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Fast, flexible, and resource-efficient: PC-based control optimizes packaging machines

With PC-based control and EtherCAT, Beckhoff offers a control solution for highly efficient, flexible and resource-conserving packaging machines. Predestined for applications where high speed and precision are of utmost importance, the PC platform with its high-performance field devices is perfect for synchronizing all process and motion control workflows. The bottom line: work steps are accelerated, and the consumption of packaging materials declines. For example, the fast and precise recognition of print marks means that you can seal blister packs closer to the product they contain.

The Beckhoff automation portfolio comprises everything you need for a technologically and financially superior packaging solution. All control and drive components are scalable to meet the performance requirements of the respective application perfectly. Optimally coordinated hardware and software interfaces as well as extensive expertise in implementing each process step guarantee a high level of process stability. Innovative products such as the XPlanar and XTS smart product transport systems ensure lasting competitive advantage. For packaging applications in the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries, a complete control solution in stainless steel with its hygienic design is available that meets the strictest sanitary and cleanroom requirements. Another benefit of the Beckhoff automation platform is its support for common industry standards like EHEDG, OMAC and GMP.

Thanks to its openness and continuity, you can use PC- and EtherCAT-based control technology from Beckhoff to automate individual packaging machines as well as entire lines. All steps such as forming, filling, sealing, labeling, collecting, boxing and palleting can be programmed and controlled via a single platform.
Thanks to its openness and continuity, you can use PC- and EtherCAT-based control technology from Beckhoff to automate individual packaging machines as well as entire lines. All steps such as forming, filling, sealing, labeling, collecting, boxing and palleting can be programmed and controlled via a single platform.

Beckhoff technology highlights for packaging machines

With its open, modular and precisely scalable control technology, Beckhoff meets the packaging industry’s demand for solutions that are performance-oriented and cost-efficient. You can pick precisely the components you need for your particular type of machine and/or production line from a wide-ranging portfolio of Industrial PCs as well as Control Panels and displays in all performance categories and form factors. EtherCAT, the global standard for real-time communication, offers maximum performance for all components, including those from third-party providers.
With its open, modular and precisely scalable control technology, Beckhoff meets the packaging industry’s demand for solutions that are performance-oriented and cost-efficient. You can pick precisely the components you need for your particular type of machine and/or production line from a wide-ranging portfolio of Industrial PCs as well as Control Panels and displays in all performance categories and form factors. EtherCAT, the global standard for real-time communication, offers maximum performance for all components, including those from third-party providers.

Integrated PC-based control: from primary to secondary packaging

Due to ever-increasing demands in terms of quality and speed, the complexity of packaging machines continues to increase. More and more work steps have to be interlinked, which means fast and easy integration of machines into a packaging line is becoming increasingly important. Added to this is the increasing demand for individualization of products, down to lot sizes of one. Flexibility, connectivity and efficiency are the criteria that lead to sustainable success in such a performance-driven industry – starting with the control architecture.

Thanks to their openness and integration-capability, individual packaging machines and the entire process chain of complete packaging lines can be automated with PC-based control technology from Beckhoff. All steps such as forming, filling, sealing, labeling, collecting, boxing and palletizing can be programmed and controlled via a single software platform. This ensures maximum flexibility for applications where packaging systems must be quickly adaptable to changing requirements or be able to easily accommodate new features. The high performance of modern processors enables the integration of complex automation operations such as vision systems and machine learning directly in the control system, without having to change the system. Open hardware and software interfaces permit the integrated communication from the sensor into the cloud.

