Low-cost robot automates handling of plastic bottles

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Johnson and Johnson is using a Universal Robot to increase throughput from 45 to 70 bottle per minute in a plant producing medicinal shampoos and skincare products.

Low-cost robot automates handling of plastic bottlesJohnson and Johnson has chosen the Universal Robot, a low-cost 6-axis robot manufactured in Denmark and marketed in the UK by R.A. Rodriguez, to help handle its vast range of products, and in increasingly smaller batch sizes, more economically.

At its plant in Athens, the company manufactures, bottles, packs and palletises medicinal shampoos and skincare products. Although the majority of these processes are automated, the transfer of full bottles from the production line to the packing machine had remained a manual task. The transfer requires the product to be turned through 180 degrees and this presented a problem for standard robots, as the small, smooth-surfaced bottles are difficult to grip. A cost-effective robot with an articulated arm was the obvious answer, but the chosen system also needed to work at significant speed and be easy to reprogramme to accommodate product variety.

System integrator InnoPro Technologies recommended the Universal Robot for this application. Weighing just 18kg and with a lifting capacity of 5kg, it had all the necessary credentials for the efficient handling of different products. For this purpose InnoPro Technologies developed a special gripper that transports three bottles at a time and is sufficiently flexible to handling various types and sizes of bottle.

Non-slip handling

Following successful trials, the Universal Robot was installed at the end of 2009 and has provided trouble-free, round-the-clock automated handling ever since. Ioannis Ypatidis, the Sales Manager at InnoPro Technologies, states: "The bottles are vacuum lifted and transferred cleanly without any danger of scratching or sliding. Also, as the label is not printed on the same side on all products and the bottles are various shapes and sizes, the robot can grasp from both the right and the left."

In total InnoPro Technologies has devised four standard programmes to meet the requirements of various production runs; but, as programming is so easy on the Universal Robot, Johnson and Johnson's staff can swiftly change the parameters if required.

The Universal Robot now picks up three bottles simultaneously, orientates them and places them in the packing machine - with a cycle time of 2.5s. This has considerably increased productivity at Johnson and Johnson. While manual handling processes 45 bottles per minute, the robot handles 70. And this output can be easily increased in line with production speed. Ypatidis adds: "We can simply attach a double, purpose-designed gripper to the robot so it can simultaneously transfer six bottles and therefore move 140 units per minute."

Follow the link for more information about the Universal Robot.

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