Automating the end of line
Robotic palletizing is improving packaging efforts.
Growth in palletizing
Global Industry Analysts (GIA) released a global report on palletizing machinery markets, revealing that the global market for palletizing machinery is forecast to reach $706.74 million by the year 2017. Key growth drivers include changing consumer preferences, a well-diversified portfolio of end-use industries, technological advancements and safety concerns.
Within that market, robotics and more advanced automatic solutions are growing in demand due to breakthroughs in technology, the need to enhance speed and quality of packaging lines, plus the quickly changing dynamics of marketing and consumer preferences.
Another trend in the palletizing machinery market include the evolution of new Human Machine Interface (HMI) controls, which are transforming both traditional and robotic palletizers by allowing reconfiguration of machines for handling various case sizes, multiple product layers, and pallet patterns.
Mixed-load palletizing represents a major trend in the palletizing machinery market. Use of mixed-load palletizers is growing rapidly as compared to the conventional one machine filling an entire pallet. Growing number of customer industries, including the distribution centers, are demanding more of robotic systems for the placement of numerous products.
Source: Global Industry Analysts
The use of robotics in packaging is becoming increasingly popular as packagers demand faster and more precise operations from the front of the packaging line all the way to the end. Robotic palletizing ensures that this end of line process is in constant motion, increasing output and decreasing downtime. A robotic palletizer offers several key advantages over conventional palletizers. They typically take up less space, can accommodate very heavy payloads, and they can handle multiple product types and different pallet patterns.
“Robots are especially adept to palletizing bagged products such as rice,” says Ted Yeigh, sales director, Columbia Machine. “They are also a natural fit when you have an application with two or three or four relatively slow production lines that can utilize one palletizing cell.”
Palletizing and depalletizing
Combining both strength and speed is what makes robotics stand out in packaging. The IRB 760 robotic palletizer from ABB Robotics’ offers a high payload suitable for the beverage industry. It is designed for high-throughput, full-layer palletizing and depalletizing. With a payload capacity of just over 990 pounds and a reach of 10.5 feet, this 4-axis robot features a high inertia wrist that enables it to handle heavier and larger product and tooling payloads faster than any other robot in this class.
The IRB 760 robots are programmed using Robot Studio Palletizing PowerPac software, which combines previously developed ABB software technologies (PickMaster 5 and RobotStudio) into a single bundle. The technology allows users to configure all of the products and components in the pallet stack including the product conveyors, pallet locations, gripper functionality and the definition of each product to be handled. Once the cell configuration is complete, RobotStudio Palletizing PowerPac provides a fully functional palletizing cell simulation with accurate robot performance information. The complete RobotStudio model is ready to be transferred directly to the robot controller for cell operation.
A strong push for automated palletizing comes from a robot’s flexibility in that it can accommodate changes in package size, shape and can accommodate mixed cases.
Flexibility is the driving force behind the BEUMER robotpac®. Specialty designed gripper elements allow a wide variety of packaged goods, from bags, cartons and trays to corrugated boxes, crates and canisters to be palletized and depalletized. Depending on the version and the application, it operates at rates of up to 1,900 units per hour. The control functions of the BEUMER robotpac are performed by a 4--axis continuous path control system. The system offers user-friendly operation as well as flexible adjustment to changing conditions of use. Thanks to its multi-program, the BEUMER robotpac can easily be adjusted to cater to size or material changes for all package types, either at the press of a button or fully automatically via barcode recognition.
For food applications that require product labeling and bar code reading for product tracking applications, Schneider Packaging Equipment Co., Inc., reveals the E3 palletizer for portable robotic palletizing. Designed with economy in mind, the E3 palletizer simplifies handling multiple SKUs, often without any mechanical changeover, at a price point and small footprint ideal for any size operation (the small footprint of the equipment can typically fit in the same space as a single person manual palletizing station.) The E3 unit is also portable – it is equipped with fork pockets so that it can be transported by fork truck when not in use.
“A growing trend in the packaging industry is the use of hybrid palletizers. A hybrid palletizer, takes the flexibility of a robotic arm and places it within the footprint of a conventional palletizer,utilizing the strengths of both solutions into a single machine,” says Yeigh.
The latest innovation from Columbia Machine is the FL3000-R, a high speed, floor level hybrid palletizer that can achieve over 80 cases per minute, based on pattern.
“Columbia’s R-Factor technology takes the hybrid solution a step further by using the common ControlLogix PLC to operate the robotic arm and palletizer as a truly unified and familiar solution,” continues Yeigh.
Columbia’s hybrid solution includes a fully integrated, easy to use control package by using Rockwell Automation’s ControlLogix PLC and Motoman arm to operate as a unified machine. This allows plant personnel to easily understand and maintain the system because they will work with familiar PLC controls and no longer work with proprietary software. This system also increases reliability and pattern forming capability.
More and more processing and packaging functions are being automated. The usual benefits include less chance of error, faster speeds and higher productivity. The ease of operation, flexibility and high reliability make robotic palletizers an invaluable workhouse, tackling packaging challenges with unparallel speed and accuracy.