Package winding: a new wave of automation rolls in

Since 2012 Schlafhorst has been experiencing a sharp increase in demand for customised automation solutions in the package winding department. A new wave of automation is rolling through the global textile markets that will change the industry significantly in the next few years. With the Autoconer X5 and its new modular automation options, Schlafhorst offers spinning mills worldwide an optimal opportunity to ride this trend successfully.


Automation becoming more individual

There are basically three factors that trigger major automation initiatives in the industry: rising labour costs, a shortage of skilled staff and growing quality requirements. Rapidly rising investment in automation of the package winding department is currently marking a new trend. Until recently, the main markets of China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Vietnam invested primarily in the Autoconer RM manual machine type. Since 2012 the proportion of automatic Autoconer X5, type D and V winding machines has been increasing steadily and perceptibly.


China and India above all are proving to be trendsetters. The degree of automation in these markets is growing dramatically. It is noticeable that the trend towards automation has become much more individual. Gradual automation in differentiated stages is just as feasible as the complete integration of the material flow of the ring spinning machine and package winding department for maximum efficiency and quality. For this reason Schlafhorst now offers its customers made-to-measure process automation solutions, which are optimally coordinated to the profile of requirements of each market and company, with the modular machine concept of the Autoconer.



Autoconer – the name says it all

Competence in creating innovative automation solutions is a tradition at Schlafhorst. The Autoconer 107 in 1962 was the first machine for automatic package winding to be ready to go into series production. Its automated sequences for eliminating yarn breaks and for bobbin changes were groundbreaking at the time. Time-consuming manual joining of the yarns and changing every single bobbin by hand were thus consigned to history. In the years following, the name Autoconer became synonymous with automation in the package winding department. Operation was simplified continuously, and more and more sequences were automated. An important impetus for automating the material flow and processes came during the 1980s from the then main markets of the textile industry in Europe and America, where rising labour costs led to a strong shift towards automation. With its caddy transport system for the Autoconer system 238, a feature that is unsurpassed even now, Schlafhorst created a milestone for the entire industry.


Autoconer History-P

Autoconer: continuous innovations for automatic package winding


A holistic view of automation

The major strength of Schlafhorst was and is its ability to look at processes in the spinning and winding mill as a whole in order to be able to introduce functional innovations into the individual process stages. Automation was thus looked at from a wide variety of angles too. It is found in different sequences in the winding process, for example:

  • in the winding process itself and its operation
  • in package handling
  • in bobbin transportation and handling
  • in the process sequence between spinning and winding



With regard to automatic operation of the winding process, for example, sensor-monitored process sequences and central setting of the winding parameters at the Informator were introduced. These advances eliminated labour-intensive mechanical adjustment and settings at the individual winding positions. The introduction of the Autoconer 338 was accompanied by the facility for setting the yarn tension regulation centrally, Autotense FX, and the sensor-controlled, centrally adjustable suction plant with AVC system, which rendered the laborious exchange of pulleys superfluous. The introduction of single drives on the Autoconer 5 was a prerequisite for being able to configure further winding parameters centrally, such as the suction arm spacing, the splicer feeder and the waxing.


Innovations in automation resulted in a marked reduction in operator workload even on the manually operated winding machine Autoconer X5 type RM, especially with regard to package handling. The intelligent X-Change doffer is an automation unit that facilitates multi-tube handling and automatic lot changing without manual winding-on at each winding position among other things.


The last two points are the automation stages which permit the greatest staff savings to be made. Intelligent automation functions were conceived that both reduced the outlay on operators and improved quality.



Modular material flow automation

The long-term strength of an automation strategy is only demonstrated by the interaction of the modules. Schlafhorst offers every customer the right automation concept with the modular installation and material flow automation of the Autoconer X5. Textile companies with a clear automation strategy will therefore quickly find the optimum solutions for implementing their plans consistently at Schlafhorst. Customers opting for automation for the first time will receive extensive advice from the market and technology leader with regard to changing over their operating sequences. The more individual the requirements, the more important it is to support customers in the design phase. By examining all design variants and using detailed model computations Schlafhorst finds the most efficient and productive solution for each individual customer.


Two machine types that are well known and proven over decades for an automatic material flow are the standalone version Autoconer X5 type D and the Autoconer X5 type V, which is directly linked to the ring spinning machine. On the type D, the bobbins are transported manually to the winding machine on large bobbin trucks and then placed onto the caddies via the flat circular conveyor. On the type V, the bobbins are supplied via an interface to the CTS transfer station, which places the bobbins on the caddies and supplies them to the Autoconer. The empty tubes are returned automatically via the same interface and put back onto the peg trays of the ring spinning machine.


