Thursday, December 27, 2012

Servos vs. Pneumatics, or, Don’t Cry Over Spilled Soup

Canned soup is probably one of the most ubiquitous items found in supermarkets, cabinets, and pantries everywhere. When you think for a minute about how all that soup gets into all of those cans, though, it’s kind of amazing. After all, volume-wise, that packaging process has to occur extremely quickly in order to churn out enough to keep the shelves lined. And as any overeager stovetop cook knows, when you pour soup too fast from one container to another (like from a pot to a bowl), you get a big “Splash!” That’s sort of the problem that the company in this Packaging World article ran into, except on a much grander scale.

In the course of switching from traditional can packaging, to a more convenient pot-like package ready for the stove, the company discovered that splashing and spilling had become a much greater issue resulting in too much wasted product. Reducing packaging speed is simply not an option in the mass-produced packaged foods industry, so another solution was required. Air-powered pneumatic equipment did not help at all, remaining too erratic. Simple mechanical solutions were a stopgap, but the required flexibility for later modifications wasn’t there. The solution? Using servo control to bring electronic cylinders to hydraulic-like levels of smoothness, accuracy, and control in the operation. With indexing and rotary tables, the process was perfected, enabling the company to proceed with its innovative packaging concept. Another success story for servos.

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