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Industrial Hardware and Machine Parts

Innovating food processing equipment with custom metal parts

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Have you ever had a piece of equipment that worked perfectly…except that one little part that gave you trouble — say, a filter that kept getting clogged or an electrical connector that was always on the fritz? Wouldn’t it be great if you could redesign just that one piece to improve the operation of the entire machine?

These are exactly the kinds of problems Switzer is equipped to solve.

The family-owned custom metal parts manufacturer works with customers across industries — aerospace, medical, telecommunication, optics and photonics, and food processing, and many others — to design and fabricate precision metal parts for use in a variety of innovative technologies. They even worked with X, Google’s R&D division, on Project Loon, which uses balloons flying in the stratosphere to provide Internet access to remote areas. Switzer developed custom metal components for the balloons’ power supply.

To learn more about their work in the food industry, we spoke with Joseph Dunlop, the company’s vice president of business development.

Tackling a common food and beverage industry challenge: Filtration

“Everyone’s trying to be better, smaller, faster, and more efficient with less field service required,” Dunlop says.

That’s certainly true in the food industry, where competition, low profit margins, and a shrinking workforce are pushing processors to improve their operations while cutting their costs. Switzer recently tackled these issues for a notable OEM.

Currently, most filters fall into the commodity category. They’re typically an inexpensive woven wire mesh that can be cut to size. Woven wire mesh may be cheap, but it has two major downsides:

  1. Blinding. Blinding occurs when particles get caked on the filter and prevent working fluids from moving through. This impairs the filter’s performance until it’s no longer usable. As a result, the filters have to be replaced frequently. It has a similar impact in grinding and pulverizing applications.
  2. Structure degradation. Over time, the fiber structure of wire mesh weakens. “The distance between the wires will grow and shrink based on how much media is going through the woven wire mesh filter, and how much fatigue it witnesses,” Dunlop explains.

The OEM wanted to eliminate these problems. They also imposed an additional caveat: the new filter had to fit into the same space as the old one. The goal wasn’t to redesign the entire machine, just to provide higher-quality, longer-lasting filtration.

“This was a cool engineering problem for us,” Dunlop says. What Switzer developed was a metal filter that was thinner and more efficient than the traditional wire mesh. “When we make filtration media, it’s a single piece and it’s flat. We don’t weave anything, so there’s no three-dimensional component, no Z direction.” The single-piece construct is also more durable than woven wire, so the filter doesn’t have to be replaced as often.

This is just one example of the kind of “bleeding edge” technology innovation Switzer can bring to the food industry. The possibilities are endless.

Türkiye endüstrisine, alana özel, spesifik yayınlar üreten MONETA Tanıtım’ın sektörel dergilerinin editörlüğünü yapmaktayım. Yeni nesil, dinamik yayıncılık anlayışıyla, dijital ve basılı mecralarda içerik geliştirmek için çalışmaktayız.

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Industrial Hardware and Machine Parts

701TE and 701CE electric slew and track drive for mini-excavators from Bonfiglioli

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Our two new products allow customers to get a complete drive solution for 2-3 ton mini-excavators. Bonfiglioli offers a fully electric alternative to the conventional axial piston hydraulic unit, allowing the machine to reduce noise levels and CO2 emissions to zero. 

The complete electric powertrain dramatically improves the efficiency of the machine and extends the maintenance interval providing a significant reduction of the total cost of ownership. While the gear units benefit from over 65 years of experience by Bonfiglioli in the field of conventional hydraulic applications, the electric motors have been specifically designed and developed to match the demanding requirements of the market in terms of energy efficiency, compact dimensions and high power density. 

Each motor has been designed to perfectly fit the space available for the slew and the track system minimizing the requirements and modifications to the frame and the entire system. Its rugged and compact design is guaranteed thanks to the stator’s technology design, made with concentrated winding and IPM (Internal Permanent Magnet) technology. 

The broad selection of drive solutions, combined with very high quality, advanced technology, and a great deal of expertise, makes Bonfiglioli an ideal partner for all construction equipment manufacturers. The many years of experience certify Bonfiglioli’s capability to design, develop and create robust tailor-made solutions, perfectly adapted to its customers’ requests and needs.

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Industrial Hardware and Machine Parts

New DC Platform: Interroll presents an innovative drive solution

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Interroll is setting new standards in modern material flow technology. Interroll’s innovative range of coordinated RollerDrive products, control systems and power supply elements positions system integrators and plant constructors to now provide even more individual solutions for their customers, from plug-and-play standard applications to systems with Industry 4.0 functionality.

 The requirements placed on zero-pressure-accumulation material flow systems are becoming more demanding in terms of their technical performance. For a while now, users have required more than simply high throughputs or versatility in terms of the goods to be transported. As automation becomes more common, intelligent goods flow control plays an ever more significant role in conveyance systems. With the DC Platform, Interroll has developed a powerful technology platform that fulfills these requirements in an exemplary manner.

“With the new DC Platform, system integrators and plant constructors can choose from an innovative, coordinated range of technological solutions from a single supplier, all based on years of development and testing,” explains Armin Lindholm, Managing Director of the global Center of Excellence for rollers and RollerDrive in Wermelskirchen. “It enables them to deal with users’ requirements in a more individual manner. This new platform can be used to create a unique range of conveying solutions, from autonomous conveyors that can be commissioned without a programmable logic controller (PLC) using plug-and-play, all the way to tailor-made, high-performance systems that can be consistently and transparently integrated into the data universe of Industry 4.0 applications for the purpose of monitoring in control stations, for preventive maintenance or for other functions.”

