Packaging robots have been designed to replace human labor, albeit with superhuman strength, agility, and speed. The range of movement, strength, and speed allow these machines to lift entire pallets onto trucks or pick up individual muffins hot out of the oven.
These robots were on display at PackExpo in Las Vegas last month. The entire tradeshow floor was alive with robotic movement. The robots were amazingly agile, surprisingly strong, and unexpectedly quiet.
This is the new manufacturing workforce. These machines are so efficient, they have reduced the importance of cheap labor as a factor in whether a plant is built in China or Ohio. While they reduce the manual workforce, they come with a small army of engineers. For the new engineer they are especially attractive, since running these robots can be done through simulation -- much like playing a video game.
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Here’s the claw end of a robot arm. ABB’s FlexGripper can be adjusted to pick up a wide range of items, large or small. (Source: ABB)
My Design, safety was one of the selling points at Pack Expo. The servo drives and safety programs tied to individual robots seem to be an advancement in safety. The virtual light curtains and instant halt seem to be taking safety to a new level.
Good points, Greg. As for safety, the move to robots tends to improve safety. for one, a virtual safety network can be set around the robot. Also, because of the servo technology, the robots stop instantly -- no gearing down. At the show, folks at the booths showed the safety by sticking their hands in the path of the speedy robot. With the safety breech, the robot would freeze instantly.
Very nice showcase of packaging robotics technology. If these robots are installed and operated safely, they can also help reduce injuries in the workplace (by eliminating the need for a human to perform repetitive lifting tasks). These added benefits are also attractive to decision makers in management when evaluating these types of investments.
Robotics may be the future, but to get there the country needs engineers. Those engineers need to learn the basics like dynamics, mechanics of materials. There's no magical way to jump over those. Lack of understanding how a robotic arm can handle a payload's inertia can lead to disaster. Basic engineering has to come first before making the robot move.
"It was quite a sight to see a whole landscape of packaging robots at PackExpo. The robots have taken over this industry."
Rob, now in most of the companies they have a separate engineering division by name 'packing engineering '. The main aim/goal of such units are minimizing the volume packing and increasing the saftey. I am not sure how this will help for the robotics era.
"Packaging robots have been designed to replace human labor, albeit with superhuman strength, agility, and speed. The range of movement, strength, and speed allow these machines to lift entire pallets onto trucks or pick up individual muffins hot out of the oven."
Rob, thanks for the update. Packing holds a major profile in logistics and shipment domain. The security of the shipped items depends up on packing and hence companies are spending more time and money for strong packing. I think robots can do the same work without much effort and time.
Most machine design engineers will survey existing component manufacturers for standard linear guide products, limiting what they can do with their designs. Using extruded aluminum profile guides can customize machine designs while shrinking the bill of materials.
Weaned on the relatively effortless connectivity of today’s massive variety of consumer electronic products, automation users in the IIoT will likely not tolerate too many competing, piecemeal standards for long. And the Industrial Internet Consortium is trying to preempt history.
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