With packaging quality playing a key role in brand recognition and increasing production diversity, a growing number of SKUs, and even product and secondary packaging personalisation now possible, manufacturers are looking for improved flexibility and responsiveness from their existing packaging systems. Easy re-engineering of existing lines is also important if producers are to adapt to big changes in demand.
Producers and brand-owners are therefore becoming more demanding when it comes to their line requirements. They cannot afford to compromise on extended performance in terms of production uptime, efficiency and reliability, and are always paying close attention to keeping total cost of ownership (TCO) as low as possible. As a consequence, they look for packaging solutions that are space-saving, easy to maintain, ergonomic in design, simple to use and sustainable.
In the face of these changing demands, Gebo Cermex - part of the Sidel Group and a world leader in packaging line engineering solutions - has reinvented the design of packaging lines thanks to a breakthrough product-handling technology. The company decided on a system that would help manufacturers meet all their current performance objectives, as well as prepare for the challenges of tomorrow.
"After spending 50 years in pioneering conveying solutions and line regulation systems, we believe this introduction to be the culmination of our innovation processes," says Ludovic Tanchou, vice-president of strategy, products and innovation at Gebo Cermex. "AQFlex is the new IQ in product handling, encompassing all the advantages given by the existing conveying machines in a much smarter way."
AQFlex is designed by Gebo Cermex as a new concept in packaging solutions that accommodates any product, whatever the application or market, in all container materials, formats and shapes, full or empty, while also enabling automatic changeovers via an intuitive, userfriendly human machine interface (HMI).
The integrity of the product is completely ensured by a single-lane, contact-free product-handling and accumulation system that is able to process even fragile, unstable or premium containers. Thanks to its radically new approach to conveying and accumulation, AQFlex delivers unprecedented packaging line performance. It offers this performance, together with unique agility, and smooth contactless product conveying and accumulation, in a compact space. This is a significant first step towards bringing the factory of the future to life.
Proof of the unprecedented packaging line performance of AQFlex is its ability to operate at any speed, from 1,000 to 100,000 containers an hour, delivering energy savings of up to 60% without compromising high efficiency of 99.5%, even at high speeds.
This is ensured by high line performance regulation, together with a high accumulation performance to maintain continuous product flow at any speed. The system uses advanced robotics based on a proven logic motion technology, and a centralised system architecture ensures the accurate synchronisation of motion control for all the servo axes of the equipment.
"Moreover, for greater product traceability and continuous control of production quality, the solution works according to a 'first-in, first-out' (FIFO) operating principle," Tanchou says.
All the conveying functions of AQFlex, including contactless accumulation and multilane machine in-feed, are cleverly regrouped into this single, universal handling solution. As all conveying and accumulation is carried out as a single-file process, the usual peripheral conveying functions associated with mass accumulation - such as deceleration, degrouping, combining and laning - are completely eliminated.
For minimised TCO and optimised operability, the solution from Gebo Cermex offers the best accumulation to space ratio on the market. Its compact design provides up to 40% space savings compared with traditional solutions. As a result of its compact footprint, AQFlex is easily integrated into existing production lines. The solution has a clear and open design that gives full accessibility at floor level for enhanced ergonomics and easy cleaning. It has only a few added mechanical parts compared with a conveyor. Thus, maintenance of AQFlex is comparable with that of a standard conveyor but without the need for any lubrication.