When it comes to end of line capabilities, palletizing equipment is often looked at to be fast, efficient and rugged, handling the biggest of tasks, and handling them well. These systems need to address productivity challenges, as well as other problems, including harsh and caustic environments.

A-B-C Packaging Machine Corporation’s (abcpackaging.com) new stainless steel palletizer is ideal for plant environments with high humidity or moisture, or corrosive factors caused by some foods, beverages, chemicals and fertilizers. With stainless steel construction, it is washdown safe and designed for minimum maintenance.

“Where plant conditions are corrosive, traditional machine life can be limited and this palletizer is the solution,” says Bryan Sinicrope, VP sales and marketing of A-B-C.

The Model 72AGSS is built for performance with a heavy gauge frame that is welded and bolted for maximum strength and durability. This low level palletizer is built for increased speed capability with continuous feed and layer accumulation during sweep transfer. To ensure secure pallet loads, each layer is squared before transfer to the pallet. Speeds of up to 50 cases per minute may be achieved, depending on the case and pallet configuration. The 72AGSS runs cases, bags, trays, totes, or multipacks in multiple pallet patterns, all pre-programmed for quick changeover.

Collaboration is key

Collaborative robots are a growing segment within robotics and automation – and for good reason. Designed to work alongside humans, these robots eliminate the need for a safety fence, which can cut floor space requirements in half.

ESS Technologies, Inc. (esstechnologies.com) has redesigned its best-selling Robotic Mini Pallet Cell to incorporate FANUC’s (fanucamerica.com) new CR-35iA Collaborative Robot. The CR-35iA features 24 precision sensors that cause it to stop all motion when it comes in contact with an object or person. The stopped robot arm can then be gently pushed away by the operator.

FANUC’s CR-35ia collaborative robot features a soft foam cover that protects workers who make direct contact and a distinctive green color that visibly differentiates a collaborative robot from the company’s traditional yellow-colored robots. The CR-35iA is ideal for automating manual palletizing processes, which allows manufacturers to reduce workplace injuries caused by lifting heavy cases or performing repetitive motions.

Without guarding, the CR-35iA will operate up to two cycles per minute, but speeds of five to six cycles per minute can be achieved with the use of area sensors to detect motion within the robotic cell. ESS designs the robot end-of-arm tooling to securely pick one or more cases and place them in a pre-programmed pattern on the pallet, which the operator manually places in the floor-mounted pallet position. The pallet cell is available in single cell and dual cell configurations.

The system is ideal for various needs, including applications requiring the placement of a deck sheet or tier sheet, as well as with serialization track-and-trace systems, whereas the robot may be programmed to hold case labels over cameras or barcode scanners to verify the pallet load or provide automatic reject of incorrectly labeled cases.

Another company is using the same FANUC robot to introduce its collaborative palletizer. Ideal for manufacturers and contract packers of pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, medical devices and other products, MGS’ (mgsmachine.com) Collaborative Palletizer handles cases weighing up to 77 pounds (35 kg) at speeds of up to six cases per minute. For life science companies working to comply with e-pedigree serialization and track-and-trace initiatives, MGS can supply a fully serialized integrated packaging line. Aggregated child-parent-grandparent relationships of serial numbers can be created from primary packages to secondary packages to pallet loads.

MGS’ Collaborative Palletizer can be fitted with a variety of end effectors to handle a range of case sizes and styles. For changeover environments with applications that require different end effectors, MGS designed a tool-less change that can be achieved in less than five minutes. Pallet patterns, saved as recipes in the system’s memory, can be recalled to achieve a change in seconds.

Whether traditional or robotic palletizing, these systems must operate at peak performance to avoid costly downtime.

LEDs cast a new light on packaging problem solving and productivity

by Rick Schneider, president, Schneider Packaging

The toast of computer gamers and lighting manufacturers could now have a big impact on productivity in the packaging industry.

LED LightsBest known for illuminating keyboards and light fixtures with a large variety of PC-controlled hues, smart light-emitting diodes (LED) could save thousands of hours in wasted productivity as an alternative to the standard stack light.

Like stack lights, Intelligent Illumination™ from Schneider Packaging Equipment Co. (schneiderpackaging.com) alerts end user personnel on the floor of issues. Unlike the traditional system, it allows them to pinpoint and address the problem without consulting the Human Machine Interface (HMI).

The patent-pending, custom-built strip lights detect when and precisely where attention is needed, immediately causing the LEDs at that specific location to illuminate in a particular color. This alerts the operator to the machine condition.

Many process improvements revolve around the HMI – creating ever-smarter, increasingly intuitive interfaces that in theory help speed troubleshooting, Peter Squires, executive vice president explains. While user friendly HMIs are still necessary, Schneider engineers began thinking beyond the touchscreen.

“For years, manufacturers have thought the HMI was the best solution,” Squires says. “The common problem and pain point is, ‘I have to keep my line running and, if it goes down, I need to get it back up and running as quickly as possible.’”

Lost time means lost profits, especially when processing dozens of shipping cases per minute. When every second counts, converting an interface to a different language or trial-and-error troubleshooting can add up in terms of time, dollars and cents.

No matter how well designed, HMIs have limitations. They might indicate where to go, but not what the issue is; they might flag what needs attention, but not where to go.

Intelligent Illumination was a solution to alert end users as to both where and what needs attention, most of the time without consulting an HMI.

“Maybe 10 percent of the time, you have to check the HMI. But, most of the time, you don’t,” Squires said. “Anything an HMI would detect, Intelligent Illumination does.”

Light speaks a universal language that personnel of any skill level or non-English speaking operators can understand. The default “all-clear” shade of “Schneider Blue” has a general appeal as well, given its mellow nature.

Time saving comes into play with Intelligent Illumination. Walking the 30-foot length of a machine just to see what activated the stack light can equate to a lot of steps. Saving the back and forth becomes especially important, considering a majority of alerts signal simple issues like low product level, low case magazine, jams and tripped safety circuits.

But, it’s not just the “where” and the “what” that makes Intelligent Illumination a significant advance. Schneider gave another strong consideration to “how.”

When floor personnel walk to the precise location and flip open the door, they’re greeted with a clear, bright task light.

Finally, Schneider considered the default glow that indicates everything is running as it should.

“Our biggest focus was functionality: ease of design, ease of use,” Squires says. They pared this goal right Lightdown to the handles on the doors, which feature ergonomically sound design. “We wanted something easy to clear, easy to clean and easy to repair.”