Reduce maintenance costs and improve speed and precision of pallet layer former used in a variety of industries including washdown environments.
ERD electric rod actuators in all-304 stainless steel with IP67 ingress protection replace in-house actuator solution. It reduced maintenance costs, increased speed, precision and equipment performance with programming flexibility.
For companies involved in food and beverage manufacturing or warehousing, fast and efficient conveying and palletizing systems are critical to success. Conveying systems not only move product from point A to point B, but include actuators that sort, divert, turn and help to automatically arrange containers into pallet layers. This increased automation is helping to reduce labour and lower costs while preventing damage to containers or their contents. A Tolomatic’s client in USA, supplying conveying systems, was looking to improve the speed and precision of its Series 7000 pallet layer former unit. Pneumatic cylinders did not provide enough flexibility, and early electric solutions were not suitable for washdown applications. A collaborative product development effort led to the design of a fully enclosed electric actuator that reduced maintenance and improved the palletizing unit’s performance and precision. This prototype was the basis for the ERD actuator from Tolomatic, designed as a cost effective replacement for pneumatic cylinders, especially in washdown applications.
The client’s palletizing unit features the company’s actuated roller belt (ARB) technology that not only moves containers linearly but has the ability to move them either left or right, turn them around or sort them to a specific location in a pallet layer. The conveyor belt is able to do this thanks to actuators located in zones beneath the moving belt that activate longitudinal rollers in the ARB, making them rotate left or right. As a package passes over a diversion zone, for example, the actuators beneath the belt rotate pinions that cause the longitudinal rollers in the belt to rotate as they pass over, moving the container laterally by a predefined amount. Any given 10-foot (3.048 metre) section of the ARB may contain 8 to 16 actuators, depending on the complexity of the application. With this arrangement, packages can be pushed a few degrees right or left, make a complete 90-degree turn or anything in between as they move along the belt.
In the past, the client used pneumatic cylinders to activate the pinions beneath the belt, but they could only provide fixed increments, meaning there was less flexibility in what the ARB could do. Going to an in-house designed electric actuator solution allowed more precise movements of the actuators and provided more flexibility in diverting, sorting and turning of containers. However, the in-house actuator proved to be less than a total solution.
Original design of using stepper motor with the ballscrews was unprotected, requiring more maintenance and was not well suited to washdown applications in food and beverage — one of our largest markets.
Also the client was finding that a lot of their customers today do not want to use air cylinders. They want the controllability of a motor-driven electric actuator. So, with Tolomatic’s help, a better electrical solution than they had was developed in-house.
Solution: Customised ERD Actuator
From the beginning, the electric rod style ERD actuator was designed to be an economical replacement for a pneumatic cylinder that would stand up to hard use in food and beverage washdown applications.
Some of the specifications that Tolomatic built into the prototypes for the client have been retained in the standard catalogue product line. These features include force capabilities up to 500 pounds (226.8kgs), all-304 stainless steel body construction, configurable stroke lengths up to 24 inches (610mm) and ingress protection to IP67. Since then, the product family has expanded with forces now reaching 4500 pounds (2041kgs) and longer stroke capacities.
Benefits: Unique application
The ERD actuator is driven with a high torque stepper motor through a specially-designed coupling to stand up to harsh use. The actuator only moves +/- 6 mm each time it activates a pinion beneath the moving belt, causing a longitudinal roller in the belt to rotate right or left. The duration of the actuator stroke is only 50 milliseconds, but with a conveyor belt moving 250 packages per minute, the actuator moves four times a second. Plus the ERD also gives the client flexibility and programmability.
Many of the client’s applications involve sortation work for food manufacturers and food and beverage warehouses. “What they want to do is put five boxes down one lane and five down another lane. What’s unique with this ARB technology is that once the machine shifts the box/package to the divert position, it can stay in that position, and everything behind the first one is going to go left or right. This is unlike a popup-style diverter where the machine has to return it to the zero position before it can divert another box. Tolmatic’s ERD actuator design can actually do a ‘slug’ of products, which can optimise a lot of throughput for the customers.