There are countless benefits to robotics in packaging but one hang-up has always been the robotic teach pendent. This pendent is utilized to program and maneuver the robot including managing faults and jogging the machine. For someone who is well versed in robotics, a teach pendent is not an issue. However, once the machine is installed and running in a facility, operators need to have user friendly access to the machine. That is where robotic HMI interfacing comes into play. We are going to look at three benefits for integrating the robot with the HMI.[Read more…] about Benefits of Robotic HMI Interfacing
Multi Robot Packaging
“Tottle” is an industry word for a type of bottle that can sit on the cap end. Examples of this include ketchup or shampoo. While a “bottle” sits on its “bottom” and has a cap at the top, a “tottle” sits on its “top,” which is also the cap.
Tottles present a packaging challenge, because in order for a tottle to be filled and capped, the cap-side of the bottle must be upright (opposite of how it sits on store and consumer shelves). The other end of the tottle is typically rounded, creating instability and preventing the tottle from remaining upright unassisted. The solution to filling, capping and case packing a tottle is to insert the rounded end of the tottle into a “puck”. The tottle remains securely contained in the same puck throughout the entire packaging process.
In this video a system is comprised of a traditional continuous motion case packer frame merged with four FANUC M-20iA robots. The traditional case packer frame performs case erecting, forming and sealing. It also has the benefit of securely handling the unstable tottle product through continuous motion to allow for smoother operation. The robots perform the packing function and provide the benefit of reaching very high speeds and quick changeover. This case packing solution reaches a maximum rate of 320 pucks per minute.
The four FANUC M-20iA robots pick tottles from the inbound pucks and place them into the moving cases. Each of the FANUC M-20iA robots attend to a fixed area of the puck and case conveyors. Each robot controls the expansion of a specified product tool that is unique to the product type. The robot’s end-of-arm-tool adjusts to pick bottled product from a pre-positioned matrix of pucks, then collapses the end-of-arm-tooling to form the smaller matrix size necessary for insertion of the product into pre-positioned cases.
The robots use individual “line tracking” control to accurately follow the motion of the pucks and the opened trays/cases during loading. This ensures the bottles are accurately positioned in the trays/cases and allows the tray/case transport to be continuous motion. Each robot is equipped with a coupling device (EOAT changer) that is software controlled and allows the robot to automatically switch to an alternate EOAT when a command signal is issued. This allows the automatic changeover process to be initiated by a signal from the case packer PLC.
Each robot utilizes FANUC’s Collision Guard option for collision detection rather than mechanical clutch mechanism. Additionally, FANUC PickPro Software designates pick assignments for the robot. This option allows a single robot or multiple robots to be taken out of service while allowing the remaining robots to run at a reduced throughput.
The combined loading processes of the four robots provides a product throughput of up to 320 bottles per minute and a packed case rate of up to 80 cases per minute.
This multi-line robotic palletizing system includes four production lines that are palletized by three FANUC Palletizing Robots in two separate robot cells. In this, the first of the two cells, a FANUC M-410iB palletizing robot is used to palletize from two of the four production lines. Cases are fed to the palletizing area on a shared interconnect conveyor, and a case diverter separates products to two case infeed conveyors. The robot picks a two-row matrix of cases, utilizing multi-zone vacuum tooling. Robots in the system place the cases to the pallet in the appropriate location for the product being run. Once a pallet is complete, it is conveyed away from the palletizing station to the fork truck pick station at the end of the conveyor. Then the robot moves to pick an empty pallet and tier sheet for replacement and the cycles repeat.
In the system’s second robotic work cell, two robots palletize products of different sizes. First, as in the first work cell, a FANUC M-410iB palletizing robot is responsible for handling of pallets and sheets for the two pallet stations, and for palletizing products in a two-row matrix with its vacuum gripper. In the second palletizing station, a FANUC R-1000iA/80H robot utilizes vacuum venturi tooling for case handling and palletizing. Cases are fed into this cell on a shared interconnect conveyor with case sortation.
Each robot cell in the system includes case decline conveyors, case sortation, case accumulation, case metering, pick conveyors, vacuum end of arm tools, pallet and sheet racks, three-strand drag chain conveyor for load handling, case bypass conveyors for manual palletizing capability, perimeter guard package, necessary controls, and finally FANUC’s industry-leading palletizing robots.
This system is ideal for companies sending cases down a common trunk line and require case sorting via bar code readers. For companies with both small and large cases, this solution also provides cost savings and footprint saving due to robot economies. In the cell featuring two robots (one large and one small), the large robot had utilization time available to perform pallet handling and slip-sheet placement for both its line and one other line. As such, a smaller payload and footprint robot is able to be placed in the other line.
Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp. is a global leader in the manufacture of generic respiratory medications. All of its products are manufactured in the U.S., and are supplied to retail pharmacies, hospitals, home care companies, long-term care facilities, mail-order pharmacies, and various other customers worldwide.
