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Collaborative Palletizing: A Logical First Step into Robotic Automation

Collaborative Palletizing: A Logical First Step into Robotic Automation

Posted: 20/06/2023 12:56:28 by Chris Caldwell
Topics: Collaborative, Handling, Palletizing

With over 80% of goods in the United States shipped via pallet at some point during their product life cycle, more companies than ever are looking to robotic palletizing as a logical first step into robotic automation. Ideal for streamlining operations while enhancing the bottom line, palletizing is one of the easiest applications to automate. Often added to existing manufacturing or production without the need for deep integration into the rest of system, end-of-line palletizers can typically use a current production line’s conveyor as the cell’s infeed. Add in the fact that robotic palletizing helps alleviate most activity types that made OSHA’s top-injury list for workers (i.e., heavy lifting, lift and twist, repetitive motion, pinch and crush, etc.), and companies are faced with a “win-win” solution.

The Rise of Collaborative Palletizing
Traditionally filled via the use of industrial robots, an uptick of collaborative robot usage is proving effective in the manufacturing space, meeting diverse application requirements for a wider user group. Not always well-suited for some manufacturers in the past, collaborative robot designs have matured significantly in recent years, opening the door for improved production output. This is much in part to the following advancements:

  • Longer reach collaborative arms that allow for a wider variety of pallet sizes and stack heights.

  • Higher speed cobots with heavier payload capacity (i.e., Yaskawa’s HC20DTP and HC30PL) that can improve cycle times and help process a wider variety of packages, including common case weights used in parcel and ground packaging shipping.

  • More lift column options that are compatible with collaborative arms. Currently OnRobot and Ewellix are compatible with Yaskawa’s HC10DTP cobot, and NAS (Nalle Automation Systems) offers an external axis cell for the HC20DTP and HC30PL.

  • More advanced, powerful and flexible end-of-arm tooling (EOAT) options to allow higher case payloads and movement speeds.

  • A growing number of vendors are offering standard external dress packs to accommodate higher duty-cycles and more robust EOAT.

  • A variety of software packages to fulfill unique customer and integrator demands – even some for more complex configurations. Yaskawa’s options include:

    • Smart Pattern – a graphical interface for Smart Pendant that facilitates simple, pattern-based code creation. Common applications supported are machine loading/unloading, stacking, unstacking and case packing.

    • Pallet Builder™ – an easy-to-use extension app for Smart Pendant that enables no-code cell configuration, pallet pattern setup and a run mode with simple error recovery.

    • PalletSolver® – an industrial and scalable palletizing platform for automation professionals that generates ideal pallet patterns, enabling robots to palletize more variations quickly and efficiently.

  • Widely available turnkey or custom solutions. Yaskawa’s Strategic Automation Partners offer a variety of solutions to meet application requirements for:

    • Modular and easy-to-deploy systems: Automated Motion Inc., FlexLink, MG Tech, Sidel, and SourceLink Solutions

    • Lightly customizable workcells with a standard base: Custom Metal Designs, Force Design, NAS/BMG, and ARPAC

    • Full custom solutions for deeper line integration: Custom Metal Designs, DePeuter Packaging, and Force Design

    • Robots as a Service (RAAS) for quick ROI: Formic and Rapid Robotics

    • Mixed-case compatible solutions: Mujin and Plus One Robotics

The Path to Palletizing Potential
From hardware design and software capability to intuitive and robust peripherals, multiple factors can work together to boost palletizing productivity. While not all applications are a good fit for collaborative robots, many tasks today can be met head-on using them. Manufacturers looking to learn more about the value collaborative robots can bring to their operations should reach out to a trusted robot supplier or local integrator. Our Yaskawa experts are always ready to answer your questions and to help guide you on the path to productivity.

Chris Caldwell is a Product Manager

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