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The demands on the flexibility of modern production facilities are continually increasing. The large variety of products and ever smaller batch sizes are focusing attention on optimum system availability in particular. Short setup times, for example for size changes, are thus a standard requirement for production and packaging machines.

As a manufacturer of positioning systems of various kinds, SIKO GmbH Buchenbach’s philosophy is to consider each machine axis separately in case of size changes and to deploy the size changeover solution most useful technically and economically for the user.

Flexible production processes at the turn of a wheel or at the press of a button
Whether inexpensively with a hand wheel, process-reliably with bus-capable position display or fully automatically with an actuator, the reliability and handling of the positioning systems used is crucial for flexible production processes. As the inventor of the mechanical and digital position display, the so-called SIKO counter, by its own account Siko is today the world leader in digital position indicators. Its close partnership with its customer base of leading international machinery manufacturers has allowed SIKO to continuously build on its decades of expertise. From the inexpensive, purely mechanical solutions to Industrial 4.0-capable “smart” positioning systems that communicate and are networked with each other, the company offers an impressive range of solutions for industry and mechanical engineering. But let’s take one thing at a time…

Manual, electronically monitored or fully automatic size changeover – when does each solution make sense?


  1. Manual size changeover solutions

For setting positions in a machine that rarely needs to be adjusted, a classic mechanical and digital position indicator is provided. They are inexpensive, and the accurate display of the actual value makes setting the spindles reproducible. The setup times – i.e. the machine’s downtime during a product change – are the highest with this solution, however, as each position has to be set manually. The settings must also be checked manually and possibly verified in a test run of the system before series production can be resumed.


The benefits are thus obvious:  Mechanical position indicators are inexpensive and allow reproducibility of machine settings.


  1. Monitored size changeover with bus capability and electronic position display

Bus-capable position indicators, such as the SIKO AP05, with setpoint/actual value comparison and status display of the manual adjustment, offer certain technical advantages over purely mechanical position indicators, making them “smart”. The machine operator can thus see from far away the brightly lit LEDs, indicating whether the machine axis is already set correctly or must still be converted. Red indicates that the machine axis is not set correctly, and green indicates that it is. This leads to high process reliability and reproducibility. Integrated LEDs also display the direction in which an axis has to be adjusted. The position indicators obtain their basic parameters and the desired setpoint position from the machine control system via a fieldbus.
Clever users set the machine such that it can operate only when the axes are set correctly, i.e. when all axes "are indicated green".


So when is it advisable to use electronic, bus-capable position indicators?
They are ideal when several size changeovers per day are required. The integrated setpoint/actual value comparison leads to improved process reliability. Their use is considerably more intuitive than purely mechanical solutions.


3. Automatic size changeover with compact positioning drives

With their short clock and setup times, compact actuators offer impressive performance and guarantee the exact and fully automatic positioning of machine axes. This leads to higher productivity, continuity of production and enhanced profitability. Integrated fieldbus and industrial Ethernet communication interfaces make the drives flexible in integration.


Jürgen Schuh, DriveLine Product Manager for SIKO GmbH in Buchenbach, knows from the experience of his customers that standby times for machines and installations can be drastically shortened using automatically driven actuators. Reputable companies, such as Fischer, known throughout the world for the "Fischer dowel", are references that speak for themselves. Herbert Erath (Head of Special Machine Engineering at Fischer) says: "We were able to reduce the setup times from 45 minutes to less than five minutes. That's an enormous gain in efficiency."


The actuators quickly pay for themselves for the machine engineer as well for the user, since the improved efficiency results in a gain in competitive advantage for the machine operator and therefore for the engineer too.

Are actuators a lot more expensive than mechanical positioning devices?
A cost comparison of fully automatic size changeover and manual changeover for machines often shows that the differences are insignificant. In practice, these were found to be less than one percent of the machine price for fully automatic size changeover with SIKO drives. One reason for this is that poorly accessible positions no longer have to be made accessible by removing mechanical components, such as bevel gears, to enable manual changeover.


Intelligent networking

The connection of actuators or electronic position indicators to different fieldbus systems allow multiple devices with a single communication interface to exchange data with the control system. The range of available interfaces extends from a simple and inexpensive RS485 protocol, the SIKONET5, to the tried and tested bus systems Profibus and CANbus. Standard technologies in the field of industrial Ethernet are also provided with Profinet, Ethernet IP, Powerlink and Ethercat.


To facilitate system integration, Siko offers users numerous software tools, such as function modules, add-on instructions and different libraries as well as technical support.


In spite of their highly compact dimensions, the forward-looking compact-positioning drives are available up to a torque of 14Nm (type AG24). The drives have a hollow shaft with a clamping ring for easy and quick installation.


Depending on the version, the standard AG series comes equipped with an integrated 2-line LCD display and a built-in keypad. Not only can the individual IP addresses be assigned; the current actual value and the respective setpoint can also be directly monitored in order to maintain an overview in the case of diagnostics. Furthermore, via the display and the keyboard, each stored parameter can be checked and adjusted if necessary. Possible operating data can be read out and errors can be diagnosed without an analysis via the fieldbus being necessary.


Intelligent and compact actuators are therefore the first choice for all users whenever frequent size changeovers with high quality demands are made. They are essential Industry 4.0 components for current and future machine designs.


Attachment compatibility of positioning devices

For common hollow shaft dimensions of 14mm or 20mm, Siko offers a range of position indicators and actuators that can be combined and mechanically interchanged with each other, making them mechanically compatible. This results in a not-to-be-underestimated advantage for the machine manufacturer! The machine builder can flexibly and individually offer the degree of automation of machine to be manufactured, according to the customer’s requirements. Each machine axis can, depending on requirements and changeover frequency, be equipped with a position indicator or a positioning drive, even retrospectively (retrofit).


4. Retrofit

For integration in existing machines and equipment, Siko has a new business sector specialized in machine optimization and retrofitting and that offers not only consulting and service for component integration, but also ready-to-use Plug & Play solutions. Thus, for example, with the Siko HMI ETC5000 you can quickly and simply optimize electronic position indicators and actuators with existing machine designs. ETC5000 stands for "Easy Touch Control 5000" and can be operated independently without any knowledge of programming and without connection to a PLC.


When it comes to positioning solutions, Siko thus offers a comprehensive package, starting with engineering, moving on through integration and commissioning of in-house products, and taking in after-sales service. Real smart.

Higher machine efficiency thanks to lower machine changeover times

The higher the demands for quality and the more frequently an axis has to be positioned, the more productive and more profitable the use of monitored or automatic positioning solutions becomes.