fitted with five guns then leads on to the folding section where the boxes are folded flat and stacked onto a compression section. These pre-formed and flat packed boxes are then ready to ship to the process manufacturers of foods and other goods.

At the heart of the machine is Lenze’s drive technology that simplified the structure and control, making the machine faster and easier to build. The scope of the drive and automation package extends from the control cabinet to operator interfaces, servo and geared motors not to mention connecting cables. Support from Lenze Application Engineers that included writing software minimized the workload, making the design project run faster. Integrating the package of controls and drives was easy and saved costs, for example with CAN connections that were built-in without extra costs. Because Lenze’s automation systems can be driven with Ethercat as well, the selection of the fieldbus can be adapted to suit the requirements. Concerning performance and costs, CANopen was the best solution for this machine.

The master control for the Supernova is housed in a 5-inch EL105 touchscreen with Soft-PLC. This device runs programs to the IEC 61131-3 standard on software that is free of charge. However, the motion control software for the servo-driven fingers is not held in the EL105. Instead it is situated in Lenze’s 8400 Topline drives. The Topline is an extension of the 8400 inverter range that was specifically developed to control synchronous servomotors. As such, it is both economic and compact, keeping down the volume of the control panel. Programming of the drives is done through the L-force Engineer environment where a single project can be structured for all drives. A speed/time profile was created for each of the two finger drives and uploaded. Thus each drive operates in a decentralized manner, exchanging signals with the Soft-PLC at the start and end of each operation. Changing the drive profile is possible with the L-force Engineer software.

At 12 m long, the folder/gluer minimizes floor space (Photo: Lenze)

A further servo drive is used in the delivery section of the Supernova. Simon Penwright describes the process, which squares up the folded boxes, as “a reinvented and clever part of the machine”. BCS-Andrew & Suter has eliminated the problem of the boxes fishtailing after folding, which previously was a significant source of scrap. This new addition to the machine operates in a similar way to the servo-driven fingers. Both operate with a single revolution matched to the line speed, and both use the Topline servo drives and Lenze’s MCS synchronous servomotors. In the case of the squaring drive, the synchronous servomotor is fitted with a two-stage planetary gearbox from Lenze’s partner Vogel, giving a 9:1 reduction.
The drive engages three small fingers to each folded box as they are conveyed through, momentarily holding them up and squaring them to the conveyed path. This delivery section has a further EL operator panel that controls the squaring, the subsequent stacking done by a helical geared motor, and a counter.

For most packaging machines, the control panel is free-standing and takes up valuable floor space. For the Supernova, the control panel is compact and sits low in the machine frame below the in-feed. It contains the three servo drives, two further 8400 inverter drives for the 11-kW main drive motor and the stacker geared motor, plus the usual fuses, relays, and cabling. The five drives sit side by side with a width of only 630 mm. CANopen was the choice for fieldbus as it was already included in the drives and touchscreens. Servo motor power and resolver feedback cables were also supplied as part of the package.

The control concept for such a motion dependent multi-axis machine is what Lenze terms “motion centric automation”. Both the control electronics and the mechanics in terms of motors and gearboxes are supplied as part of the package. This gives customers a single source of responsibility, reduced communications, and the ordering/delivery of complete sets of parts. When it comes to commissioning, Lenze’s worldwide support means that one engineer can take on all the motion tasks, speeding up the process.

At 12 m long, the folder/gluer minimizes floor space (Photo: Lenze)

The Supernova is the only folder/gluer for cardboard trays and boxes that is manufactured in the UK. The customers are suppliers to the packaging material market. The machine is only 12 m long thanks to the integrated panel and compact servo drives, which is at least 8 m shorter than competitive machines. “Lenze drive technology played a key role in this new design making it easier to build and operate than other folder/gluers in the market” adds Simon Penwright.

BCS-Andrew & Suter is a company with a history that goes back to 1898 in central London. By 1928, as Andrew & Suter, it turned from the supply of rigid box machines and folding carton gluers to corrugated board converting and finishing equipment such as die cutters and their range of corrugated gluers. In 2012, Autobox Machinery, a UK-based box-making machinery manufacturer, acquired Andrew & Suter and combined the activities of the two companies under the umbrella of British Converting Solutions. Today, as BCS-Andrew & Suter, their range of board folding and glueing machinery is designed and manufactured in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire.

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BCS Andrew & Suter