Robotic Palletising System Delivers Superior Safety Standards

MAR 4 carton infeed conveyor

Incorporating a robotic palletising system into its new production line ensures that occupational health and safety issues are never a problem at Selleys.

 

As a world-class company with a history of strong growth and a string of leading brands behind it Selleys was clear on three points fundamental to the automation of its new production line at its manufacturing facility in Padstow, Sydney. To be successful the automated system must eliminate occupational health and safety issues; reduce labour costs; and increase production capacity. Integral to the automation of Selleys’ production line and its three new packing machines would be the installation of a palletising system that could deliver on those three key points: a challenge in any industry involving palletising, where manual systems are notoriously labour intensive, time consuming and plagued with the occupational health and safety issues associated with heavy lifting.

 

Automate, automate, automate

The system principle delivered by Machinery Automation & Robotics (MAR) is simple: automate carton handling; automate pallet handling; automate stretchwrapping; install a single robot system to perform the process; design a user-friendly touchscreen;  and the entire palletising system can be controlled by a single operator.

 

Robotic palletising at work

From the robot and conveyor systems operations to the stretchwrapper infeed function and pallet removal sequence Selley’s automated robotic palletising process is initiated and controlled by a single operator. At system start up the operator loads a stack of up to ten empty pallets into each of the Chep and Export pallet stack frames. The Chep and Export pallets – of which 20 can be accommodated at any one time – are then automatically conveyed to the pallet pick-up position. A simple function selection made on the PanelView touchscreen ensures that any incomplete pallets are automatically removed from the cell at this stage. Using the PanelView touchscreen the operator determines the criteria by which the system will function. After ensuring that no personnel are within the cell the operator closes the Guardmaster switch-protected safety gate and uses the PanelView touchscreen to start the robot system.

The robot system, which provides continuous operation during the pallet stacking process, comprises a robot which distributes the empty pallet stacks to the loading stations. If required at this stage, the robot picks and places a pallet layer card onto the appropriate empty pallet. As cartons are received at the infeed conveyor sensors count the required quantity to commence pallet layering. When the correct number of cartons is reached, a stop plate prevents additional cartons from entering the final pick-off point. Moving to the carton infeed conveyor the robot grips the set of cartons and raises them from the conveyor. Following system confirmation that the cartons are securely gripped and none remain on the infeed conveyor the robot transfers the cartons to the loading station and continues the palletising process until a pallet load is complete.

Each fully loaded pallet is removed from the loading station to the 90-degree conveyor transfer, from where it travels along the main trunk line before exiting the cell through the muted safety light curtain. The pallet then enters the stretchwrapper where, if pre-selected by the operator at the PanelView touchscreen, it is wrapped prior to exiting the system for the pallet pick-off point.

Design of Selleys’ robot palletising system provides the flexibility of manual stretchwrapper infeed in addition to the fully automated process. The pallet conveyor section between the robot cell exit and the stretchwrapper entry points allows pallet placement by a forklift operator for automatic stretchwrapping. The break in the light curtain created by the forklift operator entering the area powers down the section, enabling the pallet to be placed on the conveyor. The driver simply presses the reset button as he clears the light curtain to activate the conveyor section and reset the timer.

All completed pallets exit the stretchwrapper, whether pre-selected for wrapping or not, and are ready for removal by the forklift operator. In a similar process to the manual stretchwrapper infeed system the conveyor is powered down by a break in the light curtain, the pallet is loaded and the forklift driver exits the area and reactivates the conveyor section with a simple push of a button.

 

The mechanical gripper uses a vacuum action to pick up pallet layer sheet.

The mechanical gripper uses a vacuum action to pick up pallet layer sheet.

Control at your fingertips

Operation of the entire robotic palletising system and conveyors is controlled from the colour PanelView 700 Human Machine Interface (HMI) touchscreen located inside the robot enclosure. The ten-page PanelView program is easy to navigate and includes:

  • Primary control for system start/stop function
  • Graphical display to assist the operator
  • One page for manual control of conveyors
  • One page for manual control of the gripper
  • One page of shift production data
  • One page for error reporting
  • One page for robot control in service position
  • One page for robot control in the elevated home position, maximising access around the cell during maintenance and cleaning operations

 

The PanelView touchscreen program also incorporates a number of selection options enabling the operator to determine:

  • Carton tuning, enabling modification of carton sizes to allow for small changes in card production and case packing tolerances
  • The products to be palletised
  • The number of carton layers per pallet
  • The pallet station to which the product is to be transferred
  • The type of pallet – Chep or Export – to be used at each station
  • Whether a pallet card is to be used at each station
  • Whether a completed pallet is to be stretchwrapped

 

Safety first

The integration of an automated system upgrade provides the perfect opportunity for any manufacturing company to ensure that personnel safety precautions are first rate. With this in mind MAR incorporated two specific features into the design of Selleys’ system cell. Primarily, no part of the robot or gripper can make contact with the perimeter fence or the four surrounding walls. In addition, the area within the cell has been maximised to ensure free access around the robot and conveyors is available for cleaning, maintenance and general operation.

 

Adding up the benefits

MAR’s fully automated solution for Selleys’ palletising system delivered a range of benefits including:

  • The manufacture, supply, installation and commissioning of a complete robotic palletising system
  • Elimination of all manual handling during palletising operations, resulting in significant labour-cost savings and exceptional occupational health and safety standards
  • High speed palletising, processing up to three cartons per cycle and completing a minimum of eight cycles per minute
  • Incorporation of four separate carton infeed conveyors and four pallet-loading stations within a single cell
  • Flexible palletising – both Chep and Export pallets can be processed simultaneously within the cell
  • Incorporation of a fully automatic stretchwrapper system
  • A user-friendly, customised PanelView Plus 700 HMI
  • An increase in production capacity due to the fully automatic upstream packing systems

 

Technology at work for Selleys

  • The control system features an Allen Bradley MicroLogix PLC mounted within the robot enclosure
  • The operator workstation features a cabinet-mounted Allen Bradley colour PanelView 700 HMI touchscreen located within the enclosure
  • The four-axis industrial robot system comprises a KUKA KR180PA featuring a 180kg payload capacity and 3200mm reach
  • The robotic gripper system is fully customised to Selleys’ specific requirements
  • The system accommodates varying empty pallet dimensions of 1165x1165x145mm (Chep) and 1100x1100x130mm (Export)
  • The system has the capacity to simultaneously transfer three 16kg cartons and up to 50kg mass in empty Chep or Export pallets
  • Incorporated Light Curtain safety systems ensure enhanced personnel safety at all times
  • A fully automatic stretchwrapper located at the pallet conveyor outfeed
  • A total of four 2500mm carton infeed conveyors supply cartons to the four pallet-loading stations

 

For more information visit our section on Robotic Palletising or contact one our Solutions Engineers to discuss your requirements.