Probably the coolest thing I learned about machine building while researching and reporting this story was that evolution and innovation really don't stand still--ever. I mean, I thought that once a machine builder divided a long, rigidly dedicated machine or production line into servo-driven, Ethernet-enabled, Lego-like chunks that this would be enough of a success. Boy, was I wrong again. Because the need and desire for more improvement is always there, the folks at Oystar North America retain and use what they've learn about modular machine building, but are taking it a few steps further to reintegrate some of these modular functions back into individual machines.
For example, Oystar has recently been able to mechanically alternate between two platens on the same chain on one of its FP Series cup filling machines. This is done by installing the two different platens in sequence on the machine, and then phase-shifting the servos, so each cup size can leapfrog through the line with its proper platen. This option makes FP Series longer, but both cup sizes can run on one line instead of perhaps requiring two machines, and its automatic changeover is faster than doing it manually.
Check out the rest of the story in the upcoming February 2012 issue of Control Design.