The type D machine can be located independently of the ring spinning machine. When switching from a manually operated machine to an automated system, the previous process sequence can be retained virtually unchanged, therefore. And it means more productivity and greater independence from personnel while retaining a high level of lot and material flexibility thanks to the automated bobbin handling.


Autoconer X5 Type D - P

Autoconer X5, Type D with new intelligent material flow technology




By its direct linkage to the ring spinning machine, the type V machine paves the way for complete process integration between spinning and winding. The spinning and winding machine as well as transport and storage can be optimally coordinated to one another without any operator intervention. This results in higher productivity and improved quality with maximum staff cost savings. The optional SPID spindle identification system for the Autoconer X5 type V in particular opens up new possibilities of direct online quality control. The quality of each individual spindle can be monitored 100% and promptly by the system, meaning that quality problems are detected much earlier than in normal laboratory tests and can be pinpointed precisely. Targeted early maintenance enables diminishing quality values to be remedied before they fall below the quality limit. However, high process integration in linked systems comes at a price. Converting a spinning mill with a manual process sequence to an automatic material flow calls for new sequences and a different space concept.

Even on the type V, a highly integrated automation solution, Schlafhorst has taken maximum flexibility into account. The interface between ring spinning machine and package winder on the type V can likewise be custom configured and adapted to the space available as well as to process sequences in the company. A direct link is possible, as is a link via bobbin bridge or an underfloor link. It can be linked to ring spinning machines from all manufacturers.



Autoconer X5 Type V - P

Autoconer X5, type V as underfloor link



Custom-built and individual – the new machine type T

To cater even more specifically to customers’ requests, Schlafhorst has extended the product family to include the Autoconer X5 type T machine, which following manual central presentation of the bobbins prepares them automatically. The new machine type is an ultra-modern entry-level model for step-by-step automation of the package winding department. The type T can be equipped with the same automation modules that were developed for the type D. For example, customers can reduce manual intervention at the machine to a minimum with the new yarn seeker and the automatic bobbin tube remover.



FlowShare FX, the smartest material flow concept on the market

Most recently Schlafhorst has revolutionised the material flow on the package winding machine itself through FlowShare FX, the smartest material flow control system on the market. The system guarantees a continuous, self-regulated supply of bobbins to all winding units by reliably compensating for variations in the material supply. The individual functions of the system complement one another in their effect, offering a maximum leap in productivity. Vario Reserve adjusts the number of reserve bobbins at the winding unit flexibly to meet the requirements. High Speed Feeding supports the requirement-driven supply of bobbins to the winding units by variable adjustment of the supply speed under sensor control. But it is Intelligent Bobbin Sharing that makes the autonomous material flow control system perfect. This innovative function, which is only available on the Autoconer X5, ensures an intelligent exchange of bobbins between the winding units. If one winding unit is threatened by a shortage of bobbins, the adjacent unit promptly surrenders a reserve bobbin. Waiting times are avoided thereby. FlowShare FX is therefore the optimum expansion for the previously tried and tested FX technologies for top package quality – Speedster FX, Preci FX, Autotense FX, Ecopack FX, propack FX and Variopack FX – and now for the ultimate in material flow reliability.


Autoconer X5 FlowShareFX - P

FlowShare FX – with Vario Reserve secure and flexible supply of all winding units



Highly productive and economical

More productivity, more efficiency, more economy – those are the priority objectives that Schlafhorst is pursuing in the development and improvement of automation solutions. Higher cycle rates have been achieved on the new flat circular conveyor and the improved CTS transfer station. New operating principles on both units result in higher functional reliability at the same time. The consequence is an extremely reliable, fast process sequence without disruptions.


Thanks to the perfect interplay between the individual innovations, Schlafhorst also constantly achieves synergy effects in the material flow. Thanks to FlowShare FX and higher cycle rates, the Autoconer X5 type D can therefore now also be supplied with up to 70 winding units – a significant leap in productivity!



Successful automation with Schlafhorst – a summary

Nowadays every company needs a flexible and individually configurable automation solution due to the individual basic conditions in its market. Textile companies that want to achieve successful automation will find a partner in Schlafhorst that considers the specific processes in each individual company as a whole and delivers made-to-measure automation solutions thanks to its modular concept. Customers with excellent process automation have been trusting in Schlafhorst’s competence for many years. In the latest wave of automation, the textile companies that will benefit above all from the know-how of the market leader are those that invest targetedly in automation for the first time and strive for future-ready solutions that are easy to realise and capable of expansion.



Source: SAURER Schlafhorst