Originally Published January 2001
Creating Machine Connectivity
Digital motion control based on open architecture will enable packagers to improve product changeover times and delivery lead times while reducing material loss and machine downtime.
Today's pharmaceutical and medical product packaging lines feature an impressive array of machinery. On one end you may find a high-speed filler dispensing liquid in small volumes into vials, in the middle a unit printing and applying wraparound labels, and on the end a cartoner erecting fluted boxes and picking up and placing the vials into them. To operate efficiently at high speeds, such equipment needs to communicate thoroughly and instantly. This is no small feat, because each machine may be equipped with a totally different control system. Such differences could slow down line speed or changeover, or lead to excessive product and material waste.
Hence the need for open architecture in motion control. Machinery operators need modular plug-and-play architecture for all their manufacturing controls. And machinery and control system suppliers need to offer the operators a common link across all products and between different vendors while keeping their products differentiated by features and benefits to maintain their competitive advantage.
Such are the goals of the Open Modular Architecture Controls (OMAC) Motion for Packaging Working Group. We hope to enable different systems from different vendors to be used together, offering operators more flexibility.
Officially formed in March 2000, the packaging working group consists of a mix of end-users, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and providers of control technology. Our mission is to enhance the value of packaging machinery and systems by promoting the use of digital motion control and OMAC guidelines for open control architectures. We hope within three years to improve by 50% product changeover time, delivery lead times, material loss, machine downtime, and product throughput.
However, to make such improvements in pharmaceutical and medical packaging, we need to recruit more packaging engineers from pharmaceutical and medical product companies. To date, we have representatives from only one company, Procter & Gamble (Cincinnati). We also need more OEM members involved in healthcare packaging to join current representatives from CCL Labeling Equipment Group (Ontario, CA); MGS Machine Corp. (Maple Grove, MN); and R. A. Jones & Company Inc. (Cincinnati).
Once members, packaging engineers can take part in one of the following four subcommittees:
- The Connectivity and Architecture subcommittee is charged with defining the control architecture platforms and connectivity requirements for packaging automation systems. It plans to look at today's common machine control systems, and to examine the communication needs at the different levels in the automation system.
- The Programming Languages and APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) subcommittee is looking at the issues involved in selecting programming languages and APIs specific to packaging machinery. First, it hopes to define the basic requirements of motion control for packaging applications, then to determine whether any current systems exist that can generically apply general motion control to packaging.
- The Benefits and Results Measurement subcommittee's mission is to identify and communicate the benefits and results of using servomotor technology for packaging automation systems.
- The Education subcommittee must define the education and training needs of each industry segment and develop appropriate educational curricula and training programs. It has drafted a glossary of terms and conducted a survey of educational needs.
The packaging working group will next convene at the general OMAC Users Group meeting February 2122 in Orlando, FL. More information about the group is available on the Web at http://www.arcweb.com/OMAC.
To the PMPN January 2001 table of contents | To the PMPN home page