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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

Strong growth in food processing and packaging machinery

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The past year was very successful for the manufacturers of food processing and packaging machinery: production rose by 8 percent to just under 15.2 billion euros.

“Many manufacturers started 2018 with a very high order backlog, which was gradually converted into sales in the first half of the year. This, too, explains the very high growth rate of 8 percent for the year as a whole,” says Richard Clemens, Managing Director of the VDMA Food Processing and Packaging Machinery Association.

The Packaging Machinery Industry grew by a total of 8 percent to 7.1 billion euros. The “Other Packaging Machinery” segment increased by almost 12 percent to 4.9 billion euros, while the Beverage Packaging Machinery segment increased by 1 percent and reached 2.2 billion euros, only slightly above the previous year’s level.

Where Food Processing Machinery is concerned, the degrees of the growth rates in the individual sub-areas do vary somewhat – but all are positive: The production of meat processing machinery grew by 7.6 percent to 1.2 billion euros. The production of bakery machinery increased by 9 percent to 667 million Euro. The confectionery machinery manufacturers recorded growth of 16 percent reaching 360 million euros and the production of beverage production machines grew by 7 percent to 552 million euros.

Exports and investment climate remain strong in Germany

In 2018, exports of Food Processing and Packaging Machinery rose by 6.1 percent to over 9 billion euros. Deliveries to the industry’s most important sales region, the EU-28, rose by 9 percent. Demand from the USA – the most important foreign market – remained high. Exports to China and Russia showed double-digit growth rates. Clear impulses came from many other markets, including Brazil, Japan, the Republic of Korea and India.

Domestic business, too, continued to be an important pillar of the positive business development in 2018. In some food sectors, substantial investments were made in order to expand capacity and to expedite modernisation projects. Also, the shortage of personnel in the processing plants led to further investments in machinery and equipment.

The outlook for 2019 is subject to uncertainties

Generally, the prospects for the Food Processing Machinery and Packaging Machinery sector seem good, as the industry continues to benefit from the rising global demand for processed and packaged food and beverages as well as pharmaceutical products. However, against the background of the exceptionally strong growth last year, only moderate growth of at most 2 percent is likely to happen in 2019.

“Although sales in the first four months of 2019 were higher than in the same period of the previous year, the sales growth is expected to be only moderate at 2 percent. However, incoming orders in the first four months clearly fell short of the previous year’s level. Uncertainties due to ongoing trade disputes, but also many regional political crises, are causing investors to hold back with new orders,” Clemens comments on the business outlook for 2019.

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Industrial Hardware and Machine Parts

EBRD supports expansion of Aktiva, a metal fabricated parts maker

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The EBRD is lending €5 million to Aktiva, one of the leading metal processing and construction companies in North Macedonia, to support its expansion into supplying international companies with metal fabricated parts. The loan financing is part of EBRD efforts to boost the competitiveness of the country’s small and medium enterprises.

The EBRD loan will be used to complete Aktiva’s €10 million investment programme in upgrading production and coating capacity, including the installation of a new KTL (electro) coating line. It will support the company in becoming one of the leading regional “one-stop shop” metal engineering and processing companies. The project aims to help the company grow its metal processing segment and increase the export share of this business segment.

Aktiva, founded in 1999, provides metal fabrication services, as well as engineering, supervision and construction services for steel construction facilities.

Since entering the metal fabricated parts market in 2014, in cooperation with the Belgian bus producer Van Hool – one of the biggest foreign direct investors in North Macedonia – Aktiva has also started producing metal fabricated products for other international companies including Fast and ThyssenKrupp.

In line with the EBRD’s recently approved Country Strategy for North Macedonia, this financing supports and enhances value chain linkages in the private sector. The upgrade is planned at a time when growing numbers of large international companies are outsourcing and partnering with strategic reliable suppliers in south-eastern Europe, which can provide quality, flexible and competitive production as well as quick logistics.

To date the EBRD has invested nearly €1.9 billion in 117 projects in North Macedonia, with a focus on supporting the country’s integration into regional and global markets.

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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.

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