Smaller Pneumatic Machines Pack a Punch
Food and beverage packaging facilities gain numerous operational and cost benefits by using machinery engineered to be compact.
Compact equipment design, when it comes to food and beverage packaging operations, is a practice that many OEMs and their customers know, affords them numerous operational benefits.
Compact pneumatic equipment takes up less space in end user facilities, allows OEMs more design flexibility, and helps simplify installations, to name a few advantages.
For example, one proponent, a senior R&D engineer with an East Coast-based OEM supplier, describes case packaging machines, historically configured in long linear aisles, that instead could be set up in vertical carousel orientations rising 20 to 30 feet high, reducing machinery footprints.
In another example, a dairy operation found that compact valve systems would allow it to upgrade its flushing system with equipment that fit within its existing space.
These sorts of improvements are made possible largely because of the flexibility and compact design features of today’s pneumatic equipment.
How Smaller Components Accomplish More
Certainly there are numerous benefits for both OEMs and their customers when designing and engineering packaging equipment that is more compact. Besides being easier to install, compact designs allow food companies to upgrade their machinery within the confines of their existing plant space, so they don’t have to take on widescale renovations just to fit the equipment.
With today’s rising concerns about food safety during all steps of food and beverage processing and packaging, compact packaging machinery also contributes to hygienic operations. Compact equipment is typically designed with less surface area, so there is a reduced risk of bacterial contamination from surfaces in contact with foods and beverages. Compact assemblies also require less cleaning agents and consume less energy during washdowns.
Reducing costs of the equipment and materials is another incentive for both OEMs and their customers. Larger pneumatic builds require more materials, leading to higher weights, greater installation complexity and higher installation costs. Because larger builds are more massive and heavier, they also require stronger and often numerous structural supports. This results in still more mass and weight being built into the machinery, requiring yet more powerful or larger actuators and mechanisms, leading to the increase of equipment and installation costs.
Conversely, more compact, lighter machinery weighs less, and so allows the use of smaller actuators, cylinders, and valves. While the resulting equipment may be less powerful than its predecessors, it may not require as much power as its larger, heavier predecessors. And its lower install and maintenance costs, combined with its performance flexibility, is another critical difference.
A further benefit of compact pneumatic equipment is that it can be more efficient in its use of compressed air. Small and lightweight pneumatic construction lends itself to reduced psi requirements for specific tasks, which helps optimize compressed air use for the overall process.
Compact Pneumatic Options
Newer pneumatic components and assemblies deliver compact processing power in a variety of ways.
Micro pneumatic valve systems, for example, fit more outputs into a smaller area, which in turn simplifies adjustments and reduces the size of enclosures.
Compact pneumatic cylinders, meanwhile, are easier to install and can be easily adjusted and retrofitted. In many cases, compact designs also allow for the valves and control options to be directly mounted to the actuator systems.
Pneumatic hoses and tubing also lend themselves to space-saving and compact design. In many cases, decentralized valve-cylinder combinations, where the cylinder control options are installed close to the actuators, can drastically reduce the amount of hose and tubing needed to transfer and connect pneumatic power. This not only reduces hose, tubing, and installation costs, but also increases the responsiveness and accuracy of the actuators.
Another technique for achieving compact design is selecting pneumatic hose that offers a tighter bend radius. This allows actuators and other products to be installed closer together as well, and may reduce the need for additional fittings. Hose with a wider bend radius, on the other hand, may need to be cut and configured with additional fittings to allow it to be connected to machines in close proximities.
The options for OEMs in designing compact, high performing pneumatic equipment are limited only by their level of engineering creativity. Equipment options abound in terms of modular, flexible and smaller scale components that deliver the amount of processing power OEMs need. And there are plenty of benefits to designing equipment under this less-is-more methodology.