Mueller Electric Blog

AUTOMATION TRENDS FOR PACKAGING, 2022

Posted by Deanna Craver on May 9, 2022 4:28:30 PM

AUTOMATION TRENDS FOR PACKAGING, 2022

           How To Make Technology Work As Your Packaging Solution While Creating A Profit

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Due to uncertain times and the need to streamline manufacturing processes as much as possible while turning the best profit, technological advancements have been made in every industry and are now being heavily implemented everywhere. By now you’ve heard all about Industry 4.0 and how it can be applied to factory automation. But how does this effect your packaging needs and that of the packaging industry overall? Here are some of the top automation trends for packaging in 2022 and how these trends can help your business.

Robots & CoBots
The most obvious automation trend is using robots and cobots to automate such packaging tasks as filling, packing and palletizing. Robots are used to perform just about any repetitive task such as assembly, machine tending, quality assurance, palletizing and picking-and-placing tasks. CoBots, short for collaborative robots, can do the same and are often utilized where more than one robot is needed to perform a sequence of tasks. Because CoBots are premade with safety-compliant designs, CoBots are typically rented or leased and are especially great to use in conjunction with human applications or in areas where people work on the production floor.

End-Of-Arm Tooling (EOAT) for robotics
EOAT is being used more and more in packaging as many technological advances have been recently made. Developments include robotic hands that now have sensitive grip and can automatically adjust through Artificial Intelligence (AI), making this function useful for picking and packing applications.

For example, the idea of EOAT being used to pick and pack food items as delicate as tomatoes or grapes hasn’t been considered until now due to the risk of crushing items, however; because of newly-designed soft, spring-like fabricated fingers can sensitively adjust grip on objects, the application is now a reality. What’s more, EOAT changeovers needed for running different jobs has been a chore in the past, producing a lot of unwanted downtime with needing to unbolt one tool, bolt on another and, in many cases, having to change programming to accommodate the new job to be run. Because of EOAT advancements, however, operators are now quickly able to swap out one tool for another during change outs, along with grippers, scanners and packaging tools. Some new EOAT can also be used among different types of robot arms and models, instead of just one, making them convenient to use for multiple applications and compatible with different styles of robots and cobots.

NEW ADVANCEMENTS IN EOAT ROBOTICS WITH SENSITIVE GRIPPERS, POWERED BY AI, ALLOW FOR NEWFOUND APPLICATIONS IN FOOD PICKING AND PACKAGING. TO THE LEFT, DELICATE GRIPPERS ARE GENTLE ENOUGH TO GRASP BREAD PRODUCTS WITHOUT CRUSHING THEM. TO THE RIGHT, THE SAME GRIPPERS PICK UP A HEAD OF CABBAGE WITHOUT DAMAGING ANY OF THE LEAVES!

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Machine Learning / AI-Vision Systems
Machine learning, such as what is used in Artificial Intelligence-vision systems (referred to as AI), can help greatly in packaging as well. AI-vision systems can be used for inspection purposes and for lowering costs associated with inspection. Adaptable systems, such as the AI Gateway from Pleora Technologies, can be integrated with current cameras, sensors and equipment and can be programmed to update your existing systems for added functionalities. AI-vision systems can be of special use in food picking and packaging as they can inspect produce and predict shelf life which can help immensely to reduce waste. AI-vision systems are also being used more and more often in a variety of ways to enhance quality control, inspection and production efficiency, such as by taking pictures of completed products to examine package quality.

BELOW (LEFT), AN AI VISION SYSTEM IS USED TO SORT APPLES. THROUGH MACHINE LEARNING, SENSORS AND CAMERAS CAN DETECT DEFECTS, AS WELL AS RECOGNIZE WHICH APPLES ARE NOT AS RIPE AS OTHERS AND SEND THEM TO BE USED IN A SEPARATE FOOD CLASSIFICATION. ALL OF THIS IS DONE AT HIGH RATES OF SPEED TO IMPROVE FOOD QUALITY AND REDUCE LABOR COSTS. TO THE RIGHT, PHOTONICS IS USED TO INSPECT THE RIPENESS OF STRAWBERRIES FOR PICKING AND PACKAGING. PHOTONICS CAN ALSO BE USED TO PREDICT THE SHELF LIFE OF PRODUCTS AND GREATLY REDUCE WASTE.

AI Vision Systems & Photonics


Food Packaging & Processing
The key to more profitable food packaging is knowing what goods should be produced in large amounts to yield the greatest profit margins. Technology can certainly help in this department. Automation is now being used to enhance packaging, as well as improving food safety and increasing shelf life.

