Magnetic gripper for reliable, safe handling

SMC has added to its gripper range with the launch of the MHM-X6400, which uses a magnet for the handling of steel plate, without the need for vacuum.

Ideal for workpieces with uneven or irregular surfaces or featuring holes, this magnetic gripper provides reliable and safe handling at reduced cycle times for improved productivity. It’s also ideal for many varied sheet metal handling applications including robotic systems.

In developing this product, SMC has looked to improve its handling flexibility by using magnetic grippers where vacuum was never an option due to the inherent limitations of a vacuum system.

With a holding force of up to 120 N, the MHM-X6400 continues to hold a workpiece even when air supply is lost completely or pressure drops are experienced, offering peace of mind when it comes to reliable and safe movement of workpieces.  Furthermore, with a residual holding force of only 0.3 N or less, cycle times are reduced and productivity output is improved.

Suitable for a range of transfer applications, the holding force of the MHM-X6400 can be adjusted by simply changing the height of the of bumper being used.

Made from Fluororubber, The bumper also prevents the workpiece from slipping and damaging during operations, improving safety.

Featuring three mountable surfaces and the option to mount auto switches, the MHM-X6400 offers flexibility and greater process control.


SY series of valve manifolds proves a real space saver

SMC, a leading provider of pneumatics continues to support customers with local manufacturing. The SY series of valve manifolds are manufactured and stocked locally across Australia and New Zealand.  With its diverse customer base, the company covers all automation industries and provides solutions for customers in a range of markets.

According to Tony Randall, Head of OEM & Key Accounts for SMC Australia | New Zealand, the unique, all-purpose valve is available in three sizes, namely the SY3000, SY5000 and SY7000. Thanks to its innovative redesign and smaller size, a reduction of 29 per cent is achieved in installation space offering greater flexibility, increased flow rates and a more economical operation.

The two smaller valve sizes or two larger valve sizes can be mixed on one manifold to closely match application requirements. The manifold offers piping options to the top, side or bottom with various port size options, achieving a flow rate of up to 1500 litres per minute via the biggest valve mounted on the manifold.

“The valves in the new SY series offers further air savings as a result of driving bigger cylinders with reduced cycle times without the need to use larger, more expensive solenoid valves. These valves are available in either rubber or unique metal seal versions with the metal seal version being particularly suitable for higher operating frequencies and extended lifetime performance; boasting switching cycles of up to 200 million cycles,” Randall (pictured below) explained.

The SY series incorporates SMC’s energy-efficient V100 pilot valve and a power saving option that reduces power consumption (per valve coil) down to just 0,1 Watt.

The option to have a single valve mounted on a base is available for such projects and also offers flow rates exceeding 1500 liters per minute. The connection to this plug-in sub base type valve is via the well-known M12 waterproof connector. The valve can be supplied fitted with a residual pressure release valve that enables manual dumping of residual compressed air in the cylinder. This function ensures safety in the production environment by avoiding the need to use any external component or dangerous actions to get rid of trapped air when the supply pressure is cut-off.

•	Tony Randall - Head of OEM & Key Accounts for SMC Australia | New Zealand.

“Safety is always considered when we look at products and customer applications,” added Randall.

Overall safety in applications have been improved in several ways via optional configurations:

  • The addition of a back pressure check valve built into the valve or one which can be retrofitted later on
  • The addition of a manual pressure release valve for every cylinder where required
  • A supply shut-off spacer per valve to allow the maintenance team access to the system or part thereof while the manifold is still pressurized
  • Spacers with double check valves in working lines to enable intermediate stops or for drop prevention of loads in vertical applications
  • Slide locking manual override function with double action and long distance visual indication

Power and control options includes; D-sub connectors, flat ribbon cables, terminal block box, pre-assembled leads, circular connectors and then follows all the options for serial transmission. Applicable protocols include PROFINET, PROFIBUS, DeviceNet, CC-Link, EtherNet/IP, EtherCAT, CANopen, AS-Interface, OMRON CompoBus/S and CompoNet.



Automation in the meat sector

While automation of the meat sector has always proved difficult, progress is being made. Matt McDonald caught up with Tony Randall from SMC to hear about the latest steps forward in this area.

It may sound obvious, but no two cows are exactly the same. While they may look roughly alike, they come in a range of sizes, shapes and weights. And because of this, the meat industry has always proven particularly difficult to automate.

But in recent times things have started to change.

