On show this week is Optima Packaging Machinery’s Zero machine platform, with modularity at its core. The machine's other key added features include format flexibility and an increase in output, as demonstrated by the OPTIMA Zero L1 version for packaging feminine hygiene and light-incontinence products. See it at PACK EXPO Connects this week.
Since Optima presented the "Zero" as a future-oriented technology platform around three years ago, the company has continued to develop the prototype into a comprehensive machine concept.
With increasing demands for paper hygiene products, flexibility is key in providing a range of products on one machine, whether triple-folded, packed longways, or in a medium or small package.
Adapting to product formats
The new Zero machine platform is constructed to be completely modular. Some manufacturers may not require format changes in a given day or week, but the platform offers the option of achieving considerable time savings with motorized format changes and module shifting, as well as module changes.
The process can be adapted to the product when changing the format. One example of this is the OPTIMA Zero L1 welding module: When processing long-shaped products first and then small ones, by selecting the new format, the sealing module moves closer to the stack. This makes the process more consistent and faster.
During a format change, it is also possible to replace a standard product compression with a very strong compression or a rotary module in a much shorter time than was previously possible.
The OPTIMA Zero L1 offers the option to increase performance via a double extension, the "dual lane," which is new in the feminine hygiene and light incontinence sectors. Modules can be switched without having to design a completely new process, so companies can be ready for future changes.
The system is based on a new machine structure. This can be assembled and built up in a range of varying lengths, for example, two meters or five meters long, and can accommodate the modules in different positions. In the past, the mounting positions for each unit were fixed.
The flexibility extends to software as well. The programmable logic controller (PLC) has a modular design similar to what is used in mechanical engineering.
Simulation of the process and variants is performed during the design phase.
Optima describes the simulation of the machines' interlocking functions and function sequences as a digital twin. This way, engineers in the design stage can see whether the mechanics, electronics and software are working together in the desired way.
On the new Zero platform, Optima says there is more configuration and less design—more time is available to develop individual function modules. “Up to now, it would have been necessary to develop a specific process around a specific module. All that is needed these days is to design and test the specific module and make individual adjustments in the plant,” according to the company.
Each customer only invests in the modules they need, whether they need equipment for a process capable of five format changes per day or a process that produces identical packaging at high speed for five weeks.
If automated changeovers are not required—for less frequent format changes—a manual format change supported by adjusting wheels and counters will suffice. If, later on, the need arises for rapid format changes, this can be done using exchangeable modules.
The machines are now operating at customer sites. In one modular system, shuttles are used to transport the feminine hygiene or light incontinence products right into the open bag. Previously, the products were inserted using a top runner.
Shuttles have proven beneficial for the dual-lane processing of feminine hygiene and light incontinence products, and for doubling output two lanes running at 90 cycles/min with increased packaging quality.
The company is currently developing other modules for the OPTIMA Zero L1. These modules are designed for processing particularly small formats, larger-sized products, two-layer package configurations, and triple-folded products, etc.
Reducing lead and delivery times
Optima engineers continue to improve lead times, noting, “As well as the fact that less design input is needed - the key word being "configure" instead of "design" - this is also due to the possibility of delivering non-specific parts of the modular construction kit, such as the machine frame, ahead of time.”
The dimensions of the lines or modules were designed to match the format of shipping containers, so they can be transported relatively quickly worldwide from the manufacturing facility in Schwäbisch Hall, Germany, without the need for custom shipping solutions.
With plant square footage at a premium, the new machine frame can be compact. Depending on the machine configuration, it’s possible to shave off two meters of machine length, because the modules do not need to be permanently installed in specific positions.
Visit Optima's PACK EXPO Connects showroom for demos and more through Mar. 2021 at this link.