From the end of line where they were first employed and have revolutionized palletizing through the parallelogram construction brought in by Fanuc, robots have moved to primary and secondary packaging operations for all kinds of products.
This development is a consequence of the tremendous technical progress made over the past 15 years, coupled with a significant decrease in acquisition costs. With such a decrease, robots can now be part of any manufacturer’s toolbox for automation.
Productivity is not the only reason that encourages automation
It is indeed not in order to increase productivity that robots were first used in palletizing, but because they helped prevent musculoskeletal disorders. Though production output remains essential, quality and employees’ health are of equal importance to manufacturers and robots can help them achieve these goals by avoiding mishandlings or injuries due to repetitive movements.
Thanks to added functionalities such as vision, robots can also sort out any kind of product based on numerous criteria (size, colour, code…) without the slightest inattention error.
With this ability, they make precious allies in managing traceability and more generally in ensuring consumer safety for which expectations will with no doubt still increase in the coming years.
The challenge is to increase at the same time productivity and added value
Facing fierce competition and lower purchasing power, manufacturers must produce at a lower cost while still finding ways to stand out in the shelves. The packaging itself, but also the product presentation in the packaging, play here a crucial role and call for increasingly complex handlings that robots can carry out much more efficiently than the human hand, at speeds sometimes exceeding 200 strokes per minute.
Efficiency and flexibility: the inevitable cooperation between robots and dedicated machines
Tomorrow, production lines will have to best combine robots and dedicated machines in order to meet all manufacturers’ expectations: maximum efficiency and flexibility with a minimum footprint.
Dedicated machines will probably remain a step ahead on outputs for simple operations. But robots are able to deal with complex handlings in a minimum of space. And above all, they can adapt much more easily to changes in production parameters, thus offering a greater flexibility.
The need for flexibility, widely claimed by manufacturers, allows to state that the number of robots involved in packaging operations (10% of worldwide installed robots today) is bound to grow. Flexibility is largely considered by all robot manufacturers, and by Fanuc in particular, who offers the widest range of delta robots on the market and works at broadening the scope of possibilities by increasing the payload or developing complex applications such as bin picking.
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