Collaborative Robots in Packaging and Palletizing Applications

Collaborative Robots in Packaging and Palletizing Applications

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Packaging and palletizing refers to the operations of loading objects such as corrugated carton packages on a pallet or a similar device in a well-defined pattern. For industries with high production activities, conducting this process manually is not realistic hence the need to automate their applications by using a palletizing robot.

Universal Robots, through their game changing improved robotic models known as the collaborative robots, offer an affordable and very efficient solution to the different factories and plants who want to automate their packaging and palletizing tasks. Also known as, cobots, workers can easily program them to load and unload objects.

These collaborative robots are currently in use in many diverse production environments worldwide. Below are two business cases where these palletizing robots from Universal Robots help to automate their respective production and manufacturing tasks.

  • Minitub Company

Minitub is a company in Germany that supplies reproduction technology in farm animals. The company was facing the challenge of finding complete bag packaging solutions that could standardize and automate packaging.

They clearly needed a solution that could automate the packing of the bags and allow the workers to concentrate on more challenging tasks. This would also enable the company to achieve a consistent flow of their product for shipment.

In the first quarter of 2011, Minitub acquired a UR5 collaborative robot into their packaging line. The robot arm is at the front of the conveyor belt but on the end of the fill-seal machine to enable it pick the fresh-bagged products, which will later fall on the conveyor belt. A gripping tool with five times two suction cups (suitable for lifting the bags) enables the cobot to achieve an uninterrupted processing.

The palletizing robot also controls cardboard boxes flow by moving the full boxes away for the empty cardboard boxes to take their place. This provides a consistent flow in the production line while simplifying the Minitub workers work hence allowing them to focus their energy and time on other production activities.

  • Nortura

The Norwegian meat producer was facing the challenge of having a limited floor space and a tight budget.  They were in need of a cost effective robot to continuously palletize without stopping the production line and be flexible and portable to move it in order to use the space for other production activities when no pallets were in place.

The robot would have to possess the required payload capacity for stacking boxes of different size and weights on different heights of a pallet. It would also have to be easy to program the robot with the company’s vision system and operate with minimal supervision.

Nortura first invested in a UR10 robot arm that was mounted with a IFM 02D222 vision camera below it and a Unigripper SMS 80-200 vacuum gripper. The working area of this palletizing robot was simply a painted space on the floor that also marks where the operator places an empty pallet.

When a free pallet is on the floor, the vision camera system immediately detects it as well as the other boxes on the conveyor belt then the robot arm automatically palletizes on its own. The cobot’s is easily programmable to pack different size of boxes in the desired pattern that the customer requires. The robot stacks an average of 20 pallets a day for a total of 1700boxes each day.

After seeing the benefits, the company acquired two more UR10 collaborative robots with the aim of automating further. With an easy installation and programming of the cobots, the company now has more production space since the robots only cover 10-20 percent of the workspace. The robots are cost effective and have a payback of less than a year when running on a single shift.

Conclusion

It is evident from the above case studies that the collaborative robots from Universal Robots are efficient in streamlining packaging and palletizing operations. They help relieve workers from the tiresome heavy lifting involved in these repetitive tasks and are very affordable.