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What is appropriate technology?March 27, 2013
New technology often gets a bad name in its early going. People donÃ¢??t adapt well to change, and early applications often look clumsy and expensive. It took a long time for microwave ovens, mobile phones and new servo motors to reach mainstream. A $50,000 microwave oven or a $10,000 mobile phone was at one point appropriate for only a limited class of applications. In time, these products reached a price point that made them appropriate for almost every kitchen, pocket or purse.
In reviewing the patents for the new class of linear servo motors that I have written about for the April issue of Packaging World, I became aware of patents in the chemical industry for similar motors, used to stretch biaxial film. A little digging turned up a recent application article (Automotion November, 20011) that puts perspective to price/performance.
B&R provided controls for a 65 meter long machine built by Brueckner in Germany that utilized a linear motor with track sections involving 728 sets of motor windings and over 700 linear motor movers. Using dual axis drives, B&R provided a control system that included 398 ACOPOS drive modules, 14 power supplies, 12 industrial computers, and 36 network cards to control 728 servo axes with a cycle time of 400 microseconds. The cost of this control system, while not reported, must have been in the mid six figures Ã¢?? more than most packaging cells.
I think that no one could conceive of a packaging application where this would be appropriate technology, yet it was most appropriate and successful in its intended use. It certainly demonstrated a proof-of-concept that should make packaging applications of these new linear servo motors look like childÃ¢??s play. And now we have seen the first two packaging machine examples using similar linear motors.
The efforts that established this complex world record application and the efforts that will build upon that, likely resulting in an order of magnitude reduction in cost and apparent complexity, are both of great value to the industry. Both represent appropriate use of technology within their own context.
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|About Keith Campbell |
|Leaders learn from the past while looking to the future - and bring both to bear on the here and now. This is the philosophy that has steered Keith Campbell's 30+ years in manufacturing. It has worked for him in operations, maintenance, engineering, R&D, education, consulting and professional organizations--and now he's putting it to work for you--taking you to the edge of his thoughts on packaging operations. |