Muller Technology, a global supplier of molds and automation solutions for thin-wall packaging, has announced the launch of the industry’s first self-contained collaborative robot (COBOT) case packer for the packing of lid and container packaging. The new automation product, which incorporates an Omron 6-axis cobot, reportedly helps processors bridge a labor shortage gap in the U.S. plastics processing industry, while also delivering versatility, flexibility and productivity. The cobot case packer offers portability, quick part changeover for different size configurations and a return on investment of less than one year.

“In these tough economic times, the cobot case packer helps processors who struggle filling unskilled labor positions while also meeting COVID-19 social distancing requirements,” says Taras Konowal, director of sales and marketing for North America, Muller Technology.

According to Konowal, the jobs of packers are highly repetitive and unfulfilling, but highly needed. The new case packer enables molders to re-allocate their workforce to more productive, fulfilling jobs. Industry data show that while baby boomers age 55 and older represent 27% of the U.S. manufacturing workforce, 10,000 boomers are reaching retirement age every day. The problem for plastic manufacturers is that millennials and Generation Xers are not interested in filling manufacturing gaps left by boomers, surveys show. 

The cobot works side-by-side with an employee doing many basic tasks. When an employee comes close to the cobot, it slows down but continues to work. Unlike traditional industrial robots, the cobot system doesn’t require external guarding and all safety features are built into the cobot.  

The cobot case packer incorporates a standard Muller Human Machine Interface (HMI) which eliminates any programming requirements and stores multiple recipes for a wide range of stack and box sizes. The case packer can be purchased separately or integrated into an automation line, such as Muller’s new M-Line system — a new integrated robotic and automation system for production of injection-molded packaging. 

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