At the extreme end of the line, palletizing, is where robotic automation really began for packaging operations and where the bulk of robots still reside. In one study from PMMI – The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, titled “2021 End-of-Line Equipment: Purchasing Trends and Design Insights,” three out of four large to medium manufacturers interviewed said they are currently using robotics at the end of the line, with several predicting 100% robotic palletizers in the near future.
In another report from the association, “Automation Timeline: The Drive Toward 4.0 Connectivity in Packaging and Processing,” 87% of leading CPGs interviewed shared that they are using robotics for palletizing.
|Read “Six-Axis Robots Continue to Thrive” from the 2021 Robot Special Report.|
Says PMMI, “Advances in vision and machine learning have made robots even more valuable at the end of the line, enabling more efficient pallet stacking that does not require extensive reprogramming to change product type or configuration.”
One example of this ease of use is a new robotic palletizing cell from Iris Factory Automation that is said to meet the need for user-friendly robotic cells that don’t require dedicated engineers to operate. The RPZ-MAX, equipped with Kawasaki Robotics R series general-purpose robots, is a small-footprint, point-of-use palletizer with one or two pallet stations. Built to handle heavier payloads of 30 to 80 kg and rates to 12 cycles/min (RPZ-50) while still maintaining a simple-to-use interface, RPZ-MAX cells are said to provide high output with the flexibility required for high-mix, low-volume production.
Says the company, the system’s easy-to-operate software makes it possible for practically anyone to operate RPZ-MAX cells. The intuitive kiosk replicates the look and feel of a modern smartphone or tablet and eliminates the need for complex programming by the user. An integrated palletizing wizard allows operators to build custom pallet patterns in a drag-and-drop format, which Iris says increases productivity and decreases reliance on external programming assistance.
“As clients move away from manual labor to something that’s more automated in terms of palletizing, we want to break down the barrier between the fear factor of putting robots on the factory floor,” says Rob Fell, Iris Factory Automation President. “We want them to take ownership of the equipment because once that happens, they’re going to fully embrace it and feel comfortable using it.”
|Read Part I of Packaging World’s 2022 Robot Report.|