Innovation - a matter of feasibility

Steffes Prüf- und Messtechnik GmbH

An extraordinary idea implemented with an aluminium profile system

To further expand its automation division, the medium-sized company Steffes Prüf- und Messtechnik GmbH decided to develop an innovative packaging system. Due to restricted space conditions, the developers planned a height-adjustable and therefore particularly compact system. Using the components and modules of the aluminum profile construction kit from Maschinenbau Kitz GmbH all requirements were met flexibly and economically.


Innovation – a buzzword

In its actual sense, innovation means the "realization of a new, advanced solution for a particular problem, especially the introduction of a new product or the application of a new process." Also significant is that this solution actually needs to be applied in the market. In short: a good idea is still not an innovation. Only the successful implementation of this idea makes it a real innovation.

Such as performed at company Steffes Prüf- und Messtechnik GmbH. For almost 40 years Steffes has been developing and building complete solutions for checking, picking, packing and transporting hollow bodies of various kinds. Blow moulding machine manufacturers, packaging specialists or car manufacturers around the world are among the company's customers. With about 6000 plants worldwide, Steffes is highly export oriented: 75% of its revenues are from foreign trade.

Requirements of the system

The development of the packaging system S-PACK-PAL T by Steffes shows how  innovation can look like: The S-PACK-PAL-T is a fully automatic machine for packaging various empty containers (e.g. bottles, cans, canisters) in cardboard trays and subsequent palletizing of the trays on a pallet. In addition to conditions such as "robust", "safe" and "easy to use" the machine should have, among other things, a packing height of 3 m. Furthermore, it should have a compact, box-shaped frame so that it can be transported best on a lorry or a maritime container. In addition it should also have some flexibility, which is essential in such systems, especially in the construction process.

At first glance these requirements do not seem particularly unusual. But in implementation seemingly simple conditions often prove to be major hurdles, as Christian Becker, product manager at Maschinenbau Kitz knows well: " With new developments, it is important not only to note that everything works as it should. Requirements, affecting not primarily the function or the capacity of the machine can often require structural changes in the concept.”

For example, the transport and the introduction of a machine must be considered, as well as operating costs of the facility or ergonomics or noise emissions. And even apparently quite trivial conditions, such as physical installations, can greatly affect the implementation of an idea.

The genesis of the idea

Especially the required packaging height of 3 m turned out to be a major obstacle. The ceiling height of the assembly hall at Steffes facilities did not allow to build such a high machine. Out of necessity, the developer thought of building a telescopic frame. In order to achieve the required height, the frame should be able to be extended by 1.5 meters.

After the concept was clear, the developer recognized what benefits were brought by this system additionally: In this form, the machine could be transported in one piece on a truck or in a container. Thus it does not have to be removed for transport and reassembled on site. The construction of additional modules and components now had to be adapted to this system.

One construction kit, many opportunities

For several decades Steffes uses the aluminium profile system from Maschinenbau Kitz GmbH as basis for their machines. And that's how Steffes' designers were capable to make the idea come true: Not only the telescopic frame of the system, but also components such as frames and casings, doors and windows or the gripper for cardboard trays are built from the mk system.

But the possibilities of mk products are many more. In the packaging plant, Steffes' designers have also installed conveyor belts made by Maschinenbau Kitz: two vertically opposed timing belt conveyors with carriers serve as a buffer memory for cardboard trays using the paternoster principle. With appropriate timing, the trays are buffered and supplied for further use again.

The mk construction kit is designed such that profiles, accessories and handling equipment are fully compatible with each other. "Our products allow you to perform all basic mechanical functions of a modern factory automation system," says Christian Becker.

"For our customers, it is usually not a selling point, on the basis of which we build our machines," says Maxim Janzen, Technical Director at Steffes. "But for us as machine manufacturers the mk components and modules offer, in particular in the design and manufacturing process, some important advantages."

Especially the flexibility needed for a new development can be realized well with the mk-products. Components can be quickly and easily changed or adjusted afterwards. The diversity of the profile system allows even unusual applications.

Maxim Janzen, Steffes Prüf- und Messtechnik GmbH
With modules such as conveyor belts, the mk external field service gave us good advice on how we use the conveyors best.

Know how it works

For the development and implementation of Steffes' packaging system, the designers needed only little advice: "The system and the catalogue are simply structured and we know the products very well," says Maxim Janzen. "With modules such as conveyor belts, the mk external field service gave us good advice on how we use the conveyors best."

To build the system as compact as possible, the height-adjustable frame was realized as a scissor mechanism. Telescopic mk profiles provide the necessary flexibility. Components and assemblies that protrude from the rack in operation mode, have been designed to be retracted or collapsed for transportation.

About Steffes Prüftechnologie

The Steffes Prüftechnologie GmbH is a leading supplier of test, handling and system technology in the field of plastics processing. Founded in 1973 and headquartered in Sankt Augustin near Bonn, Steffes is a worldwide exporting company and provides plastics processing companies from the automotive, packaging, cosmetics and food industry.

 

Steffes Prüf- und Messtechnik GmbH
Eifelstraße 8
53757 Sankt Augustin
Germany

Phone +49 2241 337051
Fax +49 2241 338353

www.steffes-gmbh.de
info(at)steffes-gmbh.de

Success

After the concept of the packaging system was fully developed, the first prototype was put into service by the client in a semi-automatic version. A little later, two more plants followed, in a fully automatic version, with various options and innovations.

For Steffes, the development of the packaging system has definitely paid off: after the first three plants, two more are in planning now. "Our client is very happy and so are we," says Maxim Janzen. The example shows how living innovation can work in a medium sized company: being innovative means therefore not only to exploit the opportunities, but also to make a virtue of necessity. And with the right components even realizing unusual ideas becomes possible.

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