One of the Orlando, FL-based company’s leading products is an Albuterol Sulfate inhalation solution– a bronchodilator used for the relief of bronchospasm in patients with reversible airway obstruction disease and acute attacks of bronchospasm. The small vials that carry the medication are sensitive to light and temperature and must be hermetically sealed in a foil pouch and stored in controlled conditions.
Nephron specializes in blow/fill/seal (BFS) manufacturing, a technology that allows a flexible plastic vial of medication to be formed, filled, and sealed in a continuous process without human intervention in a sterile, securely enclosed area. Filled vials are then foil-pouched and packed into cartons, with 12 cartons packed into a shipping case. The cases holding vials packaged for sale in a card format are placed on end for palletizing, with vials placed in an upright position for shipping.
When Nephron began planning this new production facility to meet its growing market demand, its goal was to make the entire production process as automated as possible. This included integrating the packaging line with laser-guided vehicles delivering medication and packaging material to the line to create fully automated production, as well as automated pallet building, protective corner board placement, and stretch wrapping systems for the packaging lines.
It was intended to allow Nephron to minimize line personnel. Automation enables the process to run more efficiently, consistently, and with minimal human interaction that can potentially cause quality issues.
In 2009 Brenton installed a custom robotic system to depalletize and palletize trays for the Albuterol Sulfate lines at Nephron. Given the success of that installation, Brenton was selected for the lines in the new South Carolina plant and to add a similar end-of-line automated system to a new line being built at the Orlando facility. The design of those systems began in late 2013.
Building and protecting pallet loads
There were several challenges to be addressed by the project’s end-of-line system in the South Carolina facility.
The first was that while the cartons of pouched vials for a particular medication and pallet pattern were packed into shipping cases in traditional configurations, as the cases traveled the conveyor with the short side leading, those cases were required to be palletized on their ends, in order to keep the vials upright during shipping. This was a change from the original design specification for the specific medication, but Brenton adapted the robotic system to handle it.
The second requirement was that Nephron required the top of the pallet to be wrapped in order for it to be covered and sealed to provide protection from moisture infiltration.
To meet the challenge of re-orienting the cases as they reach the palletizing area, the pallet-building robot included in the system design was designed to use half of its grippers to invert each case on end before positioning the case in the pallet load. That allowed the system to build the entire pallet with the shipping cases resting on their end panels.
In spite of the fact that the pallet load was built with the cases resting on their shorter sides, the loads proved to be stable during factory testing.
Once the pallet is built, it is conveyed to an FA automatic stretch wrapper turntable from Orion, another Pro Mach division. The next step is to apply protective corner boards. Nephron requires corner boards on all of its pallet loads to ensure that product or package quality is not compromised during shipping.
A robot places the boards. In this instance, since the Nephron line operates at a moderate pace, the boards are placed individually as the load indexes 90° on the FA turntable, rather than on two corners at a time, as on higher-speed lines where speed is essential. The slower speed also helps maintain the stability of the pallet load until it is securely wrapped.
Once corner boards are placed, the Orion FA system wraps the load at 15 revolutions/min, securing the entire load. When the wrap is complete, the load is conveyed off the wrapper to the adjacent gantry top sheet placement area. The polypropylene (PP) top sheet is positioned, after which the load is conveyed back onto the FA turntable for a final wrap that secures the top sheet to the load and provides tamper evidence.
The project timeline
The fabrication of the new palletizing systems for the lines at Nephron’s South Carolina facility was completed in mid-October 2013, and assembly of the systems began the week after fabrication. The first set of systems underwent Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT) in April 2014 at Brenton’s manufacturing facility. Following installation at the Nephron South Carolina facility in late October 2014 by Brenton, the new systems were debugged and tested onsite. They were integrated into Nephron’s Manufacturing Information Systems (MIS) and were commissioned late spring 2015.
This small footprint end-of-line system, integrating a case packer, robotic palletizer and stretch wrapper, was designed for the pharmaceutical industry. The system features quality control systems foundational to pharmaceutical track and trace.
Regardless of the industry you operate in, it is important that your equipment supplier designs and installs the best possible system to fit and meet your demands for:
- Throughput rates
- Cost criteria
- Critical-to-quality requirements
A company that utilizes innovative thinking and that can leaning upon the expertise of partner companies can consistently deliver a premium experience.
The integrated packaging solution shown in this video is comprised of a BrentonPro Mach-2 wrap around case packer, check weigh system, Fanuc M-710iC/20L robotic palletizer, case labeling and vision verification system, Orion FA stretch wrapper, Motoman MH50ll robotic de-palletizer, and Shuttleworth Low back pressure case conveyor. The system is designed to load wrap-around cases, check weigh, label, palletize, stretch wrap, and de-palletize the cases.