With the intelligent product transport systems XTS and XPlanar, packaging machines can be designed in entirely new ways. Like the XTS, XPlanar is based on the principle of passive movers that can be moved individually and with outstanding precision, ensuring maximum flexibility in product transporation. The necessary planar tiles can be arranged in any pattern and allow for smooth and touchless movements along six axes. The intelligent transport systems increase product throughput and reduce the machine's footprint.
With the intelligent product transport systems XTS and XPlanar, packaging machines can be designed in entirely new ways. Like the XTS, XPlanar is based on the principle of passive movers that can be moved individually and with outstanding precision, ensuring maximum flexibility in product transporation. The necessary planar tiles can be arranged in any pattern and allow for smooth and touchless movements along six axes. The intelligent transport systems increase product throughput and reduce the machine's footprint.

Intelligent product transport with XTS and XPlanar optimizes packaging machines

Thanks to its versatility, the eXtended Transport System (XTS) has quickly become a known factor in the packaging machine market. With the introduction of the XPlanar eXtended planar motor system, Beckhoff is now taking the next step towards maximum flexibility in product transportation. Like the XTS, XPlanar is based on the principle of passive movers that can be moved individually and with outstanding precision. The necessary planar tiles can be arranged in any pattern and allow for smooth and touchless movements along six axes. Thanks to the individually controllable movers and the flexible topologies of these transport systems, packaging machines can be designed in entirely new ways. The flexibility with which the planar tiles or the raceway modules of the XTS can be arranged provides the machine manufacturer with nearly unlimited freedom in designing the machine’s transport paths. The functionality of the track management software makes the product streams fully user-definable. Workstations can be skipped, buffer areas added as needed and movers freely inserted or removed. The intelligent transport systems increase product throughput, minimize travel between workstations and reduce the machine’s footprint. By integrating software-driven format changes, the machine’s flexibility can be increased further so that even small lot sizes can be produced efficiently and cost-effectively.

Beckhoff offers perfectly coordinated and highly scalable hardware and software components to ensure that its intelligent transport systems run with maximum performance at all times. The TwinCAT control software ensures continuous travel path optimization and collision avoidance and integrates all other machine functions from PLC to robotics, measurement technology and IoT on a central platform. The application runs on an Industrial PC from the extensive and custom-scalable Beckhoff portfolio. The communication functions run over high-performance EtherCAT and EtherCAT G fieldbus systems.

Beckhoff supplies the largest number of EtherCAT-compatible automation modules for both I/Os and drive technology.
Beckhoff supplies the largest number of EtherCAT-compatible automation modules for both I/Os and drive technology.
EtherCAT P: one step closer to automation without control cabinets.
EtherCAT P: one step closer to automation without control cabinets.

EtherCAT, the fast fieldbus: global standard for packaging machines

The EtherCAT technology was launched on the market by Beckhoff in 2003 and made available as an open standard for automation technology. With outstanding performance, flexible choice of topology, comprehensive diagnostics and simple configuration, EtherCAT is ideally suited for use in packaging machines. Beckhoff supplies the largest number of EtherCAT-compatible automation modules for both I/Os and drive technology.

EtherCAT is one of the most widely used standards in packaging technology. Cycle times of well below 1 ms enable highly precise and dynamic processes and thus increase the efficiency of the packaging machine. A large number of EtherCAT-compatible sensors and actuators are available on the market, which guarantees a high level of investment security. Other fieldbus systems such as CANopen, IO-Link and PROFINET can also be integrated as communication layers in packaging machines via EtherCAT. Future TSN implementations will be realized on the basis of the EtherCAT Automation Protocol. Beckhoff developed the EtherCAT P technology in order to reduce the installation effort. The single-cable solution combines communication and power on one cable, which reduces the cabling effort and minimizes sources of error.

For high-performance machines and highly complex applications, Beckhoff has introduced EtherCAT G to the market. As an advanced version of the successful EtherCAT principle, it offers speeds ranging from 1 Gbit/s to 10 Gbit/s, which makes it possible to increase the current EtherCAT transmission rate of 100 Mbit/s 100-fold. Both performance stages represent system-compliant enhancements of the EtherCAT technology – the well-known "on-the-fly" function principle remains unchanged. And thanks to the branch concept of EtherCAT G, 100 Mbit/s EtherCAT segments can be integrated into the network to reduce throughput times in large networks by processing segments in parallel.

