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Packaging Machines

06/07/2011 4:28 PM

You have seen the TV shows like "How it's Made" and "How do they do it" and saw the machines that orchestrate how a product gets from raw material to out the door and it's all done by various machines working in harmony. Is there a branch of engineering that specializes in this or is it just the combined efforts of different engineering disiplines?

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#1

Re: Packaging Machines

06/07/2011 4:45 PM

This sounds like the "Industrial Automation" field to me, which basically is a combination of mechanical/manufacturing/electrical/hydraulic/pneumatic. That's the field I work in, and we just refer to it as "automation", but no single engineering discipline could possibly cover all aspects of designing an automated manufacturing facility.

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#2

Re: Packaging Machines

06/07/2011 11:22 PM

It's as rVZ717 said... it's called Industrial Automation. I suppose that can be considered its own discipline, depending how you define Discipline. Industrial Automation does cover a very wide range though. It can be broken down even further, into automation specialties, such as High Speed Packaging, Converting & Slitting, Robotics, Automotive Welding, Wet or Dry Processing, etc. Each of these specialties has their own publications, their own Associations, their own gatherings and trade shows, and so forth. Sometimes combining with the other specialties... sometimes not.

I'm also in general Industrial Automation. But there are people that find their niche in one of the specialties, and devote their entire career to that. There is plenty of need for specialists like that. But whatever specialty you're in, rarely if ever are you going to be able to put together an entire system on your own. Generally it's a combination of Mechanical, Electrical, and Controls Engineers... that are also all experienced in Automation, that come together to design the types of systems that you see on How it's Made. In perfect harmony

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#3

Re: Packaging Machines

06/08/2011 1:45 AM

ronseto - Back in my day it was called Industrial Engineering and it was a popular course of study and degree specialty in Eastern and Midwestern Engineering schools. Specifically in the period 1950 through about 1985. This discipline was concerned with the design and operation of entire factories where work was done to build products out of discrete pieces assembled into finished products in relatively large quantities where economies of scale, standardization and interchangeable assembly were important. There was also a Manufacturing Engineering degree that got more into the "nuts and bolts" of individual processes

A BS curriculum in Manufacturing engineering usually included the same courses the first two years as mechanical and electrical engineering. In the third year a few fundamental ME and EE courses were shared but the Manufacturing Engineer curriculum started to cover manufacturing processes, metallurgy, cost analysis, machine design and automation and toward the 1980's the coming use of computer control in manufacturing.

The two common career paths for Industrial and Manufacturing Engineers with a BS degree were either Industrial Management (of a factory) or Production Engineering focusing on the design and operation of an actual manufacturing process or type or class of production machines or plant layout, construction and materials handling. Generally the level of mathematical analysis and scientific theory in these career fields do not support graduate degrees in that specialty. Graduate studies for the industrial manager are usually the MBA. The production engineer will usually go toward one of the traditional engineering disciplines for a masters degree if that's what they want. But in most cases the technical training relevant to most manufacturing processes is not highly mathematically rigorous and found in undergraduate courses in colleges, in house company training programs or training by equipment and software suppliers.

This doesn't mean that some manufacturing processes require the capabilities of a highly trained engineer, scientist or mathematician. But these folks might have advanced degrees in some specific field of engineering or science and thesis level work in a scientific area directly related to a manufacturing process. And these subjects will change depending on the current waves of new technology.

I think a decrease in demand for industrial and manufacturing engineers and college degree programs has occurred in the last 20 years as USA manufacturing has shrunk. The focus of many surviving US manufacturing corporations has shifted toward the global business environment and offshore supply chains. I don't see such degree programs in the few West Coast universities with which I am familiar. Maybe they exist elseware. I'm sure there are a few universities with active manufacturing related curricula. I've heard that there is still an interest in manufacturing technology at Rensselaer. Don't know whether that translates to specialized degree programs. I know Kettering University (the old General Motors Institute) offers all these programs including graduate studies. There are probably others especially in the Midwest.

But in my opinion someone graduating today from this kind of university program should have his sights set on world travel.

Hope this is all of some interest. ....Ed Weldon

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#4

Re: Packaging Machines

06/08/2011 4:28 AM

Hi Ron,

I have been a Sales Engineer for 40 years selling mostly pneumatics but also hydraulics and it has been THE most interesting sphere of engineering.

Pneumatics are used in every type of industry from coal mines (remember them?), microchip manufacturing, bakeries, you name it and pneumatics are usually involved.

As RVZ717 said, too diverse for one discipline to cover. I have a customer who designs special purpose machines and modifies / upgrades existing machines and along with an electrical engineer the three of us are able to tackle projects that individually would be beyond us.

How It's Made and the like, I think (hope), help to educate the masses into how important engineering is. Without engineers we don't generate wealth.

It is a shame that Engineering is so undervalued and that it is most peoples ambition to sit at a desk in front of a computer or be a Lawyer, Estate Agent, Accountant or the like.

We can't all work for Ronald McDonald or in a coal mine, turned into a museum.

Two of my three sons are Engineers and enjoy going to work each day, which I think is half the battle in life.

John

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#5

Re: Packaging Machines

06/08/2011 6:32 AM

I am not sure if our unis have a specific course but several business' call themselves PROCESS ENGINEERS. That's in my part of the world.

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#6

Re: Packaging Machines

06/08/2011 9:32 AM

Some excellent responses to the question. Certainly all primary and extensions of engineering are involved in the production of the packaging machines. Mechanical is most likely often the primary discipline for the actual design of the systems and their integration into a complete production line. These will almost always use equipment from a multiple of sources.

You need to get a packaging material or container to a production line and then do something with it, all essentially automatically. Orient, fill, label, cap and case if a bottle of salad dressing. If a sachet or pouch of candy, roll stock must be formed, product filled, sealed, collated into groups inside a primary package and then a group of these into an outer shipping container, hopefully without being touched by human hands. There is a whole different dimension to producing the product that is being placed in the package. All at speeds of 100 to 2000 units per minute!

Packaging Engineers, who are in short supply and rarely do not find a job immediately upon graduation, are the ones in manufacturing companies who combine the packaging machines with the materials to specify the end package and how it was manufactured. They work closely with Manufacturing Engineers, Industrial Engineers etc. to make certain the line results in a production efficiency that meets their objectives. There are 10 colleges in the USA who have degrees of various sorts that are directed at this field of Package Engineering. These folks are the ones who select the packaging materials and ensure it can function on the equipment they have helped source.

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#7

Re: Packaging Machines

06/11/2011 5:44 PM

Thanks all for the enlightenment. If I were starting all over again, this is the area of engineering I would choose. Watching the machines perform is fascinating to watch, like a finely orchestrated symphony.

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#8
In reply to #7

Re: Packaging Machines

06/13/2011 3:19 AM

Hi ronseto,

Or like a "stoned" badly out of tune punk rock band when they go wrong.

John

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#9
In reply to #7

Re: Packaging Machines

06/17/2011 1:40 AM

If you were starting over again? Well... just FYI... I had a friend who was a successful veterinarian his entire career. One day when he was 53, he suddenly decided he wanted something different. By 57, he was working as an architect. He's now 61 and a part of a very respected architectural firm in Detroit. He loves it and plans to continue working for several more years in a field he's very happy with.

From vet to architect is a huge jump. Not nearly as big a jump as marine engineer to high speed packaging / automation engineer.

Just sayin...

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