Automatic product placement (Pick and place)
The technological process of packaging small products starts with the transfer of the product from the production line. As a rule, the speed at which the product travels is so high that several workers are usually needed to move the entire product at a given speed. In addition to being moved, the products usually have to be put into packaging or process containers in some way. This operation is costly to organise and carry out and accounts for a significant proportion of the cost of the final product. The producer is caught in a vicious circle: as production expands, the above-mentioned costs rise proportionately. The economic effect of the increase in output melts away. Working two or even three shifts does not save the situation: the number of workers needed to carry out a basic procedure is even greater.
Is there an alternative solution ? Of course there is! The alternative solution is based on modern automation tools.
The use of a reliable robot picker allows to reduce the costs of picking/moving/putting away small products even several times. In the case of two-shift production, the robot pays for itself in less than a year. The robot's mode of operation is fully compatible with the tasks of the technological process: the robot can work continuously in three shifts, without knowing that weekends or holidays exist. The robot stacker has a tripod structure, is mounted on supports above the conveyor and has a working tentacle specially adapted to each individual production. The gripper is easy to change depending on the task it is performing. It can be equipped with mechanical, pneumatic or electromagnetic forces.
EEC Engineering offers an example of a pick-and-place robot in real-life use, which can place food products such as potato chips or candy bars. The robot can be used to count the output, i.e. how many units of produce have been moved by the robot, or it can be used for automatic weighing instead of counting units. The robot dispenser is very fast, it can pick up and place 3 units of production per second. For higher production capacities, several robots can be built in parallel.
The position of the product is not important in this case, the position of a particular potato chip on the conveyor belt: the chips can be scattered on the conveyor belt at an angle of approximately ±60 degrees. The recognition of the object on the moving conveyor belt is performed by a technical vision system, which is also part of the robot-technical complex. This system may also include a function to monitor product integrity. For example, if a rectangular potato chip is broken or has a corner cut off, the robot can move it to the location of the potato chip that is not of good quality, or not pick it up at all, depending on the task.
In this way, the robot-technical complex is able to pick up and place the produce in the packaging, and the robot also acts as a quality controller, which is able to weed out non-conforming produce according to the external production criteria. The robotic-technical complex includes a control cabinet based on an OMRON industrial controller. The control cabinet also contains an operator panel for displaying information about the process, as well as for inputting commands and the main parameters of the robotic-technical complex (e.g. the period of time for which the robot holds the potato crisper, the speed of movement to and from the position of the placement position, etc.) The control cabinet of the robot-technical complex is equipped with a network interface and a signal line that allows the exchange of information with external devices using standard protocols and prescribed procedures. The control cabinet can be connected to a conveyor control system, a production area security system or a lighting system.
The robot can work in pairs with another robot that performs other production functions such as pouring spices on chips, supplying napkins, transferring etc. EEC Engineering guarantees continuous operation of the robot in three shifts with a 24-month warranty and free technical support during the entire service life.