How do you match control precisely to the needs of packaging machines?

  • 30 November 2020
  • 3 minutes

One product supplied by a company for protective product packaging involves filling an empty space in a cardboard box. This empty space is occupied by a plastic bag which is filled with air. The filling has to be determined precisely so that the box does not become either concave or convex, since that would complicate stacking the boxes for transportation.

A machine has been developed to seal the box and fill the air bag. This machine first positions the box precisely so that the air valve is in the correct position. It has to be able to work with differently sized and shaped boxes. The machine must be capable of detecting these different shapes and sizes. Once the box has been positioned, it must be filled with air at the correct pressure. After filling, the box is conveyed away from the machine and reinserted into the logistical process. If anything goes wrong during the filling of the air bag, the box has to be placed in a separate buffer area so that an employee can check the box and determine what to do with it.


The control requirement for the machine used in the above-mentioned process is that it should have a clear HMI available. This allows an employee to clearly see and read off the status of the machine, making it easier for him to operate it and take corrective action when an error occurs. He must also be able to set the parameters easily. The machine must additionally have the capability to be included in a network so that data can be obtained from the machine. There are various I/Os on this machine, including a few precise analogue I/Os and a number of digital I/Os, some of which are relay outputs while others are 24V outputs.

Result: favourable ROI and better delivery guarantee

In this situation ICT Group chose to use a machine-specific control system, as this offers improved functionality for a better ROI in comparison with control components available on the market.

Due to the variety of I/Os and the requirements in terms of the HMI (colour touch screen) it is difficult to assemble a control system using standard components available in the market and still aim for a good ROI. The planning requires delivery of 200 of these machines per year as a minimum, so all savings on machine components immediately add up to a significant amount.

A machine-specific control system with a modular structure makes it possible to meet all the customer’s requirements. This means that the customer only pays for the elements they need to control their machines. The chosen I/Os can be expanded, making the control system future-proof. The HMI is a fully touch screen-operated system so that the employee can gain insight into the status of the machine easily. The figures for the ROI are favourable and the delivery guarantee (control system available for at least the next ten years) is also better.

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