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Automation solutions for palletising operations from Machinery Automation & Robotics

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article image Automation solutions for palletising operations

The introduction of new robot system technologies has brought with it major ongoing changes within the manufacturing industry.

The automation of the palletising process in particular, is producing measurable savings and high throughput rates, largely due to the new range of robot manipulators that are capable of completing more complex automated palletising functions.

The single most important factor affecting speed and throughput rates in any palletising operation is its ability to effectively handle various product sizes, shapes and weights simultaneously.

Today’s predecessors targeted low- to medium-rate production lines and were typically able to pick and place between one and six standard cartons per cycle.

Compare this with current robot manipulators: not only have the flexibility, speed, payloads and reach of robots increased, the range of functionality now incorporated into the gripper allows a single robot to handle products of varying size and shape over many lines simultaneously, if required, dramatically increasing throughput rates.

A palletising robot system can provide a flexible, low maintenance alternative to conventional palletising technology with the option to upgrade when necessary. Utilising the new robots from ABB and KUKA, a fully customised solution comprising a single robot palletiser can be integrated into your existing operation for surprisingly little investment.

With palletising speeds of approximately 500 items per hour, this simple system easily outperforms conventional palletising processes. And a high capacity system is capable of handling an impressive 900 items per hour.

The aim of any palletising system is to fully automate three major functions: the handling

of product (in bags or boxes, for example); the manipulation of empty and full pallets including the insertion of layer sheets; and the final shrink-wrapping process prior to transportation, if required.

For a standard palletising operation working with boxes, standard grippers are available that enable the robot to pick and place several products per cycle. For more complex solutions involving non-standard shapes, sizes and weights customised grippers may be required.

In a standard palletising solution the robot builds pallet formations of eight products per layer stacked eight layers high, although any format can be accommodated.

Palletising rates of between 800 and 900 products per hour are typically achieved using a standard system; during the system design stage, sample products, product specifications and time trials with the gripper system are required for accurate rates to be calculated.

The robot commences operation by transferring a single empty pallet to the palletising station.

Once the new pallet has been placed the robot transfers the bottom layer sheet onto the empty pallet. When both the empty pallet is in place and the product – detected by sensors – is available and correctly positioned at the product infeed conveyor, palletising operations begin.

When the products are in place a stop gate prevents additional boxes from entering the final pick-off positions. The robot moves to the product infeed conveyor to grip the box (or boxes) and raise it up from the conveyor. Upon system confirmation that the product is held securely, and that no boxes remain on the product infeed conveyor, the product is palletised in the required configuration until the pallet is complete.

Completed pallets are transferred away from the loading station to a two-pallet accumulation conveyor. Once the completed pallet is transferred out of the cell, a forklift can be used to move the completed pallets.

New pallets are then transferred by the robot to the palletising station and the cycle continues until halted by the operator or if no product boxes are available at the product infeed conveyor. Completed pallets can be unloaded during the cell operation without requiring system shutdown.

The palletising area is enclosed with safety fencing and muted light curtains are installed permitting only pallets to be transferred in and out. Any unauthorised entry is detected by the safety system initiating an immediate stop to operations. In most cases a robot palletiser provides a better alternative to manual bag palletising technology; throughput is more efficient, which, in turn, increases your overall product output.

Automation of your palletising operation offers additional benefits including:

  • Reduced occupational health and safety risks
  • A 24-hour, seven-day operation
  • Automated monitoring of operations
  • Less product damage due to smoother bag handling
  • The flexibility to handle a large range of products
  • The ability to adapt the system to new products
  • Reliability – the mean time measured before the failure of any robot component is 60,000 hours
  • A measurable return on investment within 2 years

Machinery Automation & Robotics  (MAR) designs and builds complete packing solutions to meet your specific requirements. An automation expert will work with you to identify the optimal solution for your business, taking into account the type and range of products to be palletised, the product and the nature of your application.

With 20 years of robotic experience Machinery Automation & Robotics offers total end-of-line automation solutions for food and non-food industries. Machinery Automation & Robotics offer a complete service, from design and manufacture, and project management to implementation, and ongoing support.

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