Sometimes the design of machines that fabricate products are more fascinating than the products themselves. One example is a machine developed by a company called System Group, that boxes products like ceramic tiles, bottles and cans. Now you may be asking: what's so special about that? However, what if I told you that the machine automates the entire process, from choosing, arranging and packing the product, to custom cutting and printing every box to fit?
We were excited to learn more details on how it works, so we spoke with Roberto Dolci at System Logistics. He told us about a machine called 4PHASES since the process consists of...4 phases. First, it chooses, arranges and stacks the tiles, determining their location using 6-8 cameras. Optical sensors then measure the area and height of the stack.
In the second phase, the machine takes a standard 1.4 square meter piece of cardboard from the supply tray, and using the previously acquired stack measurement, cuts 4 pieces to the correct length. These are going to form each side of the box frame. A high-speed inkjet printer then prints customizable, multicolored logos, brand names, and other product details on each piece.The 4 cardboard strips are arranged with the corners overlapping and are hot-glued together, creating one flat piece.
In phase 3, the frame is placed over top of the stack of tiles. Pneumatic-powered arms then form the sides around stack… with total enclosure making up phase 4.
The greatest advantage of this machine over previous ones is that it can handle any size and configuration of product. And a single machine can handle multiple products in a single run, from different size tiles to completely different products like bottles and cans. As a result, System Logistics has demonstrated a productivity increase of between 20 and 30%. A large part of the cost savings comes from reduced cardboard waste because the machine only uses enough cardboard to form the outer frame of the box. For some box sizes, this can save as much as 80%. Warehouse space is also freed up considering that only one size of cardboard sheet has to be stocked.
What may be more amazing than the machine itself is that System Logistics designed and built 4PHASEs in only two and a half months. This was made possible by using Creo direct modeling software, enabling the design team to skip the rapid prototyping. In addition to design, manufacturing was made faster and easier because the CAD files could be loaded straight into laser cutting and welding machines, automating fabrication of the machine's sheet metal components.