All these automation trends are currently being used in packaging as well as in all types of factory automation, however; due to universal pressures to continue manufacturing processes while turning a profit during labor shortages has caused plant managers and staff to implement and rely more and more on automation as a solution.

No matter where you are in the automation process … whether you’ve invested in all new equipment, are retrofitting a few pieces of machinery or are continuing to use your current equipment as is, Mueller Electric is here to help you with automation solutions. Mueller Electric can supply you with the factory automation cables needed to link all your equipment together for ultimate communication and automation purposes. With a large array of UL-listed cables and custom-made cable solutions, Mueller Electric can find a solution for you that gives you ultimate connectivity. Feel free to contact Mueller Electric or call 800.955.2629 to find out what Mueller can do for you.

Topics: engineering, Robotics, Instrumentation, Factory Automation Cables, Technology, Factory Automation

M12 Connections Explained: What Are They & Which Are Best For Your Purpose?

Posted by Deanna Craver on Apr 5, 2022 1:20:03 PM



M12 CONNECTIONS EXPLAINED:
WHAT ARE THEY AND WHICH ARE BEST FOR YOUR PURPOSE? 

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With so many various types of
M12 connections and options to choose from, such as pin count, pin positions, connection coding and IP ratings, the selection process can seem rather overwhelming. What does it all mean and how do you know which connections are right for your specific application? This article will explain these terms, what all of them mean as well as all of their classifications, so that you can discover which M12 connections are right for you. 


M12 CONNECTIONS … WHAT ARE THEY?

The name M12 came about pretty simply: M stands for the unit of measurement taken (in this case, metric) and 12 stands for the length of the diameter taken across the outside of the threads (12mm). M12s have circular connections and, because of their circular shape, they possess high current capabilities and are much easier in obtaining ingress protection (IP) ratings, or ratings that tell how well connections are able to keep out elements such as dirt, sand and water, than their rectangular counterparts. This makes them an excellent choice for use in factory automation applications, or in any tough or harsh environment where dirt or dampness is involved. 


PIN COUNT

Choosing the right M12 connections depends on your specific application. M12 connections come in a variety of pin positions, anywhere from 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 12 and 17 pins. The number of pins varies depending on the signal type and number of signals, connection coupling and code.
 

Pin counts differ according to code. Connections with B code, which are used for Profibus connections, typically have 5 pins, although their pin count can vary from having 3-5 pins. Connections with C code, which are used for AC power applications, usually have 6 pins, although their pin count can also vary from 3-6 pins. Connections with D code, which are used for Ethernet applications involving data transfer of up to 100 Mbits, always have 8 pins. Connections with A code, on the other hand, are used as all-purpose connections in such a wide variety of factory automation applications, such as attaching to sensors, actuators and a number of other smart devices, that the pin count can be anywhere from 2-17 pins. 


PIN POSITIONS AND CONNECTION CODING

Different pin positions have been created to coincide with the different types of coding that have been devel- oped according to function. This way the pin positions act as a fail-safe and eliminate any mistakes of cables being connected that were made for different coding. For instance, you would certainly connect cables that both have A-coding and are being used to hook up sensors with corresponding equipment, however; you would not want to connect an AC power cable to an Ethernet cable. 

Present coding

 

CODING FOR DATA APPLICATIONS

Below is a description of the different coding classifications currently used in factory automation and what they mean.

A-CODING
A-coding (also known as Micro-DC) for factory automation cables is the most widely used coding in factory automation applications of all the types. These connections are used in data applications primarily involving DC power. A-coding is used for attaching actuators, attenuators, sensors, motor-operated switches and other devices to automation equipment. A-coded connections are also used to transfer up to 1-Gbit of data in Ethernet applications and can have anywhere from 2 to 17 pin positions.

B-CODING
B-coding is unique in that it contains a reversed single keyway, which allows 2 unique M12 connections to be mounted on the same panel without the risk of incorrectly coupling connections to equipment with varying voltage and amperage. B-coding for factory automation cables is used in fieldbus connections involving Profibus and Interbus. B-coding connectors typically have anywhere from 3 to 5 pins.

C-CODING
C-coding (also known as Micro-AC) is strictly used in cases where AC current is involved, such as with AC actuators, sensors and other AC devices. Because of this C-coding is not as commonly used as the other coding types. Connections with C-coding all have extended grounding pins and double keyways for added safety to prevent them from being mistaken for other similar-looking connections or being coupled with the wrong cables. C-coding connections have anywhere from 3 to 6 pins.

