Case palletizing at California Natural Products is most impressive. Currently it consists of two robotic palletizers from ABB Flexible Automation (New Berlin WI). Each robot (only one is shown above) builds two pallets simultaneously one to the left and one to the right.
In front of and behind the two palletizers are rails that carry small cars. The car in front of the palletizers has two pallet platforms. It constantly carries empty pallets from a magazine to all four palletizing stations as pallets are required. On the opposite side the car behind the palletizers has three pallet platforms and its job is to carry full pallets down to an automatic stretch wrapper from ITW Mima (Tamarac FL). Hytrol (Jonesboro AR) supplied the two transfer cars and the rail system they ride on. Hytrol also helped engineer the PLC and the system of sensors that govern the multiple motions executed by pallets and pallet transport cars.
“Before the robots were installed we had individual palletizers at the ends of those four lines” says vice president of operations Kevin Haslebacher. “Stretch wrapping was done manually and then a forklift carried the finished pallet to finished goods. This is much more automated and less labor intensive and it also cuts down on the amount of forklift traffic.”
While the robotic palletizers are at the center of this complex system the related issues of case conveying empty-pallet infeed full-pallet discharge movement of pallet-transfer cars and stretchwrapping were all treated as a single solution. The portion now operating accepts packages from four aseptic lines. But as soon as the overhead conveyors needed to feed two additional ABB robots are installed eight aseptic lines will feed the four robots.
“It’s actually designed so that we could have as many as eight robots receiving product from 16 lines” says Haslebacher. “We might have to enlarge the pallet-transfer cars but the basic capacity and space is there.”