Drinktec review: the solutions inspired by industry 4.0 presented by Smi

With over 76,000 visitors coming from more than 170 countries, Drinktec 2017 has exceeded all expectations and has confirmed to be the world’s most important innovation exhibition. For SMI, it was a crucial event; a real showcase of innovation whereby the most advanced bottling and packaging solutions were displayed: the ECOBLOC® ERGON integrated system, the CWP ERGON casepacker and the MP ERGON overlapping cardboard sleeve packer.

Machines and systems of the new ERGON technology are designed for Industry 4.0 automated and interconnected production. Indeed, the ERGON range stands out for its state-of-the-art solutions that provide more flexibility, efficiency, eco-compatibility, management and monitoring simplicity within the production lines.

New age of bottling Among the solutions for the blowing and bottling processes, at Drinktec SMI has exhibited the EBS ERGON stretch-blow moulder in ECOBLOC® version with an electronic filler. The new EBS (Electronic Blowing System) ERGON is the result of a research and development project, which has introduced innovative concepts for the design and manufacturing of the new SMI rotary blow moulders. The current EBS ERGON range includes both models suitable for the manufacturing of PET containers up to 3 L with a maximum output of 33600 bottles/ hour and HC (High Capacity) models for the manufacturing of containers up to 10 L with a maximum output of 7200 bottles/ hour.

The stretch-blowing module of the EBS ERGON series is equipped with motorised stretch rods, whose functioning is controlled by electronic drives and does not require mechanical cams; this ensures a precise control of the stretch rod’s path and position, as well as significant energy savings. The EBS ERGON series also uses high-performance, low dead-volume valves that reduce pre-blowing and blowing times, thereby improving the machine efficiency and the quality of the bottles produced.

The motorisation of the mould mechanical assembly is integrated with the electronic stretch rod, making the EBS ERGON stretch-blow moulders a “cam-free” system, with considerable advantages in terms of greater kinematic accuracy, less maintenance, less vibration, less noise and increased system longevity. The stretch blow-moulders of the EBS ERGON series is equipped with a newly designed preform-heating tunnel, featuring very compact dimensions, with a horizontal prefom-holding mandrel chain and with optimized ventilation and aeration systems.

The new heating module is equipped with a system of thermo-reflective panels made of a highly energy- efficient ceramic material, situated both in front and behind the infrared lamps units responsible for heating the preforms; this innovative solution ensures a high reflexion of the heat generated by the lamps and consequently a more uniform distribution of the heat over the entire surface of the preforms. Thanks to their technically advanced solutions, the new SMI EBS ERGON blow-moulders stand out for their low energy consumption and the total environmental compatibility of the stretch-blowing process.

New age of packaging The secondary packaging solutions exhibited by SMI at Drinktec 2017 included a new overlapping cardboard sleeve packer of the MP ERGON series and a new casepacker of the CWP ERGON series. The packers of the MP ERGON series are suitable to pack a wide range of containers in a high number of different configurations, responding in an efficient way to the variable present and future end- users’ demands. The continuous cycle packaging system ensures a fluid production process, without jerking movements, which protects the containers from damages, ensuring integrity of the product, high-quality of the package and reduced mechanical wear of the machine com- ponents.

The pack bottom sealing with hot melt glue ensures a precise and long-lasting closure, with the possibility of using different types of cardboard. The SMI MP ERGON cluster packers are the ideal solution to create packs with a captivating graphics and a strong visual impact, able to capture the consum- er’s attention: moreover, cardboard blanks are very resistant to hits and easy to manage, open and store. The model, which has been shown at the exhibition in Munich packed 0,33 L beer bottles in 2 x 2 OTT packs with flap inside. The clusters realized were packed in cardboard boxes, completely closed by the new CWP ERGON case- packer in the 4 x 4 pack format.

The CWP ERGON project arose from SMI’s desire to launch on the market a compact version of the WP packer featuring the same design and manufacturing principles as  CSK ERGON shrinkwrappers. Adopting some of the main features of the CSK series, the new CWP series has been designed as a technologically advanced packaging machine, which stands out for advanced automation, excellent quality-price ratio, high flexibility, energy savings and environmental safeguard. The series currently includes just the model CWP 40 for the packaging of a wide range of rigid containers in wrap- around cases or in only tray packs with the maximum output of 40 packs/minute (according to the container dimensions and the package format).