Experience the benefits of 48 V technology

The new modular platform makes it possible for system integrators and plant constructors to design conveying systems according to customers’ requests in both 24 V and 48 V versions. With this step, Interroll is driving the technical evolution of protective low-voltage solutions that has been sketched out by automotive manufacturers. 48 V systems therefore enable the use of up to 50 percent fewer power supply elements than in 24 V systems. They enable the use of smaller wire cross-sections and longer wire lengths, and reduce the number of error sources, for instance as a result of voltage drops on the wires. This significantly reduces the investment required in the entire system and the risk of errors during commissioning.

Three power levels to choose from with the new RollerDrive

However, customers don’t just have more options when it comes to the voltage type of the new DC Platform. The new RollerDrive EC5000 also offers more flexibility in terms of its mechanical output power. The new motor rollers are available in 20 W, 35 W and 50 W versions that can take on any transport tasks for light or heavy goods. To support the implementation of conveyor solutions for heavy goods, Interroll offers the 50 W power option as well as a RollerDrive version with tubes measuring 60 mm in diameter instead of 50 mm. What’s more, the well-known IP66 and Deep Freeze design options are available; these enable RollerDrive solutions to be implemented even in areas that are cleaned using powerful water jets or that reach temperatures as low as -30° C.

Bus interface opens the door to Industry 4.0

Alongside the tried-and-tested analog interface, the EC5000 can be supplied with a bus interface based on the CANOpen standard, upon request. This means that modern conveying systems can offer data transparency for the first time. In combination with an Interroll control system with multi-protocol capability (PROFINET, EtherNet/IP and EtherCat), this means that users can consistently visualize a range of information and functions on the screen using the PLC or a web interface. One example is the display of general information about the current operating state and the operating load of the individual drives over time. In parallel, the control systems enable a range of detailed information such as precise error statuses, torque or temperature, for instance, to be read out for each individual drive.

At the same time, the new RollerDrive’s bus interface enables users to carry out completely new control functions that are required in an automated environment. As a result, users can control the acceleration, speed and deceleration of the conveyed goods in the system more precisely. This solution also allows them to position the relevant goods on the conveyor to the nearest millimeter—a key requirement in order to guarantee seamless conveying interplay between the conveyor solution and robots or automated gripper arms.

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Industrial Hardware and Machine Parts

Changing workplace: Digitalization and cognitive ergonomics

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Digitalization, automation and Industry 4.0 are impacting intralogistics. But how do employees cope with the upheavals of the digital revolution? This is what the still young discipline of cognitive ergonomics is investigating.

Smaller batch sizes and larger format changes, shorter product cycles and higher demands on delivery speed and flexibility – the changes in purchasing behavior and customer expectations associated with digitization are also directly reflected in intralogistics processes. At the same time, innovative, digital assistance systems such as robotics, wearables, RFID, etc., are holding their own. Moving into the warehouse, picking and shipping. Both mean a changed workload for the employees on site, whose tasks become more complex and run under greater time pressure.

Focus shifts to mental stress

Ergonomics is the adaptation of working conditions to people. Polluting environmental factors are, for example, poor lighting conditions, dirt, noise, smoke and dust or the wearing of protective clothing. In addition, there are physical exertions such as working in a standing position or under forced postures or lifting and carrying heavy loads. With the growing use of digital systems, the focus is now shifting to mental stress.

Dr. Veronika Kretschmer is a psychologist at the Fraunhofer Institute for Material handling and Logistics IML specializing in cognitive ergonomics. Within the framework of the Logistics and IT Service Center, an initiative of the Fraunhofer IML in Dortmund in cooperation with other research institutions, an interdisciplinary working group is investigating the extent to which digitization is changing the work of those affected. After all, despite all the automation, people are indispensable.

Our analyses show that employees in the warehouse are exposed to psychological demands in addition to physical strain. With the digital transformation of processes, informational stresses are now being added, which will lead to a changed stress pattern.

Order picking: Customer immediately notices faulty system

The penetration of information in the cost- and time-intensive picking area has greatly increased in recent years with the use of electronic aids such as hand scanners, pick-by-light, pick-by-voice or pick-by-vision. However, despite growing automation, manual systems still play a major role in order picking because they are often more flexible.

According to estimates, around 80% of processes are still performed manually. Order picking has an immediate effect on the company’s reputation because the customer immediately notices a faulty system. And if the focus has so far been on cost efficiency, a human-centered and ergonomic design of work environments and processes is increasingly required.

Augmented Reality has opportunities in short-term deployment

Among the “smart devices”, augmented reality (AR), the linking of reality with well-established information, has a special appeal.

A comparison of paper lists, tablets and AR glasses during palletizing suggests that AR is suitable, but usability needs to be improved.

Veronika Kretschmer refers to problems such as weight, costs and software diversity. She therefore sees the chances of this technology primarily in short-term use, for example in training or maintenance.

Virtual Serious Games for realistic trainings

Virtual reality techniques (VR) for training in the form of virtual serious games are an exciting field of investigation. They allow a VR-supported simulation for training and education with a realistic perception of situations that are difficult or cost-intensive to convey. In this way, learning success can be increased in a playful way. This is also shown by a study conducted by Veronika Kretschmar together with others. Here, the logistical activities of a packaging process were simulated realistically. The results showed good user-friendliness, a positive user experience and moderate stress.

The central goal of cognitive ergonomics is to create a “stress optimized design” of industry 4.0 systems. The changing work processes will also increase the physical and cognitive demands in intralogistics in the future. Veronika Kretschmer recommends that, in addition to the known physical strain, psychosocial activity characteristics and work organisational conditions should also be given greater consideration.

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