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October 01, 2018 | Swift article change-over

LineXpress from Krones enables bottlers running PET containers to achieve a complete article change-over to different products, types, formats and packs in record time. The programme consists of individual automation components. In conjunction with the machines of the bottling line concerned, these modules control the processes involved and support the operators in their work. Advances are particularly apparent in terms of replacing the moulds, where the MouldXpress Robot module comes into play, rendering operator interventions almost entirely superfluous when moulds are being replaced on the Contiform 3 Pro.

And this is how it works: when the change-over procedure begins, the stretch blow-moulding machine automatically moves the blow-moulding station to the change-over position, while the machine’s guard, in the shape of a roller shutter, opens, whereupon the mould in the blow-moulding station is unlocked. After a robot has grasped the complete mould (i.e. with both halves and the base), the mould carrier opens, the robot removes the mould package, and places it in an empty pallet slot on the waiting mould-change trolley. It then immediately removes a new mould package and inserts it in the blow-moulding station. All that remains for the operator to do is to ingress the pallets with the moulds into the robot’s working range, protected by a grating, before the change-over procedure, and remove them again afterwards.

Mould replacement is thus performed swiftly, reliably and reproducibly. The swiftness results from the change-over procedure’s being automated and starting immediately as soon as the last bottle for the current batch has left the Contiform. Equally, the first preforms enter the oven as soon as the change-over has been completed. Moreover, thanks to the robot’s functional precision, every second of the change-over procedure is meticulously planned, and there are no unnecessary non-productive times. The reliability of the change-over procedure is attributable to deployment of a robot, a type proven in industrial applications a thousand times over, and ideally suited for the task of mould replacement. Since the robot’s function sequence is preprogrammed, sequence-related errors are entirely prevented. Moreover, RFID tags on each mould permit unambiguous, reliable identification – thus precluding the installation of incorrect moulds. In addition, they also assure unambiguous assignment of moulds to blow-moulding stations, which ensures the reproducibility of the change-over function. And finally, the automated procedure enables the duration of the change-over routine to be incorporated precisely into every production schedule.

This perfection is also reflected in quantifiable figures: mould replacement on a Contiform 3 Pro with 24 blow-moulding stations and MouldXpress Robot, for example, is completed in less than 15 minutes. That also enables the line’s OEE to be improved, and significantly more articles to be produced than hitherto. This likewise applies, of course, to the other automation components from Krones’ LineXpress programme, for the packer or the filler. The components used for automation in a line can be individually specified to suit the wishes of the client concerned.

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