With XFC technology (eXtreme Fast Control Technology) Beckhoff presents a new, fast control solution: XFC is based on an optimized control and communication architecture comprising an advanced Industrial PC, ultra-fast I/O terminals with extended real-time characteristics, the EtherCAT high-speed Ethernet system, and the TwinCAT automation software. With XFC it is possible to realize I/O response times < 100 μs. This technology opens up new process optimisation options for the user that were not possible in the past due to technical limitations.
With XFC technology (eXtreme Fast Control Technology) Beckhoff presents a new, fast control solution: XFC is based on an optimized control and communication architecture comprising an advanced Industrial PC, ultra-fast I/O terminals with extended real-time characteristics, the EtherCAT high-speed Ethernet system, and the TwinCAT automation software. With XFC it is possible to realize I/O response times < 100 μs. This technology opens up new process optimisation options for the user that were not possible in the past due to technical limitations.

Maximum precision for packaging applications with XFC

Beckhoff's speedy and highly precise eXtreme Fast Control (XFC) solution is based on the EtherCAT communication network and specially XFC optimized I/O modules that accept signals and/or trigger actions with a high degree of precision. With I/O response times of less than 100 µs, the system scans the machine’s status up to 10,000 times per second for exceptional process control precision and repeat accuracy. This improves the productivity of packaging machines and reduces waste and the consumption of resources.

Another advantage of the XFC components are the distributed clocks (DC), which are used to synchronize the machine. Thanks to the communication between all DC-capable network devices and the calculation of the runtimes, distributed clocks can achieve system time synchronization with nanosecond accuracy. In this way, inaccuracies caused by the master or runtime can be compensated, and several outputs can be switched almost perfectly simultaneously, for example. The machine precision can thus be improved, resulting in better end products.

Beckhoff offers a broad portfolio of hardware and software for all drive concepts, price classes and application segments.
Beckhoff offers a broad portfolio of hardware and software for all drive concepts, price classes and application segments.
The integrated servo drive AMI812x combines servo motor, servo amplifier and fieldbus connection in a space-saving design for all motion requirements in the power range up to 400 watts.
The integrated servo drive AMI812x combines servo motor, servo amplifier and fieldbus connection in a space-saving design for all motion requirements in the power range up to 400 watts.

Beckhoff drive technology for the complete range of applications: from compact to extremely powerful

The packaging industry is a very diverse sector. Depending on the application, different requirements are placed on the machine's drive technology; only the need for a high degree of precision and speed is constant.

As a supplier of scalable drive technology, Beckhoff offers a broad portfolio of hardware and software for all drive concepts, price classes and application segments. The Motion Control solutions of the TwinCAT automation software are supplemented by a broad spectrum of servomotors and drive controllers ranging from compact servo drives in terminal format to the AX5000 servo drive for highly dynamic positioning tasks.

The AMI81xx series combines servomotor, output stage and fieldbus connection in a compact design and supports the principle of control cabinet-free machines. Pooling the individual components in a single system results in a connection level with all interfaces directly on the servo drive, which eliminates the need for an upstream I/O level. This allows different topologies to be implemented quickly and easily and saves space in the control cabinet. With such a broad range, the Beckhoff drive technology portfolio offers a suitable solution for almost any packaging application.

