Earl Wohlrab, manager of robotic integration at Intelligrated, points to two exciting robotic-based technologies in material handling that have made great strides the past 12 to 18 months. The first-and with the greatest impact in the near term, he says-is for the integration of programmable-logic controller (PLC)- based controls into the robotics-based hybrid palletizing market.
“A hybrid palletizer merges the best of both worlds by integrating the infinite pattern forming flexibility of an articulated arm robot with the solid and proven layer-handling capabilities of a conventional palletizer,” explains Wohlrab. “Combining these features with a universally accepted control platform like the PLC will allow packaging professionals to push innovation while also allowing the technicians and engineers on the plant floor the peace of mind that comes with field proven technology.”
The other development centers on improvements in vision technology to complement the advances on machinery side. “A new breed of vision software products has greatly reduced the cost of entry into vision guided robotic solutions,” says Wohlrab. “These new software tools allow for the use of web cams at the entry point. The software tools themselves have been designed to allow for easier operation. All this combines to allow for more innovative solutions.”
To read more on robotics in packaging, see the March 2012 cover feature, Robotics revolutionize packaging operations, in our online digital edition.