D-CODING
D-coding is specifically used in network cables for industrial Ethernet applications to transfer data up to 100-Mbits. The insides of cables with this type of coding consist of either 4 wire connectors (D-coding) with 2 pairs of Cat 5e cables or else M12 8 wire (A-coding) connectors with 4 pairs of Cat 5e cable. D-coding can also be used with Profinet, Ethernet/IP and EtherCat systems. D-coded connections usually have 3 to 5 pins.

X-CODING
X-coding has been introduced in the recent years and is quickly becoming a standard for use with high-speed industrial Ethernet applications. X-coding has capabilities of transferring large amounts of data at high speeds, up to 10-Gbits of data. X-coding is expected to eventually replace A- and D-coded parts for Ethernet applications. X-coding applications include high-speed industrial Ethernet and Cat6A. X-coded connections always have 8 pins. 

 

Soon-to-be coding

 
CONNECTION CODING FOR POWER APPLICATIONS
While A, B, C, D and X connection coding make up the majority of factory automation cable use today, new coding is being introduced as well. K, L, S and T coding are all used for power applications. Rapid advancements in Industry 4.0 technology have resulted in these codings providing improved performance in specific power operations. S- and K-coding are both used for AC power applications and it is believed that S-coding will at some point take the place of C-coding that is currently used. T- and L-coding are both used for DC power applications and it is believed that T-coding will at some point take the place of A-coding that is currently used. P-coding has also been developed for various uses where quick connects and disconnects of cables are needed.


IP RATINGS
As mentioned earlier, the circular shape of M12 connectors makes it easy to assign them IP ratings which classify how well connectors are able to block out unwanted elements that can cause corrosion and other problems. Because of the rugged design of M12 connections, they are an ideal choice for use in factory automation.

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) came up with these rating classifications and international standards which set the bar for what connections can withstand. There are three common IP standards associated with M12 connections which are IP67, IP68 and IP69.

What are the differences?
The first digit (in this case, the number 6 in all three ratings given) refers to the connection’s resistance to solid objects, such as dirt, sand or dust. The significance of the number 6 means that after being in contact with solids for 8 hours, the connection does not absorb any “harmful” dirt and it is still functional. The second digit refers to the connection’s resistance to water. In the examples given we have 7, 8 and 9.

The significance of the number 7 means that the connection can be submerged in a greater depth of up to a 1 meter of fresh water for half an hour and still be water resistant. The significance of the number 8 means that the connection can be submerged in up to 1.5 meters of water for a half an hour and still be resistant. The significance of the number 9 means that the connection can actually withstand high pressures, high-pressure jet sprays, wash downs and steam cleaning procedures.


MAKING YOUR SELECTION
Now that you know about pin counts, pin positions, coding and ratings, you are ready to select your connections. Mueller Electric can help you with the process. Mueller Electric’s M12 factory automation connections have the most reliable and efficient connection standards for industrial machinery and industrial automation applications. Having high-performance capabilities, small footprints and extremely low failure rates, Mueller Electric’s connections are ideal for use in the toughest conditions.


            Mueller Electric offers M12 cable connections with features such as:

Industry-standard screw-locking mechanisms
IEC ratings of IP67, IP68 & IP69
A, B, C, D & X-coding options
Field-installing cable and panel-mount options
Moulded straight and right-angle variants
Pin ranges of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 12 & 17 positions
Shielded PVC and PUR options for cables


What’s more, if your automation takes place in a moist environment or if your equipment requires washdowns, factory automation cables with a minimum IP rating of IEC-IP68 are recommended. These cables provide a strong, secure and sealed connection between your automation equipment and robots, sensors, actuators, machine vision systems, motor-operated switches and other smart components, even in humid or moist conditions. The IEC-IP68 rating is highly recommended for factory automation in both the food and beverage and measurement and control industries. The IEC-IP69 rating is what is most often used in road vehicle applications. All of Mueller Electric’s M12 connections have an IEC ratings of IP67, IP68 and even IP69, the highest IEC rating available.


CONTACT MUELLER ELECTRIC
Still have questions about M12 connections? Give Mueller Electric a call at 800.955.2629 or contact us here. One of our knowledgeable staff members will be happy to help you select the connections that are best for you. With a wide array of factory automation connections, including a large selection of UL-listed connections in our factory automation catalog, Mueller is sure to have something for everyone. If by chance you do not see what you are looking for, Mueller also specializes in creating custom-made cable orders and can put together a solution just for you and your unique application needs!

