Rockwell Automation’s small-frame intelligent track system can be scaled and adapted for customised food and beverage products, improving throughput in multi-product applications. This article was first published in Food & Drink Business July/August 2020.

Food and beverage manufacturers are under increasing pressure to package a wider range of products in a wider variety of packaging without compromising productivity. For industrial automation and digital transformation specialist Rockwell Automation, the solution is a scalable high precision system with multi-product applications.

Its new iTRAK 5730 small-frame intelligent track system uses independent cart technology to support smart, flexible and efficient machines.

According to Rockwell, independent cart technology offers many benefits over traditional gear, chain and belt conveyors, including unlimited machine flexibility, better traceability and increased uptime.

By using magnetic propulsion, the individually controlled carts can quickly start and stop with high precision, which reduces machine wear and is highly energy efficient.

The technology also quickly manages changeovers using pre-configured move profiles that can be implemented with the push of a button from an HMI.

It has the smallest footprint in the range with a 55 millimetre minimum pitch, and according to Rockwell, that makes it ideal for primary packaging applications, such as flow wrapping, end load cartoning, and form-fill-and-seal pouching.

The system also easily integrates into a manufacturer’s architecture, providing analytics that help optimise energy use, monitor parts wear and reduce downtime.

iTRAK product manager Michaela Kaufmann says: “The iTRAK 5730 system extends the flexibility and productivity benefits of iTRAK to meet the growing demand for customised food and beverage products. The technology is truly scalable. Your system can have as little as a fifty millimetre pitch in a small, standalone machine, or be as large as one hundred metres and part of a large, complex line.”

In addition to delivering a smarter form of motion control, it offers integrated safety. Safety zones, for example, can increase safety without compromising productivity by allowing motion to continue outside of the safety zone, even after a trip inside the safety zone.

Its simulation capabilities allow users to calculate throughput on the iTRAK 5730 system. Users can also create a digital twin that can be used to virtually design, commission and demonstrate the system, and to virtually train workers. Standardised object-oriented libraries also can help create a consistent user experience and accelerate time to market.

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