“New technologies have come along – the likes of vision cameras where you can actually pick up where the product is before you go in and actually use automation. In the past you didn’t know what position the product was in,” Tony Randall, Head of OEM & Key Accounts at SMC Australia/New Zealand told Food & Beverage Industry News.

Another factor that has traditionally made abattoirs difficult to automate is their strict wash down requirements.

“They can run up to 20 hours a day and the other four hours is spent washing with high pressure steam. Every nook and cranny is washed and unfortunately that’s where
the automation products are,” said Randall.

“They get hosed down, so whatever we put in the business has to be smooth surface stainless steel to avoid bacterial build-up.”

Historically, there was a lot of aluminium and steel used in abattoirs, which raised the issue of corrosion. To deal with this, SMC has developed stainless products that suit such harsh environments.

The CG range of cylinders.


In particular, Randall pointed to the CG range of cylinders. “These are made with 304 stainless steel with a round, clean design. They are very cost-effective and we have large stock holding of the units to support abattoirs in country regions, where stock’s a big issue.”

In addition, he said, the company offers an IP69K solenoid valve bank to drive the CG cylinders. Both products can handle high-pressure, caustic wash-downs without a problem.

“In the past, they used standard aluminium cylinders which suffered a lot of corrosion. So [with these new products] the breakdown periods are much shorter. And in an abattoir when you have a breakdown the line literally stops,” said Randall.

The major benefit of these latest products is that they offer a much longer working life and fewer breakdowns. “Typically in the past, before we had that IP69 valve bank, we’d be interrupted by breakdowns due to standard valves not being able to handle the washdown environmant,” said Randall.

SMC products are used throughout the production processes, from the knocking box, ground and overhead conveyors, right up to the packaging machines where the meat is boxed, lidded and put out for delivery.

The future

Because of the nature of the product and the different bone structure of each animal, there are still limitations to full automation.

“Typically, you’re using manual labour to cut products. To get a robot or electro pneumatic automation to do that is incredibly difficult because first of all you’ve got to see where the product is,” said Randall. “Then you’ve got to get your cutting equipment into position.”

Asked about the future of automation in the meat industry, Randall said there will always be opportunities to automate in the red meat sector and SMC is working closely with a variety of OEM’s by offering newer technologies and specialist equipment to support automation.

He also pointed to Industry 4.0 and wireless technology, which could support lowering of installation costs throughout the production and packaging areas.

“We’re developing a technology where the use of cable will slowly disappear and it will be wireless connectivity to our products,” he said.

In addition, there is also a trend towards using lightweight pneumatic products on electric robots due to the robots carrying capacity. “We’ve developed [cylinders] that are smaller and lighter but can give you the same force,” Randall said.

Image 1
IP69K manifold.



CG5-S stainless steel cylinders:
Made from stainless steel, this range of cylinders can handle the regular, intense cleaning that characterises the meat industry. In addition, they use food-grade grease, which reduces the risk of contamination.

In order to make them smooth and prevent the build-up of foreign matter, the bracket surfaces that are used to mount these cylinders are electro polished.

The series CG5-S stainless-steel cylinder is available in eight bore sizes (20mm-100 mm). Further features include plugs for unused mounting threads (to prevent residue build-up in the threads),

as well as a scraper, which is specifically designed to prevent water from entering the cylinder.

According to the company, this can increase the service life by up to five times, compared to conventional cylinders.

IP69K manifold

Part of the SY 5000 range, the IP69K manifold can handle intense washdown and cleaning. For better control, users can install the manifold outside of a protective box and close to the actuators. On top of that, the device comes in a small package and is lightweight.

The manifolds are available with options of rubber or metal seal valves. Pressures from 100 to 700 kPa are achievable in the rubber seal, with the metal seal operating at up to 1000kPa. The compact unit also comes with an optional power saving coil that draws as little as 100mW.

SMC celebrates opening of new distribution centre

SMC in Victoria recently held an open day to mark the official launch of their South Australia Distribution Centre. The day was attended by about to 100 customers who came to view the upgraded facilities and attend theProduct and Industry Presentations.

SMC Pneumatics established its first subsidiary outside of Japan in Australia more than 50 years ago.

Today, the company has 10 branches and employs over 200 people in the region. With a sales staff compliment of 88, the company has a philosophy of being “close to the customer to enable to them to develop customer centric solutions.

The 7327m2 land together with the 3049m2 building is owned by SMC and has plenty of space for expansion. The local stockholding of this branch was tripled to enable them to supply same-day delivery of standard parts to customers in Victoria, and overnight delivery to South Australia and Tasmania.

