At PPMA 2015, Omron (stand B34) and its systems partners Applied Automation and HepcoMotion showed how advanced automation systems coupled with robotics technologies can deliver real return on investment.
The modern packaging industry is becoming characterised by shorter production runs with higher numbers of product variants, resulting in lines handling more products than ever before and needing fast changeover times from one product to another. Throughput, quality, availability and the flexibility to work with different product variants or different pack sizes, without the traditional line changeover time, are all factors that impact on the bottom line.
Robots have an important role to play, delivering the machine flexibility that packaging companies require, while boosting productivity through high-speed operation, and improving availability. At the same time, packaging machine end users have a clear focus on the need for robot ease of use, a fast return on investment and a low total cost of ownership.
There are many robotic systems on the market, all promising to deliver very similar benefits. That can make it a challenge for the packaging machine builder to distinguish between them. However, there are some very real distinguishing factors that can make the difference between a system which meets all the goals of the end user and offers the maximum return for the machine builder – both in terms of ease of integration of the robotic system and ongoing support.
Omron has addressed these requirements with a full range of SCARA and delta robots, along with automation systems that enable the simple construction of high-performance Cartesian robots. In particular, these products offer ease of integration, enhanced flexibility, programming simplicity and high levels of functionality.
Ease of integration
The strength of Omron’s offering is built around the Sysmac platform, which encompasses machine control, drives, servos, HMIs and vision technology in addition to robots, with the whole suite of products networked over a single protocol – EtherCAT – and programmed, simulated, configured and tested through a single software package. This holds the key to ease of integration for machine builders, and significantly reduces machine design timescales. It also ensures ease of support.
At the same time, the excellent performance of all of these individual products delivers real performance benefits for end users, helping to guarantee the boost in productivity, flexibility and availability that will maximise profit and return on investment.
Of particular importance is the integration with vision technology, which enables the robots to operate even more efficiently, more accurately and more effectively. Robot-integrated vision delivers greater capability for high-speed, high-accuracy pick-and-place operations, giving robots the sight they need to detect the positions of multiple workpieces in the field of view in very short periods of time.
Robots with vision technology enable packaging end users to work with many different package sizes and forms without the need for reprogramming. It provides the ability to run multiple processes on the same packaging line, and to work with complex shapes and/or delicate products.
All of this addresses requirements for increased flexibility, higher speeds, greater productivity and reduced complexity, and is demonstrated by some of the robot applications displayed at the PPMA show by some of Omron’s premier partner companies.
Path-tracing and food-safe robots
A robot is frequently required to follow a shape in food and beverage or packaging applications, perhaps for decorating cakes with icing or to lay down glue patterns for short run promotional items. Traditionally the profile would be generated through a CAD package, but Omron demonstrated how, with robot-integrated vision, the robot can accurately follow a freeform shape. The demo highlights how fast teaching time means minimal downtime on the production line, and eliminates the requirement to generate a CAD profile first, which can be a time-consuming operation in itself. In particular, the system shows how integrated robotics and vision can enable on-the-fly conveyor synchronisation, and how it can enable more flexible production, offering huge potential to improve energy efficiency, reduce costs and improve throughput.
In a second demonstration, Omron also showed how its robots address the emerging requirements of the food and beverage industry. A robot cell on the Omron stand featured an IP69K washdown-protected delta robot, picking and placing cookies on a rotary turntable. An integrated vision system provides tracking and picking information to the Sysmac NJ PLC, controlling the robot to accurately pick and place the biscuits.
Delta robot integration – Applied Automation (stand H34)
Using an Omron delta robot with vision system technology, Applied Automation showcased how it uses Omron technologies to develop complete automation, control and materials handling systems. The demonstration showed the robot picking pucks from a conveyor – each puck having a letter inscribed on it – and placing them to spell out a word.
Visitors to the stand initiated the ‘Spelling Challenge’ by selecting a word on the HMI screen adjacent to the cell. This information is fed to the vision system which scans the pucks as they pass beneath it. The pattern matching algorithm enables the vision system to identify the position of each puck, the specific letter it contains, and the orientation of the letter.
Each time a required letter is found, the positional and orientation data is fed to the delta robot, which picks the puck and positions it adjacent to the conveyor, repeating the action to spell out the required word.
All of this happens at high speed, with the conveyor not pausing for a moment to make it easy on the vision system and robot. Not that this is a problem: the vision technology is designed to provide a high-function inspection system, with advanced pattern matching algorithms and high-speed processing of image data. The delta robot, meanwhile can achieve up to 200 cycles per minute and can be synchronised with multiple conveyors to perform on-the-fly pick and place operations. All of this is under the control of a Sysmac NJ controller which offers sub-millisecond response time when controlling a single delta robot, and the ability to control up to eight delta robots with a response time of just 2ms.
Applied Automation managing director David Rowe says: “From a machine building point of view, it is important that control equipment should be easy to integrate, and that’s exactly what we get with the Omron technology. With the delta robot, motion control equipment, vision system, HMI and PLC all linking over EtherCAT communications, all programmed and configured using the same Sysmac software, even the most complex automation systems are easy to put together.
“In addition, the fact that we can get all of this control equipment from a single source of supply has benefits from a logistics and support point of view.”
Cartesian robots – HepcoAutomation (stand A46)
The HepcoMotion stand at PPMA featured a Cartesian robot built by the company’s systems integration arm, HepcoAutomation, demonstrating precision manipulation of a glue head within a packaging industry context.
Visitors selected a word or image from an HMI screen, and then saw the robot write the word out or follow the image profile with the attached glue head. The robot then performed a sequence of high-speed motions before returning to precisely retrace the word with the glue head.
The application demonstrated the Cartesian’s high level of precision, as well as highlighting the capabilities of these integrated systems built around HepcoMotion’s linear axes – PSD80 profile screw driven unit and PDU2M belt driven unit working together in an X-Y-Z axes system.
Drives for these axes come courtesy of Omron’s G5 servos, with the complete robot under the overall control of an Omron Sysmac NJ series PLC, linked over EtherCAT. The HMI also comes from the Omron product range, and is similarly connected to the PLC over EtherCAT. The combination of the Omron control equipment with the HepcoMotion actuators delivers a simple, cost-effective, precise X-Y-Z system with minimal engineering requirement.
HepcoAutomation general manager Mark Bragg says: “Omron has an extensive range of industrial automation products and a worldwide reputation for quality. As a key Omron system integrator partner, HepcoAutomation is able to offer superior application expertise for customers wanting reliable automation to drive down costs.”
The partnership is designed to make automation and robotics expertise available to all end users and machine builders, no matter what level of experience they have.
Bringing flexibility, performance and precision to packaging applications
Robots have important roles to play within the packaging industry, helping to address throughput, quality, availability and the flexibility requirements. With Omron’s range of delta and SCARA robots, together with its ability to work with systems integrators to integrate these robots and develop high-quality cost-effective Cartesian systems, machine builders can be confident in their ability to add robotic automation to packaging machines.
To learn more about automation systems coupled with robotics technologies, please visit www.industrial.omron.co.uk.