Case Studies / Palletizing / Cases of Butter

Motoman Robots Handling and PalletizingHighly flexible system meets all project goals and requirements. Robot system handles 170 different SKUs of product, as well as tier sheets and top sheets, as needed. Robots provide improved productivity, reliable production, and tighter, more stable pallet loads. Robots significantly decreased need for direct labor by eight or nine people a day, while improving safety by reducing injuries. System has two-year payback.

Project Challenges

  • Fully automate butter palletizing line to reduce direct labor costs, and improve safety by reducing lifting and repetitive motion injuries.
  • Improve productivity, and create more consistent and stable loads.
  • Palletize 170 different SKUs of butter in cases sizes ranging from 3.6-24.9 kg (8-55 lbs) onto wooden pallets in appropriate patterns with bar code labels facing out. Meet production rate of three cases per minute on eight lines (24 cases per minute total).
  • Handle product loads up to 1,524 mm (60") tall, excluding the pallet, corrugate tier sheets and chip board top sheets, as required.

Motoman Robotics Solution

Motoman Robotics provided a fully integrated custom EPL160 palletizing system, including:

  • (2) Four-axis Motoman EPL160 “Expert Palletizing” robots with NX100 controllers. Each robot serves four infeed conveyors.
  • (2) Custom multi-function paddle-style grippers with retractable vacuum cups for handling individual tier sheets or top sheets.
  • Case delivery system, including hinged incline belt conveyor; lineshaft conveyors; decline belt conveyor; double-wide merge table; brake/spacer/scan belt conveyor; and 180º belt curve.
  • Case sortation system, including sort belt; no-read line (gravity skate wheel conveyor); (8) air-operated right-angle pusher/diverters; and (8) lineshaft-driven live roller conveyor downlines, each with blade stops and case crowders.
  • Case recirculation system, including lineshaft-driven live roller conveyor with (2) 90º curves, and a brake/meter belt.
  • Pallet load-build conveyor – CDLR conveyor with tapered empty pallet infeed guides and fixed end stops.
  • Empty/full pallet system, including transfer car (T-car) system with (2) bi-directional CDLR conveyors; automatic pallet dispenser; 90-degree CDLR curve conveyor; and a 1.5-m (5') L straight CDLR conveyor.
  • Stretch wrapper.
  • Full pallet queue conveyor.
  • Laser line scanner.
  • Open flap detection station.
  • (9) Automatic labeling applicators.
  • Auxiliary cabinet with Allen-Bradley SLC 5/05 PLC, Ethernet communication, DeviceNet scanner for robot communication, and 13-slot PLC rack. PC touch-screen HMI for system control and diagnostics.
  • Cell guarding package to meet ANSI/RIA R15.06-1999 safety standard, including 3.05 m (10') woven wire perimeter safety fence, (8) access gates with positive-break safety switches; (8) conveyor pass-through openings protected by three-sided enclosures; and (2) self-muting light grids.

Fixtures/Tooling Details

Custom-designed dual-zone mechanical grippers use servo-controlled ball-screw driven side to clamp cases of product against a fixed paddle. Retractable vacuum cups handle individual tier sheets or top sheets, as needed.

Ref: ACS-080

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