Nimble palletising robots give production factories more flex for their money

With consumer buying trends influencing greater product diversification, production and packing facilities throughout the UK and Europe are increasingly leaning towards flexible robots that straddle several lines and perform multiple tasks. As testament, Pacepacker Services reports that enquires for single robots dedicated to the entire end-of-line palletising station has doubled in the last 12 months as customers move away from traditional application-specific palletising work cells.

Addressing the issue of frequent product changeovers, the FANUC M410 series has the payload and multitasking capability of stacking anything, ranging from 25kg potato sacks, to tubs of animal feed and bales of pet bedding. For increased flexibility, this high-speed robot can be fitted with different multi-purpose end effectors to suit the application. What’s more, the robot can be easily moved to other production areas to suit business demands, boosting a packer’s investment even further.

Designed specifically for palletising tasks, the M410 robot family is capable of multiple palletising configurations and features a large vertical work envelope. Pacepacker’s Commercial & Information Systems Manager, Paul Wilkinson, explains: “We are increasingly designing palletising cells with three to four in-feed conveyor lines, often carrying different product sizes, packaging types and weights. Thanks to the maximum 3.1m reach of the M410, one robot can pick up different pack formats from multiple lines simultaneously and stack up to three pallets up to 2.4 metres high.

“Because of the choice of end-effectors available, we can select a multifunctional tooling that 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,” continues Paul. Adding to its flexibility, hundreds of pallet patterns can be programmed and stored by the robot. And even if operatives need to change the end-effector for a specific pack format, quick changeovers means this can be done in just a few minutes, minimising production downtime.

Palletising payloads within the M410 family range from 140kg to 700kg, and the robots are capable of completing 1,700 cycles per hour. The robot’s generous payload also opens up possibilities for handling and palletising several heavy items simultaneously, for example two filled keys of beer or several sacks of aggregate.

In order to provide stability and strength, Pacepacker typically recommends integrating a four-axis robot for palletising operations. For maximum flexibility the robot can be floor, angle, wall or ceiling mounted, although typically customers opt for a pedestal base with integral controller or a compact base with remote controller, claims Paul. Pacepacker has even designed a portable palletising cell, mounting an M410 onto a base plate with a conveyor and safety guarding, so it can be transported by a teleporter to another production location.

To extend the life of the gripper, the most recent additions – the M410-iC range – features a hollow upper arm and wrist to prevent snagging, tearing and rubbing of the connecting cables.

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