Food for thought – Tray Sealing Machine

Food for thought – Tray Sealing Machine

More success stories from the most diverse applications which partners Micromech Systems and Parker has been supporting for food processing equipment and packaging machinery manufacturers.

Tray sealing machineParker Food Processing

Packaging fresh food such as meat products in trays is common and becoming ever more popular in the course of the general convenience food trends. This has forced machine manufacturers to continuously increase the output of their machines in order to meet rising demands. At the same time they have to face the demand for quick product changeover times due to this rapidly increased variety of products. The limiting factor in conventional machines is invariably the pneumatic execution of linear tool and gripper movements. The public demand for convenience goods has fuelled higher output and machine flexibility

In collaboration with the manufacturer a new machine was developed featuring servomotor driven tools with food grade quality leadscrew electro-thrust cylinders. These allow for high cycle rates and combine high thrust forces with a long lifetime resulting in reduced service costs. Thanks to the advanced positioning features the tools can be used more flexibly. In addition to the complete package including servo drive and controller, the solution can also be easily integrated into other control architectures that may be specified by the machine’s end user. By using standard components, the manufacturer was also able to reduce the mechanical construction overhead. This was due to the CAD data and dimensioning calculations being made available and was a major key also key to this process.

The result of these improvements meant the machine manufacturer’s end customers benefit from a 100% increase in machine output and quick format changes reducing typical changeover times by an amazing 10 minutes. An end customer performing two format changes per day profits from an impressive 100 additional annual production hours, representing a significant increase in his overall equipment effectiveness.

The manufacturer has gained new business and delighted his existing customer with the outcome of higher production, less maintenance and of course reduced costs.

Micromech is Parker’s motion partner and can offer a bespoke solution to meet all of your motion control needs, for more information contact Alan Spinks on 01376 333333 or

‘Micromech Systems and Parker are forces in motion’

Meet the team – Jon Harding

Meet the team – Jon Harding

Meet the Team - JonHello to you all, my name is Jonathan Harding; most people call me Jon.
I thought I had better get around to doing the ‘meet the team’ news as I have actually been with Micromech for 2 years!

Well, where shall I start?

As I have said, I’ve been with Micromech for 2 years now as sales manager, looking after all the sales activity for the business.  My primary roles are to seek out new customers, look after our current customers and of course, grow the overall business. So hopefully some of you reading this I will have already met and my apologies to those that I have yet to meet. I trust I will be able to eventually make contact with everyone.

Unlike most of the staff at Micromech, I work in the field or from home, which is quite a distance away from the office in Braintree, Essex. So I hear you ask, where is this place he lives, well its just outside the market town of Stafford, close to the home of the deceased Lord Lichfield. If you’re not too sure where that is geographically, it’s midway between Manchester and Birmingham. This I hope should give you an idea where in the country I am located, without you having to reach for the road Atlas! I have to confess I’m not a local lad as I was born in Wales into a large Welsh farming family….. this could take another page so lets move on.

So why am I at Micromech, quite simple? I’ve been in the Industry now for, Oh, 18 years and worked initially with competitors of Micromech and so I knew many of the guys before I joined. My first 10 years were with motion control distributor/manufacturer Stebon, which has sadly gone (as is the fate of many of the motion control distributors). I had many roles there, starting on the shop floor building, testing motors and drives (real hands on stuff) then to a clean hands role in the design office, Yep design! Then onto applications (dangerous stuff here) and next a move into sales which is all down hill once you pass onto the ‘dark side’.

Meet the Team - JonI then went to Unimatic Engineers for 12 months as technical sales man for the midlands and Ireland, then was promoted to sales manager. After a further 3 years I then joined Siemens Automation and Drives as Northern Business Development Manager for motion control, I had great fun there. Then onto Parker Automation as a Senior Sales and Business Development for motion control and drives, which also happens to be a franchise of Micromech. The next step was an obvious progression and after chatting with the guys at Micromech I joined them and quickly settled into my new position.

