‘Cobot’ Pioneer Makes NPE Debut
Universal Robots shows value of “collaborative” robots in form/fill/seal, box loading, and bottle packing/palletizing.
A first-time exhibitor at NPE, Universal Robots of Denmark (with three U.S. regional offices), is here at the show to address the growing interest among plastics processors in the new automation category of “collaborative” robots and to educate them in how they can be used to free up workers from repetitive pick-and-place tasks. “Our product is uniquely positioned to address the pain points of plastics manufacturers, such as tightening labor markets, rapidly changing production lines, and the need to constantly lower overhead costs,” says Brian Dillman, area sales manager for Universal Robots (UR).
Besides modest cost and easy programmability, a standout feature of these “cobots,” as some are now calling them, is that they “reduce or eliminate the need for guarding, which means a significantly reduced footprint. They stop safely on operator contact and can be moved with minimal force” according to Sean Dotson, president and CEO of RND Automation & Engineering, a UR partner that is exhibiting its new Kanga Poucher in the UR booth (S27189). Kanga is a vertical form/fill/seal pouching system that forms four-sided pouches from film for medical devices, pharmaceutical packaging, and durable goods. In the booth, a small UR cobot is feeding products into the system.
A second demo at the UR booth involves a bulk box loader from Dyco Inc., a firm that specializes in automated systems to move and pack plastic bottles. It uses a “guardless” UR cobot to grab a row of bottles—commonly by the necks—off a conveyor and transfer them to a box or tray. The company also makes palletizers. The safety of working around UR cobots enables an operator to remove a fully packed box while the cobot starts filling another. The box loader is controlled from the UR cobot interface. The system is designed for easy setup on a self-contained plate that can be moved among multiple blow molding lines running different bottle and box sizes.
Other places to see UR cobots at work around the show:
• Cold Jet (Booth W483) is using a UR cobot to clean automotive mirrors with dry-ice blasting.
• Proco Machinery Inc. (Booth W983) uses UR cobots in its new collaborative Half-Cube Palletizer system and its Robot-Packer—both for handling blow molded containers.
So-called ‘collaborative robots’ are a new category of ‘human-friendly’ automation that can work safely side by side with people, unprotected by guarding.
There is no “one size fits all” solution in automation. When considering what it would look like in your plant, hone in on the staff, products, space, and goals that are specific to you and the automation system that you will be installing.
Five years ago, in-mold labeling was just gaining traction among North American injection molders as a one-step approach to decorating without secondary operations.