Welcome to Package This — your guide to packaging machinery and materials. Today’s episode highlights robots that are part of the automation revolution happening at today’s brands.
Robots are everywhere, handling packaging and processing tasks like product assembly, picking, packing, lifting, material handling, and palletizing tasks and much more.
Delta robots have three elongated arms forming a triangular shape that is connected to a base on a moving platform. They move swiftly and precisely and are known for excellent accuracy in high-speed pick-and-place tasks, but are also well-suited for applications such as sorting, aligning, and orienting objects on moving conveyors before packaging.
Let’s look at a Delta robot from Paxiom’s ValTara brand. Featuring one of the industry’s most compact robot cells, this robot features a machine vision-guided camera and is designed for high performance pick- and-place operations. Here we see ValTara’s end effectors using suction cups to place plastic bags of pasta into cases. These end effectors can be custom engineered with Delta robots supplied by Codian or Omron. ValTara’s robot cells are manufactured in their Schio, Italy facility.
Next up: Gantry robots. Featuring a horizontal beam supported by vertical columns, the robot's arms or end effectors move along the beam, called the gantry, enabling it to cover a large workspace and complete a wide range of tasks. Gantry robots are not limited to packing light items; due to their high payload capacities and excellent reach, they can also handle tasks such as palletizing, case packing, and loading and unloading items onto conveyor belts.
In this clip, from Paxiom’s EndFlex brand, we see a cartoning and case packing line for plastic mouthwash bottles that uses gantry robots. EndFlex’s gantry robot features custom-engineered end effectors that use a vacuum to grip and release the bottles before toploading them into the cartons. As cartons are sealed, they are oriented to a vertical position on the conveyor, where a second set of gantry end effectors picks and droploads the cartons vertically into cases. EndFlex offers this gantry robot in a standalone cell or as an all-in-one case packer. EndFlex’s system, engineered to customer needs and manufactured in the USA, also picks and packs a wide variety of packages including bottles, cartons, cases and trays.
Collaborative robots, also known as cobots, are a big part of many brands operations. Designed to work alongside humans in a shared workspace safely and efficiently, they have built-in safety features like force sensing, motion sensing and collision detection. Cobots excel at repetitive and physically demanding tasks for tasks such as palletizing cases, reducing the risk of human strain or injury. They can also adapt to changing production needs quickly, making them flexible and efficient.
Here we see the Paltz palletizing system, powered by Doosan Robotics. This mobile cobot can be set up and ready to palletize in five simple steps. The operator simply rolls Paltz up to the working area, locks it in place, and connects it to the packaging line. The operator then chooses a pallet layout pattern using a touch screen, starts Paltz, and the robot takes over the palletizing work. In addition to being highly mobile and compact, Paltz is designed to be safe for warehouse and production floors.
Articulated robots have joints -- multiple connected arm segments -- providing flexibility and a wide range of motion. Articulated arm robots can move in six different directions. The robots end-of-arm tool or end effector is designed for tasks like picking, sorting and assembly at high speeds.
SCARA robots, standing for Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm or Selective Compliance Articulated Robot Arm, are designed for tasks that require fast and precise horizontal movements. SCARA robots have a rigid arm that moves in a horizontal plane, with a vertical joint allowing vertical motion.
Both articulated arm and SCARA robots can be integrated with other automation equipment to enhance packaging and processing applications, from mixing and blending and picking and placing, to carton loading, case packing and palletizing.
Mobile and AGV Robots
Mobile robots and AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicles) are autonomous or semi-autonomous robotic systems used for transportation tasks in the warehouse or facility. Equipped with sensors for perception to help them navigate the plant, they are great for pallet handling and inventory management. Some AGVs can even be equipped with robotic arms and tools to pick, place inventory before transporting it.
There are many more types of robots we won’t have time to cover today, including food grade robots and extreme temperature robots for food and beverage processing applications. As we have seen, robot manufacturers help consumer packaged goods brands solve their efficiency, space, and productivity challenges through automation. The future is exciting, and the possibilities of what robots can achieve appear to be limited only by the imagination of the engineers integrating these fascinating systems.
We hope you’ve enjoyed today’s episode. For more videos on packaging machinery and materials, please subscribe to our full Package This series on YouTube. And for a deeper dive into this technology, explore PMMI ProSource, a searchable directory with 1,000 packaging and processing suppliers, including robot manufacturers. Visit ProSource.org to search suppliers by package type, material, or features. Thanks for watching!