My background is in agricultural engineering with real hands on stuff experience and even now I have kept my hand in by developing robotic milking machines with our customers. This rural background has kept me in good stead, as I am still able to draw on my mechanical experience for my work and I can also help my neighbours too!

So, what are my interests that makes me tick outside of work?

I have been with my partner now Sarah for 18 years, she is patient (if you have met Jon this is an under-statement, ed). We have together over the years, both grown and developed in our careers; she recently graduated with a degree in the Arts and Governance.

For much of our spare time we have been renovating buildings (houses etc) to climb the property the ladder. When I say renovation, I mean real hard core bank-balance wrecking stuff and with a huge proportion of the work done just by us.  We are at last now where we want to be and to complete things have a collection of animals; 2 Flat coat retrievers, one Gypsy Cob horse (Sarah’s) and one Fell pony (mine).

What do we do now instead of building work? Well we ride quite a bit, participate in some riding shows, but our real passion and thing is carriage driving. This ranges from ‘pleasure driving’ to ‘marathon driving’ (a bit like rallying with cars but with a horse and carriage).

Meet the Team - Jon

Then there are my other little projects, my tractor and a MG BGT, which are both waiting for me to renovate. But to keep me busy there is still what I call the ‘painting of the Fourth Bridge’, maintaining our place, once you finished this months list of odd job to-do’s there is yet another being created by the elements.

I’m not complaining however as I really do enjoy the outdoor life (when it’s not raining) and think I am very lucky, particularly when I can spend time outside in such a great place.

So, that’s a bit about me… hope to meet you soon!

Previous meet the teams –

Clarissa Snowsell, Sarah King, Simon Burrows, Richard Matthews, Joe Marshall, Alisia Cherry, Phil Farnworth, Mick Stone, Peter Searle, Cara Woods, Mark Hall, Alan Spinks, Sarah-Louise Parrish, Dave Whitmell, Gina Warwick, Trevor De Wilde, Stirling Morley,

Automation is widening the appeal to SMEs

Automation is widening the appeal to SMEs

Manufacturing is apparently back on the government agenda and the following article by Andy Parker-Bates of Parker Hannifin discusses the need for automation to make the UK competitive

If the UK is to compete with low cost manufacturing nations, automation is a necessity. However, the cost and disruption of designing, building, installing and commissioning such systems can put the payback years into the future and beyond consideration for many small and medium companies. The following article looks at how modular subsystems can be used to speed the process and reduce risk by orders of magnitude.

Parker AutomationManufacturing has had a tough couple of years, but the recovery is now underway and the threat of a double dip recession seems to be diminishing. However, it is sensible to assume that growth will be slow, that competition will be intense and that the market will change as it develops.

For ten years or more, the developing economies of the Far East have taken work from the established western manufacturing bases – and at times it looked like a one way, unstoppable exodus. But more recently the attractiveness of the East has been increasingly questioned: managing operations at such a distance has not been without difficulties – logistics can be difficult; quality may not be consistent and moral issues may arise if sub-contractors are not working to standards expected in the West.

As the Eastern economies develop, their cost bases go up and their price advantage reduces. It is unlikely that East and West will reach cost parity within the lifetime of any engineers working today. But some economists are predicting the emergence of a new global order where heavy engineering and manufacturing is concentrated into low cost regions; precision, advanced and complex work is focussed into specialist regions, and light engineering is performed locally to demand.

Coupled with this is a new political recognition of the value of the engineering industries. Many of the financial services and creative industries that were encouraged in the 1980s and 1990s have shown themselves to be willing and able to relocate overseas. It is now recognised that technical industries are more firmly rooted in their region through the need for specialist staff, sub-contractors, support companies and installed capital equipment.

Parker AutomationGovernment support for manufacturing will not immediately be substantial, but we can realistically expect it to grow steadily over the life of the next several parliaments.
So, how will manufacturing develop and change over the coming months and years? The critical issues will include control of costs, consistent quality of output, flexibility to meet changing market needs and minimised lead times.

