Packaging robots plug and play
Universal Robots expects to debut flexible, lightweight robot arms at Pack Expo. The Universal Robots handle packaging and palletizing in any company searching for user-friendly, affordable automation solutions. At Pack Expo, the Danish robot manufacturer will showcase how the robot arms use advanced force control to handle even the most fragile and delicate items.
Universal Robots’ force control feature allows the robot to grip and handle objects of different dimensions and flexibility without crushing, using variable force.
Ed Mullen, national sales manager with Universal Robots USA Inc., explains how the force control feature is unique for this type of collaborative robot: “Though the robot is simple to operate and deploy, it comes with very advanced features that allow the end user to automate manual tasks previously not possible due to the exact amount of force exertion needed in the application,” he said.
”This makes the UR robots an optimal choice for companies looking for packaging and palletizing solutions for items that require very specific handling.”
At Johnson & Johnson’s plant in Athens, Greece, a UR5 robot has significantly optimized the packaging process of shampoos and skincare products. The robot arm works round the clock, picking up three bottles simultaneously from the production line every 2.5 seconds, orientates them, and places them in the packing machine. Manual handling processes 45 bottles per minute, the robot handles 70.
Various types and sizes of bottles are handled by the flexible robot that can quickly be reprogrammed for new tasks. Ypatidis Ioannis, sales manager with the robot integrator InnoPro Technologies, explains that any member of Johnson and Johnson staff can do the reprogramming as needed.
“By using the touch screen tablet or by simply grabbing the robot arm showing it the desired path of movement, any employee can quickly reprogram the robot,” he said.
“This has saved Johnson & Johnson the cost of hiring external programmers and created considerable excitement among the staff. They like the robot so much they even gave it a name.”
In Iceland, two UR5 robots work in conjunction at the country’s biggest dairy, Mjólkursamsalan Akureyri; the first robot arm lifts four 250 gram packs of cream cheese from a conveyor belt and places them in a plastic tray. The tray is then passed to the other UR5 robot that stacks the trays on a pallet.
"UR robots are so simple to use, and not having to build a fence around them is a big plus. During the first year, we already saved three human years of monotonous work, thanks to our two UR5s," said Sigurður Runar Friðjónsson, director for the Akureyri dairy, subsidiary of Mjólkursamsalan Reykjavik.
The collaborative robots’ innovative force- sensing technology enables the robot to automatically stop operating if it comes into contact with an employee. Of almost 2,000 Universal Robots sold worldwide, 80% of these operate with no safety guard.
This is the case at Scandinavian Tobacco Co., the world’s largest factory for pipe tobacco production, where a UR5 robot now works directly alongside employees handling the lids for tobacco tins in a setup where tobacco is packed.
“The robot spares our employees from having to make back-breaking repeated movements. The setup has freed 1 or 2 people that previously performed the tasks by hand. They now carry out other tasks at the factory, which means we don’t have to spend as much on temporary employees,” explains Henning Kristensen, a line manager at Scandinavian Tobacco Group.
There was no room to screen off the robot in the setup at the factory.
“We ended up choosing Universal Robots because their robots are the only ones approved for operation without safety guarding. This has simplified the setup and costs significantly,” says Henning Kristensen.
Universal Robots, a Danish manufacturer of lightweight industrial robots, provided its first UR robot in 2009, and now has more than 100 partners in more than 40 countries. Universal Robots is a ”first mover” within a new segment for user-friendly, collaborative robots enabling automation not just in large enterprises but also in small and medium size companies that thought employing a robot would be too costly and complex.
– Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, and Plant Engineering, email@example.com.