The facility includes a warehouse with large local stock holding, training facility with up to date training models and an engineering and design department.

“We established a Central Warehousing Centre at our VIC facility, and the positive feedback from the market gave us the indication that customers were ready for such facility,” said Rodney Ryan, SMC state manager for Victoria. “The quicker turnaround time on orders and the availability of critical spares were welcomed by customers. Pneumatics are a critical component of the production line, and customer need quick support and turnaround when spare parts are needed. We are happy to be able to answer this call.

“We have always had a philosophy of being customer centric. Our business and products have evolved and developed around the feedback we receive from our customers. The feedback was, quicker delivery and more stock of critical parts, and SMC is glad to deliver.”


Partnering on an automation solution for the Asian Food Market

HMPS, a leading Australian machine builder which specialises in customised end of line packaging machinery, recently partnered with SMC, a leader in pneumatics and automation on a case packer for the food industry.

According to Linh Bui, Business Development Manager at HMPS, the company proposed a solution to automate the end of line requirements of an Asian food manufacturer which would automate the process with minimal operator involvement, while adhering to the health requirements of the food and beverage industry.

Linh, who specialises in dealing with the Asian market adds that many Asian food companies are looking towards automation to manage the increased volumes of output required in the food manufacturing environment.

The machine which was designed to place boxes of dry food into larger cartons, ready for palletising and shipping, was required to be easy to maintain, easy to clean and easy to operate. The customer required up to 12 product formats, between 180 and 260g to be packed at an output speed of between 10 and 30 cartons per minute.

“This is another similarity with the Australian market, machines are required to do multiple functions and must be easy to set up for various product lines. HMPs specialises in designing for this type of flexibility” comments Bui.

“We suggested the HMPS5000 Wraparound Case Packer to eliminate their end-of-line labour constraints. This recommended solution delivered an expected lifespan of at least 10 years, and the availability of local parts and servicing would minimise running costs over its life. An ROI both in labour and material savings calculated that this machine would be offset within 3-4 years, in Australia ROI would be 1.5 years”

The HMPS Product Flow

Products enter the system on an infeed conveyor system which allows product to either continue travelling narrow face leading into the case packer or with the use of two differential speed belts rotate 90degrees to wide face leading. The inners then travel towards to a servo driven water wheel, standing them upright into a servo driven index system. Once the correct carton quantity is collated they are then driven up to a servo side shift before being transferred into the carton by a Delta Robot.

Simultaneously, as the products are collated, a flat wraparound blank is erected in Station 1 before being transferred and positioned in the loading station where the collation of products is loaded. The minor flaps opposite the loading station may be folded at this stage to ensure correct product alignment. At the next index the final minor flaps are folded fully locating the product. During the next index, hot melt adhesive is applied to the minor flaps and at the next station the carton is held in compression to complete the end sealing. The carton is then side transferred to seal the manufacturers flap.

Firmly bonded cartons are discharged from the machine to await palletising.

A graphical operator panel is used to assist in the machines start up, operation and fault finding. This will display: Machine status – Product selection – All alarms and faults.

HMPS partnered with SMC on this project because of their firm understanding of the food and beverage market and the specialised products and service they offer to this industry. According to Linh one of the deciding factors when building machines for export is the availability of parts. “We want to ensure that our customers have access to critical spares and technical service no matter where they are in the world. That is why we partner with international players such as SMC who have offices in more than 80 countries around the world with a very strong presence In Asia” adds Linh.


The SMC Solution

Jason Sutton, Area Sales Manager for SMC further elaborates that SMC has designed and developed products according to the Japanese company’s philosophy of being Customer Centric. To this end products with the food industry was developed based on customer feedback and requirement. According to Jason, because of the large footprint of SMC they are in contact with food and beverage customers in so many different countries and on so many applications that the company has a very good idea of the best products to suggest for these types of applications.

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 10.35.57 AM

In addition to supply the components, SMC also assist customers in the selection and commissioning of the products if required.

SMC is no stranger to customization themselves, the SMC linear belt drive (LEJB63) was modified in Australia to accept HMPS’ choice of motor. This modification was done at the company’s local Sydney facility.

Air preparation incorporate lockable manual isolation for maintenance work as well as category rated safety valves for integration into the safety system of the machine. Actuation is simplified by EtherNet/IP communication with the SMC EX600 Valve Manifold also serving as a field collation of reed switch and proximity wiring point. Daisy chain capability of the node further increases future expansion capability.

The manifold is based on SMC new SY series with improved flow rates and compact size delivery higher response in a smaller footprint. The entire valve bank in IP65 rated, very handy for any food related product be it dry or wet.