All of these goals can be addressed through the automation of production processes, yet creating automated production is not without its own difficulties. The best approach would be to start with a greenfield site and work from the ground up, but this is rarely possible.
Instead, the reality is that most factories and plants will have to automate gradually, one section at a time as funds become available, while maintaining production, developing new products and serving the market.

We are all familiar with the ranks of robots working away in high volume car factories, and recognise that these plants constantly update themselves to accommodate new models, new working practises and new technologies. But the investment is huge, which leads to the question: can small and medium sized companies achieve the same level of constant modernisation, or is it beyond their finance and technical capabilities?

The answer is in fact, yes! Over the last decade, the nature of automation systems has developed markedly. New technologies, changes in manufacturing processes and a greater emphasis on usability have led to simpler, more modular and scaleable products which in turn have opened up automation to a wider range of applications and smaller size businesses.

These newer systems are easier to use, need less maintenance and no longer require end-users to invest heavily in developing high levels of engineering expertise.
Allowing manufacturers to concentrate on their core competencies of manufacturing, today’s automation systems can be operated and configured by production personnel, ensuring production needs are at the forefront of all decision making processes.
Automation systems can be found throughout all areas of manufacturing, from simple motor speed control in pump and fan applications, through to complex fully integrated production lines and everything in between. By adopting a pragmatic attitude of doing what is necessary rather than what is technically possible, OEMs and end users can develop systems that lead to tangible production or cost benefits.

Technological advances have increased functionality in automation components, which combined with increased computing power has lead to intelligent and configurable sub-systems and application macros. This makes it simpler and cheaper to automate existing processes and applications.

New technologies are also emerging. For instance, linear motors are moving into micro-machining, bio-medical and research industries where dynamic performance and high levels of accuracy and repeatability are pre-requisites. As the technology matures and costs reduce, they will move into general industry, bringing fast speeds, high acceleration, greater efficiency and low maintenance.

Open, non-vendor specific communications such as Ethernet and Ethercat is leading to the development of guidelines and standards relating to control system architectures. These guidelines will ensure the interoperability of equipment, ultimately reducing development and maintenance cost.
It is natural to address problem areas first, for instance bottlenecks in multi-step manufacturing processes. The ability to run systems 24×7 with consistency of output is a major driver for the automation of production operations. Product scrappage or loss can be minimised, trace-ability ensured and manual handling reduced or eliminated. The repetitive nature of these tasks make them ideally suited to automating.

When deciding to invest in automation, manufacturers need to be clear of their expectations in terms of increased production, freeing up of labour and improved product handling and control, and choose a system that matches these expectations. Paying for extra niceties that add nothing to the bottom line will only serve to complicate systems and potentially lead to production issues or difficulties.

Parker Hannifin is the world’s leading diversified manufacturer of motion and control technologies and systems, providing precision-engineered solutions for a wide variety of mobile, industrial and aerospace markets.

Micromech is the UK distributor and systems integrator for Parker Hannifin electromechanical products. For more information contact Alan Spinks on 01376 333333 or

Special offer – CNC Controller

Special offer – CNC Controller

IMC-M / IMC-MPIsel have introduced two great controllers at great prices:
First a Stepper controller IMC-M / IMC-MP

This controls 4 Amps 36 V / 3.6 A (IMC-M) and respectively 2 to 4 amplifiers 48 V / 4, 2A (IMC-MP)

This provides up to 1600 Micro Steps / U (IMC-M) and respectively 25600 Micro Steps / U (IMC-MP)

As an alternative there is available a core module or clock / direction module

List price £498.00

IMC-V / IMC-VPNext we have the Servo controller IMC-V / IMC-VP

This controls 2 to 6 Amplifiers for DC Servo Motors (IMC-V) and respectively AC servo motors (IMC-VP)

I comes with a 10.2 "TFT touch screen, keyboard, control panel and emergency stop.

The integrated industrial control computer is based on Windows ® NC control via CANopen fieldbus 

Price to follow