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Case Packing Robots

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Robots are expanding their usefulness in applications due to improved flexibility and reduced costs. The type of packing system is dependent on they product being packed. Robots offer many benefits including gentle movements.
  • The advent of robotics means that packagers have alternatives, based on what they're packing and how fast.
  • Robots are most commonly seen in palletizing, but as they have increased in versatility and decreased in price, they have become viable for case packing.
  • Gravity-drop and other mechanical case packing systems are useful for certain straightforward applications, says Dick Mitchell, sales manager for Fallas Automation, which markets both robotic and gravity drop case packing systems.
  • "When [integrators] present solutions that don't have to do with robotics, [end users] say 'You're not listening. We will have a robotic case packing solution,'" Traynor says. "It's amazing how customers seem to be more or less demanding it." 
  • "With a robotic system, we can load multiple cases at one time to achieve higher speeds. With a gravity system, that becomes a lot more difficult," says John French, director of sales and marketing for BluePrint Automation.
  • Nonetheless, flexibility is probably the biggest advantage a robotic case packing operation has over a mechanical side-entry or gravity-based alternative.
  • When it's time to change over a robotic case packer, "you hit a couple of buttons, you change the end-of-line tooling, which is a couple of minutes, and you're off to the races," says John Moran, a product manager at Pearson Packaging Systems.
  • Another advantage for robotic case packers, in some applications, is gentle handling.
  • Pearson Packaging Systems has used robotics for palletizing for years, and is just starting to use them for case packing. As they come down in price and increase in reliability, robots become more suitable for case packing, says Scott Reed, director of sales and marketing for Pearson Packaging Systems.
  • "The biggest barrier to entry in our market in the past has been [that] the jury was still out on how reliable a robot is," Reed says. But the increased use of servo motors in robots has greatly helped their reliability. 
  • Of course, not all robots are created equal. In fact, as mechanics and electronics become more sophisticated, there are more types to choose from than ever.
  • "Twenty years ago, you built your application around the available robot," says Joe Campbell, director of strategic alliances for Kuka Robotics. "Today, you select the robot and fit it into your application."
  • They also can handle heavy cartons or bottles more easily than many multi-axis robots.
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