Carton erection is driven via a valve on the manifold to a single SMC ZL112-DPL Vacuum ejector with integrated pressure switch offers the customer simplified integration. The inbuilt pressure switch reduces plumbing and simplifies troubleshooting by combing several functions into one easily accessible unit.

To meet the tight space constraints of the top flap of the box a rotatory table actuator was fitted, SMC’s MSQB50A unit. Footprint and size is the trend of the industry at the moment and this unit delivers by not only having a flat output flange but also enabling compact installation.

Other products used on the HMPS Case Packer included the guided cylinders – MGPM and CQM cylinders with integrated slide tables. Guided cylinders simplify the design as they include a guiding mechanism built into the cylinder. This removes the need for additional design work and sourcing various parts from multiple supplier to achieve the same end result.

Food & beverage manufacturing is the future

With a heritage approaching 60 years, SMC Australia is already looking to the next 60. Food & Beverage Industry News spoke to the company’s Managing Director Wayne Driver about the challenges his company will be facing.

It’s never easy saying goodbye to a good client. This year, SMC Australia is set to say goodbye to Toyota and Holden as both companies shut down their Australian manufacturing plants. At the same time, the company is seeing many of its mining clients slow down, with the buzz in this space dwindling.

For a company with six decades of experience, and subsidiaries in more than 55 countries, this changing of the tides is nothing new.

As Managing Director Wayne Driver told Food & Beverage Industry News, this shift presents an exciting opportunity to dedicate its resources at tackling challenges in the food processing industry.

“Historically, we have been strong in the mining industry but obviously with the mining boom over, the area that is growing is food and packaging,” said Driver. “We’re able to focus more energy and resources in supporting the food and packaging industry and that’s certainly an area we’re very much focused on.”

While there are a number of new innovations on the horizon, according to Driver, the Australian arm of the company will be very much at the forefront when it comes to new developments.

“SMC’s R&D centre in Japan is focused on product that is lightweight, has a much smaller footprint and is focused on energy saving along with a number of other innovations,” said Driver.

He noted that the company’s plans include the pursuit of food and packaging industry robotics; seeing more OEMs integrating robots into their machinery; setting up R&D centres in China, the US, UK and Germany; and extending its electric actuator range.

“Although historically we are a pneumatics company, over the years we have been known more for electronics, serial communications and various protocols,” he said.

“So it’s a very dynamic industry in which we operate and it’s good to have the backing of the R&D centres as well as engineers in Sydney and Auckland to be able to keep up with demands in the market place.”

Companies like SMC are very much on the frontline in terms of coping with the disruption that the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will bring. When asked how it will affect SMC, Driver was upbeat.

“It is definitely the way of the future,” he said. “While some companies are focusing on the IIoT industry mainly at an academic and university level, SMC is concentrating on it at a practical level, the product level and how it can be integrated and used with our customers.”

Wayne and Peter Driver
Managing Director of SMC Australia, Wayne Driver (left) and his father, the company’s founding Managing Director, Peter Driver.


Another area for growth for the company is protein – the red meat and white meat areas – where, he said, “automating a number of processes from manual brings more throughput for the meat company and obviously more work for us”.

Asked whether food and beverage manufacturing will be the next mining industry, Driver said: “I think certainly mining will always be there. It’s going through a cyclical phase at the moment. There will be projects that will come online again in the future. I think the beauty of SMC is that, because we have such a diverse customer base, we’re well positioned for when the mining picks up again. We can be very responsive to that while also growing in the food packaging industry.

“Food and packaging will continue to grow, because let’s face it, we all have to eat and while Australia only has a small domestic market, the majority of OEMs in ANZ can only grow their businesses by exporting.”

Driver noted that it’s important that the company has a competitive advantage. He said innovation in ANZ is paramount, and that SMC wants to help companies be more efficient and reduce their costs and improve energy efficiency.

“I think mining will always be there and it will bounce back, but at the same time, it’s good to be in both markets,” he said.

As to whether there was one industry that currently SMC was not involved with but would like to expand into, Driver said that it’s not so much about particular markets but more about overall opportunities.

“SMC is always looking at other opportunities in the market and it’s important that if we do look at that, we weigh up what is involved before entering certain markets,” he said.

“There are some markets we will decide that are not strategically appropriate and given the company’s growth at this time, there is nothing on the immediate horizon that we are looking at expanding into. But if we do find something of interest, it will be at the appropriate time and with the right resources.”