Fore more information on M12 connections, feel free to visit Mueller Electric at www.muellerelectric.com.


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Topics: electronics, engineering, Instrumentation, Factory Automation Cables, Factory Automation, Connectors

QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF WHEN CONSIDERING TO RETROFIT YOUR MACHINERY

Posted by Deanna Craver on Mar 16, 2022 1:32:17 PM


QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
WHEN CONSIDERING TO RETROFIT YOUR MACHINERY

Retrofitting CNC machinery-1

By now you’ve probably heard of Industry 4.0 and how it can help manufacturing processes. While going full-out digital and becoming a connected smart factory with state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment would present endless production opportunities, getting involved in such a large investment may not be the best choice for your company, especially with a slow return on investment. Considering a retrofit may be a much better solution for you. 

One major reason why people decide against investing in wide sweeping, Industry 4.0 initiatives is because large transformations call for complex decisions on spending extensive amounts of capital upfront. What’s more, big investments often yield a slow ROI, causing people to wonder if the investment is worth the trouble. In comparison to implementing vast changes, retrofitting offers a nice alternative by being able to concentrate on something smaller and more specific that yields precise results. In effect, by exploring retrofitting options, people are able to get sample results of Industry 4.0 while not spending a fortune. What’s more, one smaller upgrade can lead to another, and another, which in turn allows plant managers and operators to slowly adapt their production floors to become more Industry 4.0- and smart factory-oriented through increments. 

So what are good examples of when to retrofit and when not to retrofit? 

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Well, do you use your production floor to run a lot of jobs continuously where part changeovers happen frequently? Do you and your team spend more time than you would like programming and setting up for jobs and making frequent changeovers? If these circumstances present significant constraints with unwanted downtime, then a retrofit would be a good idea. 

If you need different types of machine heads for running different jobs, perhaps you can outfit one or two of your existing machines so they can be equipped with interchangeable machine heads. For instance if you need to have a combination of machine heads, such as straight heads for heavy-duty metal cutting; contour heads for profiling and curved cutting; and 90-degree heads for angled cutting, then retrofitting a machine so that it can use all three types interchangeably would be ideal. If you work with more than one type of axis, you could also further outfit your machinery so that the axes are interchangeable along with the heads.  

While the above example of when to retrofit with metal cutting may be a given, there are other times when the idea of retrofitting sounds good in theory, although when you take into consideration the time and money needed to do so the idea may not pan out as perfectly as you would want. For instance, in a case where you are looking to get data information from an older piece of equipment for predictive analytics where the only place it can be seen is on a human-machine interface, having a custom-made device specially crafted for the sole purpose of being able to externally access data may be very costly. While connecting your equipment to IIoT systems has limitless potential, some older pieces of equipment may be very difficult to digitize as they were never meant to function in this way. In cases like these, the investment may not be worth what you’re trying to accomplish. 

Let’s say you have a possible need for retrofitting but are unsure of the next steps to take. When considering doing a retrofit, you always want to create a specific goal that is as detailed as possible. For example, perhaps you and your staff are experiencing problems where production repeatedly gets bottlenecked in a certain area on your floor. What are your pain points? What could be done to improve the situation? This could be a good case for how retrofitting a piece of machinery could improve the situation. 

In addition to pain points, other questions to ask yourself when contemplating a retrofit include the following:

  • What are you trying to achieve?
  • What is your current situation?
  • What do you need in order to achieve the desired outcome?
After clearly assessing your needs, you can then form a business plan and even more detailed information on how a retrofit would be good for you and your company. How much time, money and products are lost by staff needing to clear bottlenecks that could be applied toward more seamless production? Any possible retrofit case needs to be backed by a careful cost analysis of how much money is being lost due to the current situation, how much the projected cost estimate would be to implement changes with a retrofit and how much money you would have to gain as an ROI over the course of one month, 6 months and a year after successful implementation. retrofitting more machinery

Regardless of whether you plan to retrofit your equipment, go for a complete upgrade or keep your machinery as is, Mueller Electric is here to support you in your factory automation efforts. With an extensive line of UL-listed M12 cables and custom-made solutions, Mueller Electric has cables and solutions that are just right for you and your specific application. 

Please feel free to contact us for a consultation on how Mueller Electric can help you with factory automation cable needs.
 

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Topics: Factory Automation