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Packing a Punch

Established in 1957, Elopak is today one of the world's leading companies within the liquid food packaging industry, with a worldwide network of production sites, sales offices, subsidiaries and licensees. At the centre of Elopak's reputable range of packaging solutions is the Pure-Pak(r) carton, the world's first paperboard carton.

The Pure-Pak(r) symbol is now the identifying mark for safe, cost effective and environmentally friendly containers made from renewable sources. Elopak also designs and builds specialist high-speed filling machines to fill the Pure-Pak(r) cartons. Currently these machines are one of the cleanest high-speed fillers on the market, forming, filling and sealing around 12,000 cartons per hour.

Recently, Elopak came to the realisation that they had to change the way they conducted their engineering in order to increase productivity, improve quality and cost competitiveness and to provide more customer flexibility. Instead of building standard models with options that require additional design, Elopak decided they wanted to offer different configurations of the same machine as standard therefore creating a more seamless and consistent design process.

Tasked with performing an analysis to find a possible replacement E-CAD package, Elopak began their due diligence. The objective was to achieve greater stability, reliability and productivity through increased design automation. They also decided that in order to keep up with global standards, they needed to adopt IEC/DIN standards which drive the global language in electrical design.

Whittled down to two finalists, Elopak chose to establish an objective drawing competition to show the capabilities of each selected E-CAD system. Both packages used macros, but each processed them differently. The task involved the use of PLC/IO, a heater circuit, a controlled-loop PID, terminal designs, panel layouts, power generation and associated reports. Elopak were interested to identify how much time and how many mouse-clicks it would take to draw the circuit in each E-CAD system, implement the I/O, put the panel layout on paper, generate reports and compare the reliability of the reports.

But while EPLAN relished the challenge, the other vendor announced they were withdrawing from the competition. Consequently Elopak purchased Electric P8 and three other add on modules; EPLAN Fluid for hydraulics and pneumatics, EPLAN Cabinet for enclosure configuration and EPLAN PPE for process plant engineering, along with EPLAN's application programming interface (API) extension, which was used to create the data bridge between Electric P8 and Windchill. An updated parts database was created and resides in the PLM system, which will feed data back to EPLAN.

The implementation strategy involved training all electrical engineers immediately on Electric P8, whether or not they were going to use it right away. It was decided to undertake a number of smaller projects first using the EPLAN software to enable smooth and easy migration. Among these was a cap-orientation project to design a stand-alone unit that can be mounted on current filling machines to orient caps with printed logos to the upright position when attaching them to the carton. Another involved the design of a new, stand-alone, servo-driven chain conveyor and linear servo drive carton loader to be retrofitted onto current models.

Satisfied with the smaller projects Elopak has now undertaken their biggest project yet using EPLAN Software. The project involves redesigning the controls platform of each of their current filling machine models from a Mitsubishi PLC system to a Siemens Simotion-D Motion/PLC system.

The first model to complete this electrical redesign is the E-PS120UC. It was broken down and rebuilt into functional units. All electrical enclosures, cabling and switchgear were redesigned for Siemens products, and all motion control was redesigned to Simotion and Sinamics.

Elopak electrical engineer, Michael Ballinger, commented: "As long as the engineering time is up front and everything is laid out well at the beginning, I think we'll cut development time in half. Longer-term, we would like to design of all our machines in EPLAN, so when our customer unit sells a machine, they can choose the configuration and the system will give us the prints. It would free up much more valuable time which we can utilize to focus on developing new technology."

Currently, most electrical design in the UK is performed using simple, two-dimensional CAD systems that produce flat, unintelligent drawings where all accompanying lists and documents have to be researched and assembled separately. EPLAN can perform these functions automatically and instantaneously, compiling schematics, lists and documents from data which only needs to be entered once. Using single data entry and EPLAN's capability to enforce design rules, the risk of errors - as well as the need to error-check entire projects - is largely eliminated.

EPLAN differs significantly from other electrical design packages as it is database driven. Schematics are built up using intelligent symbols and component representations containing all relevant technical information. As a component is inserted into a schematic, all lists and documentation are updated and cross-linked. The EPLAN database contains every type of component from the IEC symbol library, from a simple fuse to a PLC. Intelligent macros can be created that allow common sub-assemblies like motor drives to be inserted into projects within seconds, generating all wire and terminal numbering and greatly simplifying production of product variants.

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