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Newly developed thermo-packaging machine aims to save cleanroom space

Riverside Medical Packaging have developed a Shawpak thermo-packaging machine which allows manufacturers to replace a 20m long packing line with a single unit under 2m in length. ×

Riverside Medical Packaging, who are based in Derby, East Midlands, United Kingdom have been working within the contract manufacturing and machine development sectors of the healthcare industry for over 40 years. The organisation develops solutions for producing, packaging and sterilising single use medical devices.

David Shaw, CEO at Riverside Medical Packaging said: “The Shawpak helps customers reduce the cost of maintaining a cleanroom production environment and to maximise their return on investment.”

Riverside Medical Packaging claim that the Shawpak’s compact size and flexible layout enables it to be configured in many ways to suit customers’ individual requirements.

The smallest Shawpak machines are 1.5m long and occupy less than 2m2 of floorspace. The company state that six times more thermo-packaging machines can fit into the same cleanroom space as previously occupied.

Ivor Rowe, technical manager, Riverside Medical Packaging comments: “A comparable form fill sealing (FFS) machine can be anywhere from 7m to 20m in length depending on the packaging process requirements, occupying a working space of up to 40m2. As a result, a given cleanroom space can fit six times more packing machines with a Shawpak design, increasing both productivity and throughput.”

Riverside Medical Packaging say that the Shawpak models are compact, thermoforming sealing machines that can be loaded manually, or by an integrated robot for increased speed. The organisation claims that the key innovation with these machines is the forming, packing and sealing process, which is now carried out on a drum, rather than a linear conveyor system. Mitsubishi Electric servo control synchronises the rotary motion of the drum and the precision indexing of the sealing film. Manipulation of the product and package is conducted using suction. The product to be packed is loaded on top of the drum and the finished packet is ejected into a discharge conveyor underneath. The webs of packaging material (such as polyethylene terephthalate or polyethylene sheets) plus the forming, sealing and cutting stations are positioned around the drum.

Shaw said: “As this was a completely new concept for us, we needed an automation solution provider that could supply not only the PLC, servo and indexing systems, but also a cost-effective robot integration package. Having developed the initial concept, we turned to Mitsubishi Electric to help us develop our vision for a highly compact design into a fast, efficient, robust and reliable machine. We relied heavily on Mitsubishi Electric to realise this project.”

Mitsubishi Electric was involved in the development of automation for the Shawpak machine from the initial planning stages. Stephen Thornton, key account manager at Mitsubishi Electric, comments: “The size of the control panel in the Shawpak is not only much smaller than in a traditional FFS machine, but one of the most compact we have ever seen. For this reason, we suggested using the MELSEC L-Series PLC to provide a compact solution with optimal performance.”

The PLC is configured with a MELSEC Simple Motion module and MELSEC-WS safety modules and connects to a Mitsubishi Electric GOT2000 operator terminal. There is also the option of a MELFA articulated arm robot for loading, which makes it possible to improve productivity while maintaining a controlled environment in the cleanroom more easily. This is also controlled via the PLC. All components are connected via a CC-Link open control network.

The new rotary design of Shawpak aims to increase versatility and flexibility during packaging operations. Different forming drums with cavities of various dimensions can be supplied, which can be easily removed and replaced to pack objects of different sizes and shapes on the same machine. Additionally, this new concept ensures that every piece of packaging material is used and thus reduces the amount of waste from cut packaging material which may occur when other designs are used.

Although the Shawpak machine was initially developed for the packaging of medical products, the company think other packaging industries could benefit from the solution. Rowe explains: “We believe Shawpak could have a big impact on the food and beverage sector, electronic service components or anywhere else with stringent hygienic requirements.

“The creation of such the machine would have not been possible without the support from Mitsubishi Electric and its range of industry leading automation solutions. We look forward to continuing to work together on Shawpak and future projects that will provide cutting-edge solutions for the packaging industry.”

Tags Shawpak Riverside Medical Packaging Cleanrooms Mitsubishi Electric Packaging

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The development of this project has been co-funded with the support of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union
[LIFE16 ENV/ES/000305]

This publication reflects only the author's view and that the Agency/Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains

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