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Smi: 30 years connected to the marketplace

In 2017 SMI celebrates its 30th anniversary. That’s a crucial goal that the company would like to share with all the stakeholders who contributed to it. Since the very beginning SMI’s path to success has been characterized by countless challenges and innovative ideas which have made the history of packaging and have turned the company into a reference point for many businesses of the food & beverage, dairy and detergents sectors. The bottling and packaging machines manufactured by SMI are increasingly more inspired to the principles of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT) platforms for totally automated production systems.

SMI’s latest technical developments are marked by “the new age of bottling” and “the new age of packaging” concepts and by the launch of the new ERGON series of primary, secondary and tertiary packaging machines satisfying production requirements up to 33,600 bottles/ hour. Moreover, SMI offers today cutting-edge technologies for both the supervision and automation of bottling lines, the Furthermore of production cycles, data collection and a more efficient and environment- friendly industrial process management.

The constant innovation is the driving force of SMI products’ success enabling to design, manufacture and offer to thousands of clients worldwide state-of-the-art machines and systems capable of adapting easily and efficiently to the requirements of an ever growing market- place. With over 6,000 machines delivered all over the world, SMI boasts a long experience in the packaging sector and offers many different solutions to satisfy the wide range of needs of every type of client.

SMI and the importance of R&D investments Investments in advanced technology and breakthrough innovation are the main driving force for the success of SMI in the world.In order to maintain and further develop its techni- cal expertise, SMI annually invests a significant share of its turnover in Research & Development projects. In almost 30 years, those foregoing investments have enabled SMI to market a wide array of innovative bottling and packaging machines as the new LSK, CSK and SK ERGON series of automatic shrink wrappers enable to pack- age a large range of containers in shrink film only, cardboard flat pad + shrink film, corrugated cardboard tray + shrink film or corrugated cardboard tray only. Recently, a new series has been launched: the new AFW ERGON series of compact shrink wrappers with 90° configuration product in-feed, especially suitable for the packaging of square- or rectangular- based containers/packs.

All packers of the LSK, CSK, SK and AFW series have capitalised on the many different innovations introduced by the ERGON platform, such as an ergonomic machine design, slightly rounded sliding doors, motors mounted on the machine’s external edges, easy access for main- tenance interventions.

SMI’s new secondary packaging machines are equipped almost exclusively with brush-less motors whereas traditional motors are installed only on the shrink tunnel and on the cardboard climb; this solution ensures higher efficiency and precision of movements and low energy consumption. Fur- thermore, the ERGON packers are equipped with a POSYC control panel incorporating a user-friendly man-machine interface with touchscreen display and advanced functions of diagnostics and real-time technical support.

The new shrink tunnels boast cutting-edge technical solutions ensuring energy savings, top environmental compatibility of production processes and high quality of the pack manufactured. At the shrink tunnel outlet a conveyor connects the tunnel belt to the conveyor system of the production line, ensuring a proper thermal transition of the pack thanks to a ventilation device.

Complete solutions for every bottling & packaging need

SMI designs and manufactures complete bottling & packaging systems, chiefly destined to the food & beverage industry, but also for the detergent, personal hygiene and chemical/ pharmaceutical product sectors.

The turn-key lines proposed by SMI are the ideal solution for output needs from 3,600 to 33,600 bottles per hour also requiring high efficiency, broad operating flexibility, low energy consumption and a good quality/price ratio.

The range of turnkey systems proposed by SMI includes cost-saving and compact lines as well as full optional and complex solutions, with a wide array of intermediate products that can satisfy customers’ current and future requirements in terms of output rate, product to be packaged, process automation and facility size.

New blow-molder EBS K ERGON: SMI solution devoted to Industry 4.0 At Interpack 2017 SMI exhibited the world premiere of the new compact blow- molder EBS K ERGON in ECOBLOC® version as well as an electronic volumetric filler. A new important step in the “new age of bottling” focused on Industry 4.0.

Since 1987 SMI has been developing cutting-edge projects and technologies, in order to offer turn-key bottling lines and flexible, ergonomic, efficient packaging machines, increasingly inspired by the concepts of Industry 4.0 and Internet of Things (IoT). Based on the technical innovations of the stretch blow-molders of the EBS ERGON series (Electronic Blowing System), SMI engineers have developed a new series of very compact rotary machines, called EBS K ERGON (“K” refers to the German word “Kom- pakt”), suitable for outputs up to 8.800 bottles/hour.

