Process and control today | Fill level monitoring from SICK keeps packaging machines level

A digital service that gives instant visibility to packaging machine fill levels has been developed by SICK in collaboration with industry end users. SICK’s fill level monitoring avoids machine downtime by providing real-time data to operators via smartwatch or phone, so that levels of cardboard cutouts, adhesive or shrink wrap, for example, stay level.

Instead of having to check the level of each magazine or roll of film in person, machine operators monitor fill levels on their watch or phone and are alerted by SICK’s fill level monitoring system before the levels do not become critical. Machine downtime is avoided and staff walking routes can be planned efficiently to ensure optimum production uptime.

Collaboration with industry

The digital SICK Filling Level Monitoring service can be used with all intelligent SICK level sensors. Its early applications were developed with packaging manufacturers and machine builders using SICK DT-50 laser distance sensors to produce level measurements from carton magazines and film rolls. The measurements are routed to a SICK SIM1012 peripheral gateway, which aggregates and transmits the encrypted data via SICK’s LiveConnect digital interface, so that it can be easily accessed, managed and processed online.

The cloud-based SICK Filling Level Monitoring dashboard provides easy-to-interpret graphical information on real-time machine status from any web-connected device. Automatic push notifications on fill levels can be configured for smart devices to alert with an acoustic signal and vibrations. Meanwhile, production managers can monitor fill levels for all machines in a packaging line, shift, or entire production facility. Analysis of historical trends can be used to optimize production processes.

Unexpected benefits

Neil Sandhu, SICK UK Product Manager for Imaging, Measurement and Telemetry, said: “SICK has worked closely with leading packaging end users and machine builders in Europe to develop a system cost effective and easy to implement.

“Using smartwatch alerts, our customers have found that fewer operators are needed to supply cartoning machines, so staff can be deployed more efficiently for other tasks. In addition, the system has brought unexpected benefits to overall production control. For example, loads on packaging machine lines could be monitored to identify overcapacity or undercapacity.

Although originally developed for cardboard and film packaging materials, the fill level control can also be adapted to liquids, including adhesives, or granular raw materials. It is also possible to add custom services and analytics tailored to particular machines or processes.

Up to six SICK sensors can be monitored by each SICK SIM1012 gateway, and further sensors, including third-party devices, can be added by connecting via OPC-UA. The sensors are also continuously monitored by the system in case one should go offline or need replacement.

The solution can be extended to meet customer needs on request, for example to customize and display additional data on the dashboard. Integration with third-party ERP and MES software systems is also possible.

Digitization

Neil Sandhu concludes: “Cloud-based services such as fill level monitoring illustrate how the transparency of reliable sensor data enables the digital operation of machines within the framework of Industry 4.0. By combining smart sensors with smart software, critical processes can be visualized in real time and adapted to user needs.

“Early adopters are noticing new and unexpected production trends when viewing and interpreting their historical production data in easy-to-read graphical displays. As a result, they were able to optimize production processes and deploy staff to achieve efficiencies never before expected. »

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