More and more robots are finding a home in packaging production.



Who isn’t enthralled by robots? I have long been a voracious reader of science fiction especially in my younger days, particularly the hard-science subgenre that has included legendary names such as Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein among others. It was Isaac Asimov who crafted the landmark short story collection, I, Robot, that spelled out the Three Laws of Robotics and was adapted recently as a movie starring Will Smith. As is inherent with these visionary writers, Asimov and his sci-fi counterparts were ahead of their time. Now the times seem to be catching up with the writers’ futuristic vision including in packaging.

There are few systems that are as hypnotic to see in action at trade shows as robots. These have developed over the years from attention-getting novelties to nimble pick-and-place demonstrations simulating real-world conditions done at mind-boggling accuracy and speeds. At a more recent Pack Expo, mobile robots suitable for particular packaging operations were programmed to greet and interact with booth visitors. I really did a double take at that booth as a future shock reaction at how far along the technology has come. And at Pack Expo Las Vegas last fall, the Motoman booth displayed a common Microsoft Xbox game system sensor adapted to a robotic cell. The demo highlighted how common components can be readily and cleverly utilized to help bring down the potential price tag of such a system.

Robots truly have game for packaging this century.

The booth at a previous Pack Expo iteration had an android-like “she-bot” seemingly torn from the pages of a sci-fi pulp fiction novel. But here it was smack dab in the middle of a Pack Expo performing packaging functions with uncanny consistency.

I have seen robots in operation in the “real world” too, most recently at an ingredients operation in Kansas where the robots placed bags to filling spouts with clockwork-like consistency.

I get a kick out of the personalization of robots for installs where plant personnel give them a name. In this month’s cover feature on robots in packaging, one robot expert refers to Andy the robot who (he used that word rather than the word it) is undoubtedly a handy Andy.

Robots truly epitomize the modern mechanization of a production workhorse with the ability to manipulate products and packages with inhuman speed, precision and strength. Their inhuman nature is why they are here-and there-in the first place as a once-novel idea that has become a reality.

To read about Andy and other robots, please read this month’s cover feature, Robots Revolutionize Packaging Operations.