Beckhoff product highlights for packaging machines

The planar movers can be used flexibly in the food and pharmaceutical industries. All surfaces are smooth and easy to clean and can be coated as required.
The planar movers can be used flexibly in the food and pharmaceutical industries. All surfaces are smooth and easy to clean and can be coated as required.
The movers are available in various formats and for different loads. The bandwidth ranges from particularly small and light movers to large movers for high payloads. Different types of movers can travel simultaneously across the planar tiles.
The movers are available in various formats and for different loads. The bandwidth ranges from particularly small and light movers to large movers for high payloads. Different types of movers can travel simultaneously across the planar tiles.
Planar tiles in 24 x 24 cm format can be used to implement any geometries as required by the respective application. By simply joining the modules together, the size and shape of the surface can be freely scaled and configured: oblong, square, rectangular, L-shaped or ring-shaped. The number of movers can also be freely selected, so there are hardly any limitations in the application.
Planar tiles in 24 x 24 cm format can be used to implement any geometries as required by the respective application. By simply joining the modules together, the size and shape of the surface can be freely scaled and configured: oblong, square, rectangular, L-shaped or ring-shaped. The number of movers can also be freely selected, so there are hardly any limitations in the application.

XPlanar revolutionizes the packaging industry with flying motion

The eXtended Planar Motor System features free-floating planar movers to float smoothly over freely arrangeable planar tiles at speeds of up to 4 meters per second along six axes without bumping into each other. The movers are kept at a distance by means of electromagnetic forces. Traveling magnetic fields, which are generated within the planar tiles, position the movers accurately and dynamically.

With XPlanar, packaging machines can be designed in entirely new ways. Since the XPlanar tiles can be arranged as needed, product streams can be freely directed. Quick setup changeovers shorten the machine downtime and allow for the economic production of small lot sizes. The system's two-dimensional arrangement makes it easy to set up buffer zones and shorten the distances between the processing stations. The total area and geometry are fully variable. XPlanar tiles can also be combined to bridge long distances. Since adding more tiles along the route is all it takes to set up a waiting area or a passing lane, typical congestion situations can be easily prevented.

Each XPlanar mover can travel and be positioned dynamically with no danger of becoming involved in a collision. The system can also accommodate production-specific moves such as lifting, lowering, weighing, tilting or rotating an item while it is being transported. The movers are available in different formats and can be selected to suit different loads. The bandwidth ranges from small and light movers to large ones that accommodate loads of up to 6 kilograms. Larger loads can be handled by combining movers. Different types of movers can travel simultaneously across the planar tiles.

XPlanar puts an end to friction, wear and contamination. The dynamic, touchless motion prevents the surface from being contaminated. Even liquids can be moved without slopping over, and there is no friction that can cause emissions from wear. Since the surfaces of glass, stainless steel or plastic are chemically stable and easy to clean. The XPlanar system is ideal for handling products in accordance with strict hygiene standards of the kind required in the food and pharma industries or in cleanroom environments.

XTS enables software-based format changes without downtimes.
XTS enables software-based format changes without downtimes.
Track management enables maximum flexibility of the primary XTS system by allowing individual movers to be inserted or removed. You can thus carry out tool changes or maintenance activities without having to interrupt the regular production flow.
Track management enables maximum flexibility of the primary XTS system by allowing individual movers to be inserted or removed. You can thus carry out tool changes or maintenance activities without having to interrupt the regular production flow.
Straight and curved sections with different diameters allow application-specific travel paths.
Straight and curved sections with different diameters allow application-specific travel paths.

XTS enables completely new machine concepts for packaging

The eXtended Transport System XTS combines the advantages of a linear transport system with those of a rotary solution. With flexible path guidance, use can be made of all the advantages of a direct drive, such as high dynamics and positioning accuracy, low vibration inclination, freedom from wear and low energy consumption. Since both straight sections and the curves are used to transport materials, there are no empty trips, making for a faster overall packaging process. With XTS, products can be transported independently of one another, which opens the door to totally new machine designs. The packaging steps are optimally synchronized to prevent any downtime. And since the motion profiles don't require any complex mechanics, there is less maintenance, and the machine footprint can be reduced by up to 50%.

