For some companies, the recession fueled innovation. That's what happened at CBW Automation, which is showing three new technologies — one aimed at a whole new industry segment — at NPE2012.
With years of expertise in high-speed robots that remove parts from the mold and pack them into cases, CBW (Booth 3196) will debut its case-unpacking automation for containers and lids. The Fort Collins, Colo.-based company also will debut robotics for molding medical syringes with in-mold labeling. Milacron LLC's exhibit (Booth 2803) will show CBW's new telescoping side-entry robot.
CBW officials also will discuss, but not display at NPE, a new system for removing flip-top caps and closing them on the fly.
“That drop in sales in 2009 forced us to try to meet new customers and new markets,” CBW President Dave Carson said in a phone interview. “And specifically, we reached out to people who made IML syringes, people who made flip-top caps. We adapted our case-packing technology to take lids and containers out of the case at the filling line.”
Robot sales are on a roll now, as the plastics industry prepares for NPE2012 in Orlando, Fla. According to the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Robotic Industries Association, a record 19,337 industrial robots were sold in North America in 2011, valued at $1.17 billion. That marks a leap of 47 percent in units and 38 percent in dollars over 2010, RIA said.
Carson said that, for CBW, 2010 and 2011 have been years of recovery from the economic downturn, because of increases in new plastics machinery, the growth of IML, pent-up demand for investment in automation and the new CBW robot offerings.
“For us it was accelerated by the fact that we were entering these new markets,” Carson said.
CBW promotes the speed of its side- and top-entry robots. Because CBW robots can zip into the molding area and remove parts faster than the free-drop of gravity, molders can cut cycle time. Also, CBW sells customized systems.
So CBW focuses on total part cost. “The world turns on [return on investment], so it's key to us,” he said. “We do everything we can do to help the customer do as much with the product right at the molding machine.”
CBW is well-known by molders of thin-wall packaging for food and consumer products, said Jim Overbeeke, vice president of sales. He said about 80 percent of the automation systems CBW sells include some type of orienting and case-packaging of the finished parts. But typically, CBW has not been as well-known at the end-product filling plants, which used other automation suppliers.
CBW wants to change that. “We know what went into the box. We're ideally suited then to the unpacking and loading the filling line,” Overbeeke said.
Many times, unloading is done manually, or not as efficiently as it could be, Overbeeke said.
As NPE approaches, CBW is promoting its expertise in handling non-standard shapes, a growing market as consumer-product brand owners try to make their products stand out on store shelves.
“The difficulties of maximizing parts in a carton, allowing for size changes as the product cools and maintaining product alignment during shipping have long been a headache for molders,” said Jim Swim, CBW business manager, in a news release. “The CBW-designed system addresses all the issues associated with lid/container manufacturing, packing and unpacking, so the product arrives at its destination organized and ready for unloading.”
CBW plans to exhibit at its first-ever Pack Expo in October, highlighting its unpacking automation to product fillers at the Chicago packaging trade show.
The telescoping side-entry robot that will be shown at Milacron's booth saves floor space because it telescopes into the mold to grab the parts. Milacron will show the TSE-500 cell on an all-electric NTm PowerPak press with 500 tons of clamping force, molding lids for thin-wall food containers on a two-by-four stack mold from StackTeck Systems Ltd.
“In the U.S. market, we're seeing demand for larger, higher-cavitation molds, which require exponentially larger robots,” Carson said. “‘Many of our customers want the advantages of a side-entry robot while at the same time minimizing the footprint of the robot because of floor space issues.”
In the flip-top closure market, CBW has developed automation that company officials claim surpasses both free-drop and systems that close the lid inside the mold. “Using robotic part capture, we remove the caps using part-production robotics, and close them on the fly, and place the oriented caps on a conveyor for downstream applications such as lining or laser marking for lot traceability,” Carson said.
Carson said that, even with the robot moving in and out of the mold, it's a half-second faster because the parts do not have to fall clear of the mold before closing. “We're seeing an average of 10 percent improvement in productivity,” he said.
The IML syringe is a challenging part to mold, and a consortium of CBW and five other companies developed the manufacturing display that will run in Orlando.
A 16-cavity syringe mold, built by Tech Mold Inc. and Mold-Masters Ltd. and using labels from Inland Label, will run on a 165-ton, all-electric Milacron Roboshot press.