Tech At Work

Keeping Equipment in Motion

In today’s high-paced society, speed is a way of life. Such is the case in the industrial automation market, as an increase in speed results in quicker production rates. Faster production rates, in turn, lead to higher margins, and a fatter bottom line is something that every company strives to achieve.
In the instance of case-packing machines, it is important for bakers and snack manufacturers to move a large volume of products in a short amount of time. The casepacker must not only be fast, but also cost-efficient and durable enough to ensure a long lifespan. For the last few years, RPT Motion, a Quebec, Canada-based provider of custom modular linear motion systems, has experienced an larger demand for casepackers and other linear motion solutions from manufacturing customers.
Although speed is a critical component for linear motion applications, size plays a significant role. Recently, RPT Motion teamed up with Kerk Motion Products, one of the world’s premier manufacturers of non-ball lead screws, for a challenging retrofit project involving a manufacturer whose operation was getting bottlenecked at the case packing stage.
The manufacturer wanted to add a second case packer to its process in order to increase speed and prevent the slowdown of its current production. The first obstacle was in the existing system, which had a two-position lane changer powered by a pneumatic cylinder, wouldn’t provide the four required positions or the higher speeds.  To service the four lanes, a stroke in excess of 40 in. was required, and the lane changer needed to index on average every 10 seconds or less while maximizing time available for product flow.  
To tackle this formidable motion control challenge, RPT and Kerk designed a motion system to feed the required four lanes. The two companies collaborated to include a Kerk screw and nut in the RPT Modular Slide System, creating a smooth running, high-speed, servo-powered system, with an Anti-Backlash Lead Screw Assembly.
The RPT/Kerk relationship spawned other notable technical innovations, including an ink jet printer movement system created by RPT using the Kerk VHD Series that moves the print head on a linear slide. It is an extremely high-speed application where the anti-backlash properties translate to excellent print quality. Another application involved gantry robotics for packaging.