Rapid format changes during product changeovers and small lots – for example, for special advertising campaigns or to produce individualized packaging with lot sizes of one – are no longer a problem with the XTS. The control platform executes machine setup or packaging changeovers essentially through software by changing the process parameters. This speeds up the process considerably, resulting in faster product changes and more line efficiency for the owner. And with the XTS's track management software functionality, you can split the XTS system into individual, physically separate sections to do things like inserting or removing movers. You can thus carry out tool changes or maintenance activities without having to interrupt the regular production flow.

To enable application-specific system designs, the XTS comprises various motor module geometries. The modules are easily linked via lateral contacts for the transmission of power and data. For food and pharmaceutical applications, the XTS is available in an hygienic version. The fully encapsulated system made of stainless steel is chemically stable and easy to clean while delivering all the benefits of this intelligent transport system.

The AMP8000 integrates the servo drive directly into the servomotor, resulting in a highly compact form factor. By relocating the power electronics directly to the machine, the control cabinet needs to house only a single coupling module that supplies multiple servo drives over a single cable via a distribution module.
The AMP8000 integrates the servo drive directly into the servomotor, resulting in a highly compact form factor. By relocating the power electronics directly to the machine, the control cabinet needs to house only a single coupling module that supplies multiple servo drives over a single cable via a distribution module.

Distributed servo drive system AMP8000 for modular machine concepts

Motion plays an important role in packaging technology. The servo drives and cables required for this purpose make up a considerable proportion of the space required in the control cabinet as well as the installation effort. The AMP8000 distributed servo drive system breaks new ground in modular machine design. The AMP8000 integrates the servo drive directly into the servomotor in a very compact design. By relocating the power electronics into the machine, the space requirement in the control cabinet is reduced to a single coupling module, which supplies several servo drives with only one cable via a distribution module. This leads to significant savings in material, space, cost and installation effort, especially for large packaging machines. A supply module featuring a high protection class can even shift the entire system directly to the machine. With its few components, the AMP8000 system is easy to configure. Only a single type of cable is needed to connect supply modules, distribution modules and drives with each other. No additional components like motor chokes, circuit breakers or filters are needed. All connection and supply modules have an additional EtherCAT P connector for the Beckhoff I/O portfolio, which simplifies connections to additional inputs, encoders or latch units significantly.

TwinCAT 3 automation software integrates all engineering and runtime processes and features a consistent development environment for implementing all control tasks in the packaging industry.
TwinCAT 3 automation software integrates all engineering and runtime processes and features a consistent development environment for implementing all control tasks in the packaging industry.

TwinCAT: a single software platform for engineering and runtime

TwinCAT 3 automation software integrates all engineering and runtime processes and features a consistent development environment for implementing all control tasks in the packaging industry. Thanks to TwinCAT’s support for programming in all common IEC PLC dialects and the integration of C/C++ algorithms and MATLAB®/Simulink®, the machine builder can pick the programming method that works best for each application. The TwinCAT interfaces to Machine Learning algorithms allow the use of AI methods in the traditional control environment. The use of Microsoft Visual Studio® as the standard programming workbench supports different version management systems and simplifies team-based programming. For high-volume production applications, TwinCAT features open interfaces for integrating commercial IT systems into the machine program generation process. Prefabricated packaging software modules for functions like dancer roll control, cam plate function, printing mark detection or cross-cutter control as well as support for PackML standards in the latest version of the OMAC specification simplify the engineering and shorten the development and commissioning times.

  • Extensive TwinCAT libraries for Motion Control and supplements for various robot kinematics with tested and optimized algorithms save on development time.
  • You can accelerate and improve commissioning and service procedures with TwinCAT Scope, a software oscilloscope that is fully integrated into the TwinCAT system architecture. The result is enhanced machine quality.
  • With TwinCAT Vision, images can be processed directly in the unified control platform. Since configuration and programming tasks are performed in a familiar environment, they simplify the engineering process considerably. They also allow you to synchronize all image-derived control functions in real time. Latencies are eliminated, and all image algorithms are executed in real time.
  • The software-based TwinSAFE safety technology simplifies the wiring of complex installations because variants can be mapped in software. That way, you can develop and commission production cells module by module, to name just one example.
  • The integrated, browser-based TwinCAT HMI visualization solution makes it easy to develop and maintain visualization objects and user interfaces. The information is presented on the machines or in a web browser over the internet.
  • By supporting standardized communication protocols for cloud applications, TwinCAT IoT enables you to aggregate data in the cloud or locally at the production site. The collected data can then be analyzed with the help of TwinCAT Analytics.
  • And with TwinCAT Cloud Engineering, the well-known TwinCAT engineering and runtime products can be used directly in the cloud.

