By Andrew Snook
A long-time partnership with leading automation supplier enables case-packing machinery manufacturer to keep building on its marketplace success
Operating for over 60 years out of Hamilton, Ont., Edson Packaging Machinery is a vital strategic asset in the vast brand portfolio of its parent company ProMach, which nowadays owns over 40 different brands of packaging equipment manufacturers.
What makes Edson unique to packaging sector OEMs is that the company specializes in packaging for the tissue and non-woven industries, with between 85 to 90 per cent of its machines designed for high-speed secondary packaging of tissue and non-woven products.
“We are basically the only brand focused solely on the tissue and non-woven industries,” says Josh Goulet, account manager for Edson Packaging Machinery.
“No matter what kind of rolled paper products you’re using at home, whether its kitchen towels or bath tissue, it was most likely packaged on an Edson case-packer,” Goulet says.
While Edson has worked with various suppliers over the years to build its machines, one of its longest relationships has been with Festo Inc., which provides automation technologies and technical educational solutions out of its headquarters in Mississauga, Ont.
According to Goulet, the two companies have worked together on multiple projects since 1999.
“When it comes to controls on our equipment, our preferred provider is Festo,” Goulet says. “Edson and Festo have been collaborating together for over 20 years now.”
The latest project between Edson and Festo was a solution for Edson’s new model 3600HS High Speed Large Case and Tray Packer.
The high-performance machine unit is designed for working with many types of KDF (Knock Down Flat) cases, which it erects as it collates the product, fills the cases, seals them, and discharges the finished boxed product downstream.
“The original KDF magazine loader used pneumatic technology to pick-and-place the unopened box into the case-packer, and this is where one customer was experiencing a bottleneck due to downtimes and reliability,” explains Nicolas Fleuriot, industry segment specialist for food and packaging at Festo Canada.
“The customer’s need was to increase the reliability and throughput of the machine by using better, more modern technologies and by speeding up the pick-and-place operation—thereby eliminating the bottleneck.”
As Fleuriot relates, Festo’s Customer Solutions (CS) engineering team used its cutting-edge Handling Guide Online (HGO) software to simulate the customer application and confirm that the desired cycle time was achievable.
The CS team then customized the standard HGO solution so that it was a perfect fit for the customer, Fleuriot explains.
The end-result is a complete, fully assembled, and ready to install Festo twin 2D gantry using the Festo EGC tooth-belt as Y-axis and the EGSL electric ball screw as Z-axis.
The innovative solution increased the reliability of the process and improved the performance of the 3600HS High Speed Large Case and Tray Packer by 50 per cent over the original system.
According to Edson’s controls supervisor Mike Fluit, using Festo’s ready-to-install solution benefited Edson by freeing up time and resources to concentrate on its core business.
In addition, Festo provided total process reliability at every stage, including consultation and design, quotations and orders, engineering, production, assembly, testing documentation and global after-sale support.
“We have some retrofits going on in the field right now, which makes it very easy to remove the old design and place a new design in its place,” adds Fluit. “It’s very convenient.”
The 3600HS High Speed Large Case and Tray Packer begins its process with the stacks of KDF boxes being loaded onto a conveyor and moved individually into the opener.
“The opener portion takes the KDFs, erects them into a case, moves them in front of the packing station, and is then shipped out of the machine,” Fluit explains.
Once a stack of KDFs has been loaded onto a conveyor, the rollers advance that stack onto a scissor lift-table, where a servo elevates the table into a position within the Aux Mag station, where the Festo gantry unit can begin picking up the KDFs.
“The gantry unit was developed jointly with Festo and Edson to improve reliability and the speed of the machine,” Fluit says, adding that one of the most significant units from Festo on the machine is the Festo valve bank.
“We use it to control all the cylinders on the machine, and it also provides us with remote I/O capabilities,” says Fluit, adding that Festo components play critical roles in every aspect of the machine.
“Each unit has its own custom valve bank, with a remote I/O block that allows us to connect most of the electrical sensors and pneumatics,” Fluit says.
“This new design allows us much greater travel without losing any speed.
“It will actually pick up the case, move it forward over the belts, and then drop it onto the belts,” he says.
“We no longer need pinch rollers, reducing jams in this area.”
The Festo cylinders are deployed at each station of the 3600HS High Speed Large Case and Tray Packer.
“At the case-eject station, linear cylinders eject individual cases,” Fluit explains.
“At the forming station, the Festo valve creates a vacuum that is used to pull the case open, while at the packing station, a Festo rotary cylinder is used to close the flap,” he continues.
“On the next station, on the other side, there’s another Festo rotary cylinder, and on the compression section we have two linear cylinders that are used to compress the case to attach the glue.”
As Fluit relates, Edson was “thrilled” with this new solution for its 3600HS High Speed Large Case and Tray Packer, with Festo also delighted to be part of its longtime client’s success.
“For me, we have a very healthy relationship, a very open relationship with Festo,” Fluit says.
“As we continue to develop new concepts and equipment over the next several years, it’s great to know we can count on our partner Festo,” adds Goulet. “With our equipment and Festo’s components, the future looks bright.”
Adds Festo’s Fleuriot: “To be part of Edson’s success, to be able to contribute to the performance of their machines, and to be on-board partners with them on their machines is indeed very satisfying.”