Sidel, part of the Tetra Pak group, claims the new system is 50 percent faster than its previous method of palletising the plastic bottles. "The principle underlying the new system brings a considerable reduction in the idle time required for raising and lowering the head preforming the bottle rows," the company stated. "In fact the operation of loading and unloading is effected once for every three inlets as opposed to once for every inlet, as happened with previous systems." Sidel has designed the head for preparing the bottle rows using a number of guides three times the number of inlets. The head moves a step for each inlet and, only when all the guides have been filled, deposits the layer of bottles on the compacting and transfer table, the company said in describing the system. This system increases productivity since the number of inlets can be varied according to production needs. A maximum of five inlets can be used. Further down the start of the palletising operation, bottle flow is regulated by air conveyors. The inlet starwheels effect a differential count of the bottles according to the principle of staggering simultaneously being fed from the conveyors to the guides. A robot equipped with a gripping tool at the wrist can be used for further gains in productivity, the company suggests. The robot reloads from multiple preforming tables, instead of single tables, and then palletises in a single zone. Format changeovers in the row preforming area are mostly done automatically from the operator panel. Brushless motors perform the movements of raising and lowering, as well as the shifting of the preforming head. "The controlled axes guarantee that format changeover operations are carried out extremely precisely," Sidel claimed. "As for the palletizing robots, they also have great flexibility in terms of adjusting to format changes." Sidel said it has designed a self-adjusting head so that variations in the inter-axis between the rows, which change according to the bottle diameter, can be made through the software. Alternatively, for very heterogeneous formats the whole head may be replaced, again in entirely automated mode, from the operating panel. The system's rated output is 27,000 bottles per hour (bph) for 1.5 litre bottles, rising up to 40,000 bph for 0.5 litre formats. Higher production speeds can be obtained when using multiple preforming tables, the company stated.