Robots load hordes with camera monitoring
Plastic cups made of polypropylene (PP) are a popular packaging in the food industry. A conical geometry with a smaller diameter in the bottom area creates a certain top-heaviness, which is why automated material flow is always associated with certain challenges. Therefore, production personnel often take over the handling. At the end of the filling process, the sealed cups have to be pasteurized in an autoclave to achieve durability. To do this, the cups must be placed by hand in stainless steel racks. The product carriers, known as trays, are stacked on tray carts, which are then placed in the autoclaves. The work is physically demanding and time-consuming due to the loads that have to be lifted. Gronemeyer therefore relies on robots that handle the cups fully automatically and also independently deposit full trays and feed empty racks.
In the automated handling solution, the cups enter the robot's work area in two rows and are given a fixed orientation. The standard jointed-arm robot grabs the cups with its combination gripper using vacuum and places them in a rack. The robot then positions these in the free product carriers of a tray carriage, which is positioned in a defined buffer area. All gripping and positioning sequences are monitored by camera with a view to process reliability. Motion control is therefore based on the position data of the cups and trays supplied by a camera. When a tray trolley is completely filled, it is conveyed onward via a roller conveyor and an empty trolley follows from the empty storage area.
This solution saves production personnel a great deal of time, as the buffer for empty tray carts now only has to be refilled three to four times an hour, or full carts have to be brought to the autoclave. Another advantage is that the work is back-friendly and thus noticeably more ergonomic, since the heavy trays no longer have to be placed manually.
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