More and more companies are utilising the power of automation and robotics to their advantage. The benefits of incorporating machinery automation & robotics into manufacturing are now widely recognised. Since their conception in 1948, palletizers have been imperative to the production chain in factories all over the world. As demand increases, palletizers are increasingly advanced and come in various types and specifications, which breed two main categories – conventional and robotic.
Before making an informed decision on the type of pallet automation systems suitable for your business, it is crucial to understand the business’ packaging needs. Several useful questions to ask include:
“What is the production volume required both now and in 5 years’ time?”
“What packaging types and stack pattern requirements do I have now and are these likely to change in the near future?”
“What is my current manual palletizing process costing me per year?”
“What health & safety risks do I have with my current manual palletizing process?”
After fully grasping the production needs of the business, let’s move on to the differences, key features, and benefits of conventional and robotic palletizers.
To provide a complete overview of conventional palletizers, it is essential to dive into the main subcategories: low-level and high-level palletizers.
A low-level palletizer has the product infeed at floor level. Typically a gantry mounted gripper will pick up the bag/case and place it in the required pattern on a stationary pallet. Often a frame is used to help form the pallet stack and keep it uniform. A low-level palletizer has several benefits.
- They are compact and use less floor space than high-level units. This means they can be installed closer to filling equipment and save floor space.
- They are typically the lowest cost palletizer for >20kg payloads
- Maintenance is easier as most of the unit is accessible from floor level.
- Good for low to medium packing speeds
The high-level palletizer is fed via a conveyor into the top of the unit. The bags or cases are placed onto a forming plate that forms each layer and then deposits onto the pallet below. As each layer forms, the pallet is lowered until it has a complete stack and is at floor level ready for moving via conveyor to the wrapping process. This high-level method of palletizing provides the following benefits
- High speed palletizing
- Layer forming and compacting frames, which provide very accurate and tidy stacks
- The ability to stack high pallet loads
Regardless of the two subcategories, conventional palletizers present a number of benefits, which include being more suitable for mid-high speed product processing, easier to troubleshoot without special training, and typically costs slightly less than its counterpart.
The key differentiating feature of this palletizer is the robot arm, which is capable of autonomously performing tasks assigned by a programmable logic controller. The gripper, which is an end-of-arm tool, is a crucial component that is usually customised to handle specific products.
Depending on the pallet configuration, a robotic palletizer is able to handle one or more units at a time and form multiple layers on a pallet after picking the products off a conveyor.
Several key advantages offered by robotic palletizers include easier adaptation and increased versatility to accommodate different pallet patterns and product types, less space requirement, the possibility of mixed case palletizing, and the ability to handle multiple different Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) by a single robot.
Varying on the type of product and process requirement, a specific type of palletizer may be more suitable than the other. Conventional palletizers remain the common choice as a mid-to-high-speed palletizing solution. However, robotic palletizers excel in low-to-mid speed, multi-line, and bag palletizing applications. Their continued technological advancement and falling costs are boosting their popularity and will give them an increasing competitive edge with time.
At Aurora Process, we are more than able to provide custom automation solutions to suit your needs. Whether it be automatic bag palletizer, bag palletizer, wrapping pallets, or others, we are happy to assist you to find your right industrial packing equipment. Be sure to contact us or book a free on-site consultation today.