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  Global chemical company installs UK’s first new-generation robotic palletiser

24  April  2014

  A global speciality chemicals company has become the first UK business to purchase a FANUC M410-iC/185 palletising robot from Pacepacker Services. This new-generation system addresses all of the company’s priorities - reliability, consistency and flexibility between packing options - and forms the centrepiece of its end-of-line operation for packing and palletising lanolin.

The line selected for its UK factory, designed and installed by automation and systems integration specialist Pacepacker Services, also includes two sack placers twinned with Total Bag Control (TBC) systems for filling, closing, controlled handling and heat sealing, sack kickers, a box-filling system and conveyoring. In addition to this handling and packing hardware, Pacepacker supplied quality control systems in the shape of integrated check weighing and metal detection.

Once the waxy lanolin – the base ingredient of many moisturising products - has been extracted and cooled, it solidifies to form small ‘pearls’. These are gravity fed from a higher level in the manufacturing plant down to the packing area.

“A vibratory tube is manually adjusted to direct product to one of three packing options,” explains Pacepacker’s Business Development Manager Paul Wilkinson. “There is a one-tonne bulk bag filling system, as well as a line where bags of up to 25kg are filled and sealed. This is a slow process, delivering maybe one 25kg bag a minute. Alternatively, the lanolin is loaded into boxes in a variety of sizes, again up to 25kg.”

With the exception of the bulk bags, which are transported by forklift truck, the Pacepacker-FANUC M410-iC installation handles and palletises all of these pack formats.

Pacepacker, which has worked in partnership with FANUC since 1997, has a long track record in integrating the M410 family of palletising robots. “The M410 has always been about flexibility and reliability,” says Paul. “In addition, the M410-iC/185 model, which was only launched in autumn of 2013, offers an increase in payload capacity on its predecessor, from 160kg to 185kg. It was a natural choice, both in terms of payload and reach.”

Given the fact that the end effector tooling alone weighs around 100kg, the weight threshold is equally important. As Paul Wilkinson explains, this could have been reduced using aluminium rather than steel. But in fact, whether the robot is lifting a sack, box or empty pallet, the total payload will always be well inside the 185kg envelope, even with the heavier tooling.

Where speed is required, faster cycling times mean that the M410-iC/185 can achieve a 13% greater throughput than the M410-iB/160. For ease of maintenance, it also has 20% fewer parts than the earlier model.

The bagging operation starts with the C21 multi-pile sack placer, which uses suction arms to pick and open each sack from the magazine, before it is rotated upwards to be clamped in an open position.

Once filled, each sack is closed on the TBC system which, as its name suggests, maintains firm control of the bag while it indexes it through a heat seal station. 

The box-filling system, also supplied by Pacepacker, weighs each pack as it is being filled, mainly because the headroom in each box is limited. Each completed case is then conveyed to a checkweighing station ahead of the palletiser.

“This company can mix and match pack formats, depending on the specific needs of various customers,” says Paul. “Sacks and boxes arrive on different conveyors, and the palletiser will handle whichever pack type or size presents itself. The robot has a multifunctional end effector, which automatically adjusts to all of the functions it has to perform: picking pallets and slip sheets before palletising commences, as well as bags and boxes.”

Once this process is complete, each pallet load is automatically transferred to the shrink-wrapping station.

The FANUC Programmable Machine Controller (PMC) controls the robot cell and pallet conveyors from a single source, enabling different pallet patterns and pack orientations to be saved and recalled as required. The other pieces of equipment operate through their own PLC systems.

Sacks or boxes which are out of specification (containing metal or out of weight tolerance) are automatically placed on a separate reject conveyor by the robot.

Clearly, this chemical supplier needed a system it could rely on. FANUC rates the reliability of its robots at greater than 99.99%.

This may be the first, but it is unlikely to be the last Pacepacker customer to appreciate these levels of reliability, along with the M410-iC/185’s payload capacity, operational flexibility and throughput. In deed Pacepacker have already received a further two orders for Fanuc M410iC robot systems already this year.

For more information, please contact:

Paul Wilkinson,
Business Development Manager
Pacepacker Services
Tel:  +44 (0)1371 811544,
Fax:  +44 (0)1371 811621,
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