Robot palletisers are usually based on a multi-axis industrial robot, which can be programmed in a number of ways to form a pallet load. The packages may be moved individually, in rows or complete layers while the pallet remains in one position. Robot palletisers are typically similar in layout to a low-level palletiser, but they can also come in the form of a multi-position palletiser. Robot palletisers are suitable for low and medium speed applications.
What are the advantages of robot palletisers?
Stacking pallets is an integral part of packaging, warehousing and logistics. Manual stacking of boxes, bags and other packs is labour intensive and is prone to inaccuracy, damage and safety hazards including RSI (repetitive strain injury). There is also an advisory limit of 25kg for items carried manually. Even so, estimates suggest that some 50% of pallets are stacked by hand, with the load limit reduced further if lifted above waist height.
By contrast, robotic handling allows for consistent, accurate and safe pallet loading. Robotic arms and gantries can be configured to pick up packages of many different sizes, shapes and weights.
Robotic palletising also allows increased production speeds and no bottle necks. The systems can be integrated into end of line packaging installations, with stacked pallets ready for loading and despatch. Robotic systems can also be used for depalletising by reversing the flow from stacked pallet to individual packages.
What are the parts of a robot palletiser?
Conveyors transport packages to the area where they can be lifted onto pallets. In integrated packaging lines, the conveyors link the packaging equipment to the palletising equipment. Roller conveyors are frequently used, configured for the available space within the plant and the requirements of the weight, size and shape of the product.
Robotic arms gantries
The development of multi-axis robotic arms allows for flexibility in picking up and moving products through the angles and orientation required for precise stacking. Robotic arms are available in many different sizes appropriate for a large variety of installations.
Robotic arms rotate from a fixed position to place the product as required on the pallet. Overhead gantry robots are also used to pick up products and carry them over the length of the gantry.
End-of-arm robotic grippers
A key element in robotic palletisers is the method used to grip the product. The principal type of grippers are:
Pallet and slip sheet guides
For an efficient workflow, pallets need to be guided accurately into position in the loading area as part of the conveyor process. The use of slip sheets is also a significant part of palletising equipment, with slip sheets fed onto layers of products to aid stability and accurate stacking.
Programming software and controls
Robotic palletising systems feature programmable controls for semi-automatic or automatic operations. Many systems are designed with easy-to-use programming tools.
Integration of robotic palletising systems
Robotic palletising systems are frequently integrated in end-to-end packaging lines featuring carton erectors, label applicators, inkjet printing, barcode reading and scanning, vision systems and stretch wrapping. Some standalone robotic arms can be moved into different locations for flexible integration into different parts of the packaging line.
Access a list of PPMA member companies who can supply Robot Palletisers.