The market for weighing and packaging machines is varied, with some well-established suppliers who are often large with several decades of experience behind them. French company LGC Automation (based in Isère near Chambéry) is just the opposite!
LGC Automation has not entered the business lightly. It is young (it was founded in 2012) but relies on the solid expertise of its founders Francis Le Garrec and Thierry Cerisay who have more than 25 years of experience in the design, production and marketing of packaging and weighing machines.
Their analysis of the market led themto develop weighing/packaging machines which are more specifically targeted to the needs of small companies and craftsmen in the food and agriculture industries. LGC Automation machines are semi-automatic, low in price and have functionality and performance tailored to the target market: small footprint, short production rates, manual controls, no compressed air installation, simple mechanical and electronic designs. In short, just what is necessary to obtain the right price...
The standard models offered by the company have one or two product feed hoppers, with the products conveyed by means of vibrating rails or conveyor belts and a mechanism for filling sachets directly or via a bucket. So it is possible to put a wide range of food products into sachets, even fragile products (biscuits, dried fruits, coffee, berries, confectionery products, etc.) and small products sold by weight.
These machines are fitted with an HBM weight sensor incorporating PW20i load cells. The German manufacturer was the obvious candidate from the start. Essentially, before co-founding LGC Automaton, Francis Le Garrec was already designing weighing electronics and had built up a long-term relationship (around twenty years) with HBM.
He was able to observe just how interested the supplier was in its clients, even the small ones, even in difficult times and despite a lack of prospective orders. This service quality continued when LGC Automation was founded. "We noticed the same level of listening, the same level of support for us when studying the different technical options. With the equipment provided to us for testing purposes, we are sure we have chosen the best solution", explains Thierry Cerisay, Manager at LGC Automation.
HBM offers the whole measurement chain but LGC Automation was only looking for the weighing sensor. For the processing electronics, it wanted to use its own circuit board which is optimized in terms of price and performance. As for the display and the user interface, they are provided by means of a touch-screen tablet in Bluetooth mode.
The choice of the loading cell relates to the PW20i, which is optimized for dynamic weighing applications. This sensor meets the requirements of filling sachets ranging from a few tens of grams to 1.5 kg with measurement inaccuracy in the order of a gram. The measurement requirements are not very exacting, it was more the "extras" which swayed the decision in favor of the PW20i. "From the start, we wanted to have an RS232 interface so that we could connect the cell to our circuit board. Secondly, we needed a small product which would fit in well with our compact machines. Finally, we needed a product which was correctly protected against overloading", explains Thierry Cerisay.
The PW20i fulfills all these conditions, it is also easy to fit, with two screws to fix it to the machine structure and two screws to fix the plate. The protection against overloading is a requirement given the bagging plate can be exposed to shocks, for example as a result of operator errors. This protection is built into the PW20i so it was possible to fit the bagging plate directly on top of the cell without having to provide additional mechanical protection.
The PW20i does not require the measurement to be processed electronically. Because of its high resonance frequency, no electronic filters or reduction measures need to be applied. The PW20i's IP65 degree of protection is also a bonus, as it allows direct fitting without a protection board (in the knowledge that the products handled by the machine do not need to be washed with high-pressure water jets).
Last but not least, the PW20i is a metrology product with specifications in accordance with the OIML standards. Everything is specified, especially non-centering errors where the sachet is not centered on the plate. The calibration of the machines simply requires the use of weight standards, with any corrections integrated directly into the sensor electronics.
At the end of the day, there are a number of details about the PW20i which LGC Automation uses to produce simple, operational, easy to use machines at very competitive prices. Despite this, the company still faces Asian competition in its market niche. Thanks to its partnership with HBM, it has some convincing arguments to put to its future clients: "When we see the load cells fitted on some machines, we cannot help but have serious misgivings about their longevity. By comparison, the cells installed on our machines inspire confidence in every way, especially as they are provided by a leading manufacturer with extensive experience in weighing with operations all over the world", concluded Thierry Cerisay.