The new models, available in 2-, 3- and 4-cavity versions, offer all advantages of the rotary technology, with an output range traditionally controlled by linear blow-molders (from 3-4.000 to 8-9.000 bottles/ hour); thanks to the state-of-the-art solutions, the EBS K ERGON series can produce PET containers up to 3 litres with a maximum output of 2200 bottles/ hour per cavity for the 0,5-liter format.

A market-oriented and flexible organization In a global market where competition is getting fiercer and fiercer, the possibility to guarantee a “next door” service is for SMI a key factor to effectively and successfully support customers wherever they are. Thus, over the years SMI has set up a widespread network of branches and representative offices in order to extend the service to the widest number of clients.

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SMI’s new ERGON series of SK shrinkwrappers

The new packers of the SK ERGON series are the outcome of a two-year R&D project.
This new series of machines is based on advanced technical concepts applied to both the design and the manufacturing, which allow to further increase the machines’ flexibility and considerably facilitate their management and maintenance operations.
The key concepts featuring the new SK ERGON have affected SMI’s whole portfolio of machines, from the EBS blow-molders and the integrated blow-molding, filling and capping systems of the ECOBLOC® series to the APS palletising systems.

The SK series renovates!
The innovations introduced by SMI on the new ERGON series of SK shrinkwrappers  concern each functional section of the machine, with a special consideration for maintenance cost reduction and energy saving.
The new packers of the SK ERGON series stand out for the innovative rounded line of safety guards and for the new grigio Orobie (gray) color.
The rounded shape ensures more room inside the machine, which allows the installation of motors (featuring low energy consumption) on the outside, for an easier access in case of maintenance interventions by the line operator.
Moreover, the safety doors’ closing system is equipped with a hydraulic damper, which slows down the closing stage and ensures highest safety standards, since in the final step the door is accompanied smoothly avoiding abrupt slamming.

A new design marked by ergonomics
The ergonomic and functional structure of the frame of the new SK ERGON packers allows the operator to easily carry out all the activities related to the use and maintenance of the system, in full compliance with highest safety standards.
There is no contact between the moving components and the packaged product because the threaded shafts, on which the guide and chain adjusters slide, are housed  in a safe environment that protects them from dirt and dust.
Furthermore, SMI shrinkwrappers do not use geared motors as they are driven by brushless motors (controlled by digital servo-drives), which are connected directly to the drive shafts, with the consequent advantage of reducing energy consumption, noise levels and maintenance.

New heat-shrinking tunnel
The technological innovation applied to the new SK ERGON has also affected the fundamental element of a shrinkwrapper: the heat-shrinking tunnel.
SMI heat-shrinking tunnels boast cutting-edge technical solutions that allow reducing energy consumption and ensure the utmost environmental compatibility of the processes.
Thanks to an accurate analysis of the thermodynamic phenomena generated by the heat-shrinking process, SMI tunnels are able to efficiently and smoothly manage the distribution of the hot air flows across the entire surface of the pack being formed, thus improving its final quality.
Air adjustments have been further increased, so that now the direction of the heat flow is more accurate.
In addition, the pack is immediately subjected to a cooling process which, through a series of fans placed at a regular distance of 1 meter each inside the tunnel, fixes the pack’s shape, visual appeal and rigidity to prevent deformation or breakage during the later packing stages.
A conveyor at the exit of the heat-shrinking tunnel connects the tunnel’s belt to the production line’s conveyor belts. This connection is ventilated to allow the correct thermal transition of the pack.
The final stretch of the exit belt is equipped with Vetronite cleaning brushes that remove any residual dirt deposited during machine operations.

SMI heat-shrinking tunnels are designed to allow the operator easy and totally safe access to internal parts during maintenance and cleaning, operations which are also much reduced as compared to other traditional systems.
The new heat-shrinking tunnel of the ERGON series is equipped with a small electrical cabinet, positioned on the lower section of the frame, under the exit belt.
Finally, thanks to an appropriate meter located on the outside of the tunnel, it is possible to immediately and closely control energy consumption.