For the communication between machine controllers and cloud-based services, Beckhoff has developed the TwinCAT IoT software library. It supports the standardized OPC UA, AMQP and MQTT protocols for communication with common cloud systems such as Microsoft Azure™, Amazon Web Services and private cloud systems on your corporate network.
For the communication between machine controllers and cloud-based services, Beckhoff has developed the TwinCAT IoT software library. It supports the standardized OPC UA, AMQP and MQTT protocols for communication with common cloud systems such as Microsoft Azure™, Amazon Web Services and private cloud systems on your corporate network.

System-integrated cloud communication and data analysis

For the communication between machine controllers and cloud-based services, Beckhoff has developed the TwinCAT IoT software library. It supports the standardized OPC UA, AMQP and MQTT protocols for communication with common cloud systems such as Microsoft Azure™, Amazon Web Services and private cloud systems on your corporate network. Built-in security mechanisms prevent misuse of data as a result of unauthorized access and protect your intellectual property.

With TwinCAT Analytics, the process data is recorded and analyzed simultaneously with each machine cycle. It can be used for predictive maintenance and machine improvements, to name just two examples. With the appropriate tools, you can derive the information you need to improve the machine in terms of its energy usage or process workflow. Post-mortem analyses, intermittent-error diagnostics and the early detection of quality shortfalls and production bottlenecks improve the installation’s reliability and availability. The data analysis also provides extensive information about a machine’s operating behavior, which he can use to reduce costs and make layouts more efficient by improving future machine design and production procedures.

TwinCAT Cloud Engineering enables the instantiation and use of existing TwinCAT engineering and runtime products directly in the cloud. Easy access is provided via the Beckhoff website, where registered users can generate TwinCAT Cloud Engineering instances. Real control hardware is linked to the TwinCAT Cloud Engineering instance via a secure transport channel. That way, the user gains access to the benefits of the TwinCAT architecture directly in the cloud, which makes it much easier for multiple developers to work together, to name just one of the advantages.

For packaging applications in the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries, Beckhoff offers a complete control solution in stainless steel with hygienic design that meets the strictest sanitation and cleanroom requirements.
For packaging applications in the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries, Beckhoff offers a complete control solution in stainless steel with hygienic design that meets the strictest sanitation and cleanroom requirements.
The stainless steel version with IP 69K protection rating now opens up the XTS to application areas in which the demands made on hygiene are high.
The stainless steel version with IP 69K protection rating now opens up the XTS to application areas in which the demands made on hygiene are high.

Universal stainless steel: the complete control solution in hygienic design

For packaging applications in the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries, Beckhoff offers a complete control solution in stainless steel with hygienic design that meets the strictest sanitation and cleanroom requirements.

Control Panels and Panel PC series in high-quality stainless steel housings are suitable for IP 65 conditions. EtherCAT Box I/O modules are also available in stainless steel housings. They meet the requirements of the IP 69K protection class and are designed to be installed directly on the machine.

The AM8800 stainless steel servomotors feature protection class IP 67 (IP 69K optional) for use in extremely harsh or corrosive environments. The portfolio of stainless-steel products is complemented by the XTS Hygienic: With water-proof execution in IP 69K protection rating, hygienic design without sharp corners and angles, and resistance against aggressive cleaning agents it is ideal for use in primary packaging applications and the food industry.