Festo and PCE facilitate the production of paper wine bottles

The introduction of the world’s first paper wine bottle in June 2020 was a major breakthrough. In collaboration with Festo and PCE Automation, the packaging manufacturer Frugalpac is accelerating the production of the Frugal Bottle.

The Frugal Bottle is a revolutionary innovation. The exterior of the design is made from 94% recycled cardboard and has a food-grade inner bag. The Frugal Bottle is fully recyclable, five times lighter than glass and has a much smaller carbon footprint than traditional wine bottles.

The first wine featured in the Frugal Bottle sold out twice. A wine chain sold its entire stock in just one day. Then came questions from all over the world, and not just about wine bottling. The reusable bottle allows for the packaging of olive oil, mineral water and other consumables. Therefore, Frugalpac was looking for a way to produce more bottles faster and without loss of quality.

Machine builder PCE Automation and automation specialist Festo worked closely together to develop a fully automatic gluing and moistening line that can meet the tight tolerances and complex gluing patterns required to process 630 bottles per hour.

“The gluing process was more complex than anything we had experienced before,” says Ronan Quinn, Project Manager at PCE. “Tight tolerances in the glue pattern, combined with a short cycle time and critical drop size, presented a major challenge. Normally we would do the entire design and assembly process in-house, but for this Festo supplied pre-assembled processing bridges which really added value in terms of component compatibility and commissioning.”

Production challenges

Economical bottles are made from two sheets of cardboard that are precision cut, glued and moistened front and back, then stacked and ready to be fed into the bottle forming machine. It is a big challenge to achieve the desired throughput of 630 bottles, because the limber must be adapted to the profile of the bottle. In addition, the right amount of glue had to be applied to prevent deformation or unsightly glue residue on the bottle.

Tests had already been carried out with an adhesive systems company, but this supplier was unable to achieve the desired cycle times. Therefore, Frugalpac contacted Festo to see if they could meet the high demands with their combination of automation expertise and food grade pneumatic products. Festo recommended cooperation with PCE Automation. Frugalpac agreed, and the three companies – end user, machine builder and automation specialist – worked together on the optimal solution.

Minimal human intervention

The automation cell provided by PCE Automation requires minimal human intervention. At the front, an operator loads the sheets for the front and back of the bottles. The machine picks, loads, transports, glues, transports and moistens and transfers the prepared sheets to a container at the end of the process. The prepared sheets are then transported to the bottle forming machine.

PCE used the Festo Handling Guide Online (HGO) for the design of the automation cell. This online tool (available for free) significantly reduces design, assembly and delivery time and allows customers to create a ready-to-use handling system: whether a single-axis system, a linear and flat 2D bridge or a 3D bridge. HGO provides the appropriate standard handling system, including CAD model, animation and full Eplan scheme documentation. The individual steps that used to take 10 to 15 days can be completed in no time. Reduced design and documentation time allowed PCE to meet Frugalpac’s delivery expectations.

To prove that the desired cycle times could be achieved, the adhesive and wetting solution was tested and calibrated at the Festos UK Application Centre. It uses the Festos CPX-E-CEC Controller as the PLC for interpolated soft motion, controlling multiple axes simultaneously to achieve the complex curves of the glue lines. Festo CMMT servo controllers are an important part of the three handling systems for accurate and repeatable loading, gluing and unloading. The pneumatic core products, valve terminals and process valves from Festo are also used.

Frugalpac can produce 630 Frugal Bottles per hour by gluing in batches of eight bottles at a time (photo: Frugalpac). The text continues below the image.

Glue solution Frugalpac

Mission accomplished

The PCE automation cell needed to achieve a cycle time of just 19 seconds to meet Frugalpac’s requirements. Bond time for the adhesive and wetting solution is 50% faster than specified, enabling the machine to meet all required cycle times. This result is achieved because the machine glues eight bottles at a time in batches, while different glue patterns are applied to the front and back.

Following the success of the automated gluing solution, Festo and PCE are now working together with Frugalpac to develop an automated method for the Frugal Bottle itself.

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