Motion Control & Drives


The benefits of mobile robots and cobots

July 2021 Motion Control & Drives

A challenge accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic has seen producers having to juggle between longer term range proliferation centred on consumer demands and range reduction caused by retailers and consumers rapidly changing buying habits. This has resulted in producers having to be even more agile with existing assets.

These assets in the form of single or connected machines must therefore be more flexible than ever, meaning they must be supplied with the right material and packaging at the right time. To reduce storage costs and waste, companies in the industry want to produce only what is needed for shipping. Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and collaborative robots (cobots), as well as traditional industrial robots, are being used in more and more factories, replacing conveyor belts or accumulation/buffer stations. The challenge is to create a flexible, continuous production process for customer-specific manufacturing and to minimise costly, rigid and maintenance-intensive conveyor sequences, which usually take considerable space. Companies that break new ground by using innovative technologies not only gain agility but also reduce scrap, contamination risk, waste and losses.

Food and packaging applications

Many companies in the food industry are planning more flexible and seamless production and packaging lines for customer-specific products. This will minimise the need for expensive and inflexible conveyor processes. Easily configurable production lines will ideally consist of collaborative and flexible transport and transfer solutions, tailored to specific production environments. Examples include robots, cobots and more recently, solutions that combine both. Their tasks include the transport of work in progress (WIP) stock between sites or adjacent areas, with the process being managed and controlled by a special fleet management solution. Re-configurable systems in the food industry link assets and reduce costs by storing only what’s needed on the route. Traceability of all stock levels also reduces downtime. At the same time, trip hazards can be decreased and employees supported.

Minimising errors and strengthening traceability

To avoid production downtimes, line side replenishment (LSR) must take place in good time, with a focus on the loading of raw materials, packaging of containers and the dispensing of finished goods. Palletisers play a central role in increasing this latter topic, enhancing productivity, flexibility and traceability of the production process. Innovative robotic solutions help to improve throughput in these areas. Examples are a SCARA (selective compliance assembly robot arm) solution for loading bottles or other containers; robots that load carton and case erectors; and high-speed parallel robot solutions for the orientation and alignment of raw materials and primary/secondary packaged items. Traceability within the process can be ensured via reading and verifying item level and batch level labelling and integrated image processing systems.

Innovative solutions for safe and reliable shipping

The handling and dispatching of goods is also undergoing numerous changes, as retailers want to reduce costs and personnel-related expenses in this area. Food companies face the challenge of picking, placing and sorting incoming products simultaneously. Careful product handling ensures line throughput, reduces waste and prevents damaged goods from entering the downstream process.

Delivering retail-ready solutions and avoiding costly fines and recalls can be complicated. Automation can help to protect the product and improve the OEE of a machine or line, by reducing downtime. At the primary product stage, where fast, accurate, repeatable and efficient handling is required, Delta robots are often the solution. Customised software also enhances flow rates and recipe handling. One controller takes care of all functions (such as motion, vision, safety and robotics).

Product-friendly conveyor control can be achieved by the automatic positioning of the goods on a conveyor. Omron’s Sysmac control platform, for example, features smart conveyor function blocks (FBs) that control the distances and positioning of products, reducing product damage and improving throughput.

Conclusion

The automated flow of goods and optimised loading and unloading of machines will play a central role in the food factory of the future. Companies that want to speed up processes, reduce costs and ease the burden on employees can do so with the help of innovative technology and robotics – and thus take a big step towards competitive strength and sustainability.


Credit(s)



Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page

Further reading:

Drives for the chemical sector
July 2021, Bearing Man Group t/a BMG , Motion Control & Drives
BMG’s range of Danfoss electronic, mechanical and intelligent mechatronic devices are designed to optimise automation processes and reduce energy consumption in many sectors, including the chemical industry.  ...

Read more...
XTS transport system handles demanding packaging applications
July 2021, Beckhoff Automation , Motion Control & Drives
Beckhoff’s intelligent XTS transport system sorts bottles while managing automatic format changeovers.

Read more...
Controller for robotic systems
June 2021, Omron Electronics , PLCs, DCSs & Controllers
Omron has announced the launch of its first ‘Robotic Integrated Controller’, based on its leading NJ series of machine controllers for industrial automation.

Read more...
BMG’s integrated geared motors for efficiency
June 2021, Bearing Man Group t/a BMG , Motion Control & Drives
An integrated geared unit that combines the recently launched Nord IE5+ synchronous motor and a single-stage helical gear unit offers optimum system efficiency.

Read more...
New motors extend the Sinamics S210 system
June 2021, Siemens Digital Industries , Motion Control & Drives
Siemens has added new servo motors to its proven Sinamics S210 single-cable servo drive system, thereby expanding its range of applications.

Read more...
Why Cobots? From myths to a simpler reality
May 2021, SMC Corporation South Africa , Motion Control & Drives
While robotics led the way for the rapid growth of automation, cobots are the democratisation of robotics technology. They eliminate the cost and complex programming that robots usually require while providing much greater flexibility.

Read more...
Adroit connection to solar powered VSDs
May 2021, Adroit Technologies , Motion Control & Drives
Adroit Connect is a simple and cost-effective solution that allows users to remotely monitor their Mitsubishi solar VSDs, change parameters from anywhere and save unnecessary trips to site.

Read more...
New Fenner couplings ensure effective torque transfer
March 2021, Bearing Man Group t/a BMG , Motion Control & Drives
BMG’s new reinforced Fenner Triflex couplings, with forged steel flanges, provide an integrated solution for the safe and efficient transfer of torque, even in extreme conditions.

Read more...
Enhance machine safety with locking cylinders
March 2021, SMC Corporation South Africa , Motion Control & Drives
Stopping the flow of compressed air using an air circuit combined with a mechanical locking cylinder gives the most enhanced level of safety.

Read more...
30 years of linear motion technology
March 2021 , Motion Control & Drives
This year, factory automation specialist Bosch Rexroth celebrates 30 years of linear motion technology and innovation.

Read more...