System Integration & Control Systems Design

Omron and FlexLink design collaborative palletiser

March 2022 System Integration & Control Systems Design

Collaborative robots (cobots) are being used in a wide variety of applications, a recent example being a partnership between FlexLink and Omron. FlexLink offers flexible, modular conveyors and industrial automation equipment, including palletising solutions, to hundreds of customers across the world. FlexLink solutions can be found on the production lines of major brands in food manufacturing and personal care. Following a request from a major manufacturer, the two companies joined forces to create a collaborative palletiser using Omron cobots.

Stéphane Chevalard, FlexLink’s engineering supervisor, described the benefits of the solution: “Palletisation using cobots has a wide variety of benefits as it is very flexible. The system can easily be moved from one area of production to another. It can even be swapped between lines because it’s self-supporting and easy to move. It also allows collaboration with operators, who can work in safe proximity to the cobot without fencing or laser scanners due to the active security we’ve added, which has enabled us to gain CE certification.”

Developing the system

Omron and FlexLink were both involved in the initial design of the project, and the solution is continuously evolving as they receive feedback from users. The development of the system took place over several months, to ensure that the result would be flexible and easy to configure. The palletising system can process both US and Euro standard pallets, up to a height of 2 metres, thanks to the accessories that have been added.

The cobot has a capacity of up to 8 boxes or parts per minute (ppm), or 14 ppm with a dual-pick vacuum gripper. The new palletising systems can handle boxes of 10 kg or 12 kg, as two different types of cobots can be used: the Omron TM12 or the TM14.

Gary Hinault, FlexLink’s controls engineer, commented: “This solution meets the need for automated palletisation, which relieves the operators from this repetitive task so that they can focus on tasks with more added value, and that is more interesting.”

The cobots can be delivered in a fairly short time and the installation takes just one or two days. The automated palletising system helps operators to avoid the risk of musculoskeletal disorders or injuries caused by lifting heavy loads. The manufacturer that originally requested the cobot has calculated the return-on-investment period for the new system as being about one and a half to two years.


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