By Joe Campbell, Senior Manager of Applications Development, Universal Robots
Collaborative robots (or ‘cobots’) from Universal Robots are a proven technology for palletizing applications at companies of all sizes. Building on Universal Robots experience as the world’s most successful cobot maker and spurred by customer demand, Universal Robots and its partners have developed a range of easy to deploy palletizing-focused Application Kits designed to provide users with all the hardware and software required to get started on palletizing applications. Available through the UR+ platform, Universal Robots’ palletizing Application Kits provide manufacturers with a wide variety of ways to get cobot-powered palletizing tasks up and running quickly, easily and at a fraction of the cost associated with traditional, competing palletizing systems.
Palletizing’s Pain Points
Manual palletizing requires workers to bend, lift and twist for hours on end. Over time, this unergonomic task can cause repetitive strain injuries and musculoskeletal disorders, endangering worker health and driving up labor costs. With manufacturers already facing challenges around hiring and retaining skilled labor, the case for freeing workers from palletizing tasks through the use of cobots is compelling. Some manufacturers have found that cobot-powered palletizing can act as an effective tool for attracting new workers, due to the ergonomic enhancements it brings and the ‘Wow’ factor associated with safe and flexible collaborative robots.
Traditional industrial palletizing systems have been around for decades, but they are inflexible and difficult to reconfigure, making them a poor fit for high mix/low volume and seasonal manufacturing. Traditional systems also require fencing, have a large footprint, are time consuming to operate and require outsourced expertise for programming and maintenance.
By contrast, cobot-powered palletizers provide faster cycle times, faster ROI, lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership), greater flexibility and come with a small footprint. Additionally, cobots can be deployed in close proximity to humans without the need for safety fencing. Thanks to different flavors of intuitive palletizing control software, cobots are also easy to deploy, regardless of your company’s level of prior robotics experience.
Proven cobot-powered palletizing solutions
Universal Robots make palletizing automation accessible to companies of all sizes, from global brands to small, family-owned manufacturers. At L’Oréal India’s Pune plant, for example, manual end-of-the-line operations involved operators lifting approximately 18,700 lbs of product per 8-hour shift. Concerned about the ergonomic risk, L’Oréal India deployed two UR10s on palletizing tasks, enabling the cosmetics giant to improve worker health and safety and increasing overall equipment effectiveness in the plant by 5%, thanks to the time saved in pallet replacement.
Unilever’s Katowice, Poland facility, which specializes in tea packing processes, deployed six UR10 robots to handle palletizing tasks. Prior to the implementation, operators spent around 70% of their time packaging and 30% palletizing. With cobots palletizing around 1,100 boxes during an eight-hour shift, throughput and productivity at the facility improved and operators are now free to focus on more ergonomically friendly tasks.
Meanwhile, Darex, a family-owned USA-based manufacturer of drill and knife sharpeners, successfully deployed UR5 cobots on screwdriving, box erecting and palletizing tasks in its Oregon facility. Two employees with no previous robotics experience took UR’s free online training course and were able to program the entire solution themselves. The deployment resulted in a 30% optimization of Darex’s packaging & palletizing processes.
UR+ is the industry’s largest and most comprehensive ecosystem of certified peripherals — including software, vision systems and accessories such as grippers– designed to integrate seamlessly with UR cobots. UR+ Certified Application Kits are hardware and software packages focused on a specific application, such as palletizing, assembly and inspection. Universal Robots’ palletizing Application Kits include all the software and hardware you need to quickly deploy palletizing automation.
Intuitive cobot palletizing
Powered by a UR10e cobot, the Cross Palletron 3000 Application Kit is a fully collaborative palletizing system with user friendly software that eliminates need for complex robotic programming. Developed by seasoned robot integration specialists Cross Automation, the Kit is extremely mobile (it is easily moved using a dolly), can handle payloads of up to 18lbs and can pick eight boxes a minute. This Kit comes with Rocketfarm’s remarkable ‘Pally’ palletizing software, which provides UR cobot users with an easy-to-use interface for creating palletizing patterns and programs.
Developed by Columbia/Okura, a company with decades of traditional palletizing automation experience, the miniPAL Application Kit is a UR cobot-powered palletizing solution that can handle a payload of up to 22 lbs and can palletize up to twenty boxes per minute depending on pattern, product and payload. The miniPAL Application Kit comes with Pally software, safety area scanners, safety mats and infeed conveyors, all of which are designed to speed palletizing automation deployments while ensuring safe operations.
Design your palletizing cell online
Vention’s Cobot Palletizer is based on an ingenious CAD platform that allows you to design your entire palletizing system online. Users can choose from a library of turnkey designs or design a palletizing cell from scratch using different types of box feeders and grippers. The kit includes a choice of vertical actuators, a choice of box feeders and grippers, Pally palletizing software and a choice of safety equipment. The ability to design your system online provides extra flexibility and assurance that the final deployment will be a good fit for your facility –this is an especially important consideration for companies where floorspace is at a premium.
Easy to use cobot palletizing
Robotiq collaborated with Universal Robots on the development of the Robotiq Palletizing Solution. This Application Kit comes with Robotiq’s unique Material Handling Copilot software, which enables synchronized motion between the Kit’s 7th axis and the cobot so they can both move at the same time. This ease to use software allows users to reduce cycle times. This Application Kit can handle a payload of up to 17.5 lbs and can palletize 13 boxes per minutes depending on weight, dimensions, surface, pallet dimensions and layout.
These UR-cobot powered palletizers are now being rolled out at a wide range of manufacturing sites. Universal Robots has seen that especially smaller companies, that find it difficult and time-consuming to source and integrate all these different elements into a cohesive palletizing system, are benefitting from this new turnkey palletizing approach.