Smart controls are a blessing – but remember to make them your own

Victor Guillot, R&D engineer at Thimonnier, was among the speakers at the first S3FOOD study visit in Lyon on 6-7 November 2019. Here are his insights.
“Digitalisation of all our big machines began in the 1980s to develop the human-machine and enable interface. Today, it’s difficult to imagine a machine without a programmable logic control unit – a PLC,” says Victor Guillot, R&D engineer at packaging machine company Thimonnier in Rhônes-Alpes, France.
Thimonnier is the company behind the well-known DOYPACK® flexible stand-up pouch for beverages. On a machine capable of filling more than 200 pouches a minute, smart sensors are essential for ensuring the high quality of each and every product.
“Because the cycle time is very fast, it would be impossible for humans to identify good or bad quality products,” Guillot adds.
The sensors on Thimonnier machines are not only essential to automation. They’re also key to maximising production uptime, minimising energy consumption and enabling quality assurance. For example, they may be used to adjust the minimum energy requirement of the motor drives and electrical sealing systems.
Beware the black box
Guillot acknowledges that the use of plug-and-play functions with sensors provides significant advantages in terms of ease of use, development speed and compact size. But they are also a black box that are not easy to customise and which represent technology dependency.
He stresses the need for packaging machine manufacturers to use their expertise to develop their own specialist functions and their ability to analyse raw data from sensors. For the food companies that use packaging machines for their production, such specialist functions can be tailored to specific food products.
“A machine manufacturer cannot create added value by using generic, on-the-shelf, integrated functions alone. This is why at Thimonnier we develop our own mechatronic systems for the sealing and filling of packaging,” Guillot says.
Thimonnier is a world leader in the design and manufacture of packaging machines for the food, medical and other industries.

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