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Slideshow: Packaging Robots Become Superhuman
10/24/2013

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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)
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)

Image 1 of 17      Next >

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Rob Spiegel
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All the packaging robots
Rob Spiegel   10/24/2013 10:56:42 AM
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It was quite a sight to see a whole landscape of packaging robots at PackExpo. The robots have taken over this industry.

Charles Murray
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Re: All the packaging robots
Charles Murray   10/24/2013 7:59:42 PM
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When it was in Chicago last year (Pack Expo rotates between Chicago and Las Vegas), the noticeable aspect of the show was the robotics. Walking the floor, it would be easy to think you're at a robotics show.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: All the packaging robots
Rob Spiegel   10/29/2013 3:57:30 PM
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That was exactly my impression, Chuck. The new features presented at the show were all tied to robots, whether it was motion control, drives, or the number of axes. It really was a robotics show.

far911
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Re: All the packaging robots
far911   10/25/2013 4:56:07 AM
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Hoe effectively they will perform will be an issue and the on the contrary we be needing engineers for there maintanence,so ROBOTICS engineering is key of FUTURE.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: All the packaging robots
Ann R. Thryft   10/25/2013 1:01:28 PM
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I think far911 is right--robots are everywhere, and that's an area of engineering that will only grow.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: All the packaging robots
Rob Spiegel   10/29/2013 8:24:03 PM
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Well said, far911. Robotics engineering does seem to have a bright future. And not just in packaging. Look at the robotics growth in manufacturing, medical, defense, and automotive.

Mydesign
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Re: All the packaging robots
Mydesign   10/25/2013 5:07:35 AM
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"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.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: All the packaging robots
Rob Spiegel   10/29/2013 8:15:37 PM
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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.

Elizabeth M
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Re: All the packaging robots
Elizabeth M   10/29/2013 11:14:29 AM
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Fascinating slideshow. It's amazing to see the evolution of robotics in this space. As Rob points out, it really has revolutionized the way things are done.

Mydesign
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Packing and Logistics
Mydesign   10/25/2013 5:01:39 AM
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"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.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Packing and Logistics
Rob Spiegel   10/29/2013 8:21:01 PM
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Good point, Mydesign. It does look like companies are putting more emphasis on packing. And while the robots reduce the need for manual labor, they do employ engineers. They also reduce the differential between labor costs in Asia and the rest of the world. Thus, logistics costs may trump labor as the expense to watch -- that helps fuel the trend toward buiulding plants close to markets.

Mydesign
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Re: Packing and Logistics
Mydesign   10/31/2013 3:04:06 AM
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"Thus, logistics costs may trump labor as the expense to watch -- that helps fuel the trend toward buiulding plants close to markets."

Rob, hope this Roberts can be used to reduce such expenses.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Packing and Logistics
Rob Spiegel   10/31/2013 5:47:08 AM
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MyDesign, I think robots really help in reducing the power of labor to determine everything in where stuff is built. If logistics costs play a bigger role than labor, it's natural that manufacturing moves closer to markets. A side benefit would be energy savings and environmental gains.

Mydesign
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Re: Packing and Logistics
Mydesign   11/5/2013 8:29:39 AM
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"If logistics costs play a bigger role than labor, it's natural that manufacturing moves closer to markets. A side benefit would be energy savings and environmental gains."

Rob, that's true.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Packing and Logistics
Rob Spiegel   11/6/2013 6:56:39 AM
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Yes, MyDesign. It looks like this trend is gaining ground over recent years. This is the reason Texas Instruments gave for opening new plants in Maine and Texas.

TJ McDermott
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Still need the basics
TJ McDermott   10/25/2013 5:05:03 PM
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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.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Still need the basics
Rob Spiegel   10/29/2013 3:33:58 PM
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I agree, TJ. That's one of the benefits of the move toward more and more robots. You may be reducing the manual labor force, but you're increasing the engineering staff. 

Greg M. Jung
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Injury Prevention
Greg M. Jung   10/27/2013 3:56:21 PM
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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.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Injury Prevention
Rob Spiegel   10/29/2013 3:46:23 PM
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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.

Jim_E
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My opinions
Jim_E   11/11/2013 10:09:04 AM
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As a robot programmer with my previous company, I got to learn a bit about robotics. (Well, I still fool with them here, but only in maintenance aspects usually.)

 

The ABB FlexPicker is really amazing. Watching the youtube video of it picking up widgets off of a conveyor and putting them onto another conveyor in an endless cycle at amazingly high speed is really mesmerizing to watch.

 

The end tooling / gripper is usually one of the limiting factors in robotics use.  Some items just don't pick up well with robots.  One of the most incredible grippers to see is a "Jamming Phase Transition" gripper.  It's basically a balloon filled with coffee grounds, and the balloon can have a vacuum applied.  The gripper is placed against an item and a vacuum applied, which makes the device rigid, which conforms to what it was pressed against.  You really have to see this to believe it, and here's a video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKOI_lVDPpw

 

I haven't seen any industrial applications of this technology yet, but I hope it will eventually happen.

 

As for the human-safe robots, the Baxter seems more like a toy without the ability to reach pre-programmed points with accuracy.  The Universal Robotics devices seem more like industrial robots.  I played with a UR-5 at a trade-show and was impressed with it.  I tested it running into my arm and it was a bizarre to me considering that I'm used to working with giant robots which would crush me.  The reach and payload capacity of their two models aren't good enough for any of my applications yet, but I'd love to get one in my plant somehow.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: My opinions
Rob Spiegel   11/11/2013 1:10:47 PM
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Thanks for the info and video, Jim E. I was quite improssed at PackExpo by the safety features of the robots. You could put your hand in the path of the robot and it would stop instantly. Now gearing down, jut an instant stop. Most robot producers are touting higher levels of safety.

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