When a customer with floor space and budget constraints required packing and palletizing, Schneider Packaging found a solution by combining the two activities. Typically, one machine does the case packing and another does the palletizing. Since a single robot could handle the production rates, integrating functions proved to be the right solution.
Schneider engineers designed the Robotic Case Packer-Palletizer (CP-P) to provide as much functionality as possible with a single robot. The CP-P loads, labels, scans, and palletizes cases in about two-thirds of the floor space. In addition to reduced the footprint and system cost, the unit provides flexibility for future product changes since the robot can be reprogrammed for different products and different case sizes. Key components of the system include:
To start the process, an attendant manually loads blanks in the case erector magazine and places an empty pallet inside the robot cell. Product transfers onto the infeed conveyor in single file for collating into the proper pack pattern. The case erector automatically selects a case from the magazine and erects it for case loading. The robot then picks the accumulated products from the infeed conveyor and loads them into the erected case. After loading, the case proceeds through the flap folding and sealing stations for sealing with a pressure-sensitive tape applied to the top and bottom. The finished case is then discharged.
The robot swings back into action and picks up the sealed case to check for open flaps using a photoelectric detector. If the flaps are open, the robot stops and alerts the operator. If the flaps are closed, the robot takes the case to the labeler/scanner station. This station labels the case and then scans it. If the labeling is correct, the robot takes the case and passes it in front of an ink jet printer, and then places the case onto the pallet in the appropriate pallet pattern. If the scanner could not read the label, the case is presented to the operator behind the fence for operator inspection, while the robot waits for the operator to inspect the case.
When a unit load is completed, a flashing beacon signals the operator. The system pauses so that the forklift operator can safely enter the cell, remove the full unit load, and install another empty pallet for the next cycle. An Allen-Bradley Logix controller coordinates the operation of the robot with the case erector in the cell and the taping machine as well as the bar code reader. A PanelView 1000 provides the touch screen operator interface and simplifies changeovers. There are two process elements that provide the core technology: the robot and sophisticated tooling to enable the robot to pick up a variety of products.
|Several pieces come together in the combination packer and palletizer (CP-P) system and take less floor space than the two separate systems.
The end of arm tooling (EOAT) for the robot required a custom solution. A single robot had to pick up smaller products, put them into a case without incurring interference, and, at the same time, handle the entire case. If the packaging assembly was going to provide two functions in one continuous operation, the EOAT had to be able to handle both small product and the large case without changing the tooling.
The custom end of arm tooling (EOAT) consists of a combination of eight vacuum pickups and mechanical fingers to maintain position of the stack during placement in the carton. The robot arm can pick up a payload of up to 80 kg (176.4 lbs).
By evaluating the products, the number of units to be picked, and how they would be packed, Schneider engineers designed a tool that implemented both mechanical positioning and vacuum suction. Eight suctions cups on the EOAT provide the pick and place capability for products. The custom designed EOAT is flexible enough to pick up and pack various size objects, including boxes, bags, bundles, bales, cans, bottles, and jars. Mechanical fingers keep the objects inline and handle the larger cases.
The machine handles pallet sizes of up to 48 ◊ 48 inches and unit loads up to 72 inches high. Production rates for the CP-P depend on several factors, including the product, the number of products per case, and pallet patterns. The CP-P unit can handle single or multiple lines. Schneider engineers designed the system for future expansion by analyzing the rates and reach of the robot. Adding a second line to the cell is well within the system's ability to handle the process.