Swiss food manufacturer Hero AG has installed three Fanuc six-axis robots fitted with customised grippers to handle the heavy and labour intensive task of palletising the company’s jams and preserves. Operating around the clock, the closed cell provides a fast, reliable and more accident - proof alternative to manually stacking boxes of jam as they leave the assembly line

leaves the cell and the access door close, it is relayed to the hand device, whereby the next stacking programme is selected and palletising resumes. Rather than installing an overly


oading the jam pallets was a task previously undertaken by five

employees at the manufacturer’s headquarters in Lenzburg. It was a tedious and backbreaking job getting the boxes stacked and ready for distribution. Now, three Fanuc M-710iC robots are taking the load. Behind the installation was local automation specialist Robotec, which designed and tested the closed cell and integrated its special gripping technology onto the three Fanuc robots. In order to increase productivity, the Fanuc robots pick up two boxes already packed with jam simultaneously, turning towards the pallet and setting down the boxes within millimetre precision on the pallet according to the programmed stacking scheme. Because the jam is packed in various containers, from individual portions in aluminium pots used by the hotel trade, to heavier glass jars, the gripper design had to be customised to accommodate different box weights. It’s a seamless operation. Once the

pallets are loaded according to the specification, a signal is sent by the Fanuc robot to the operator, who opens the cell and uses a pallet truck to remove the full pallet and place an empty one in position. The operative uses a hand-held device located on the cell exterior to select the appropriate stacking programme. Each time the operative


Hero AG has installed three Fanuc six-axis robots fitted with customised grippers to handle the heavy and labour intensive task of palletising the company’s jams and preserves

complex touchscreen, an intuitive control panel with fewer buttons was created to assist Hero’s international workforce. It means that operatives don’t have to select or change programmes on the robots. In addition, universally recognised colour codes - red button for stop, green for start - were adopted, and the control panel was modified to restrict key steps, for instance pallet change.

Thanks to a customised stainless steel gripper, the end tooling is the same regardless of the size or weight of box being manoeuvred by the M-710iC robots

A FIRM GRASP OF THE CHALLENGES Forgoing vision technology meant that the Robotec design team had to customise the stainless steel gripper technology so that the end tooling stayed the same regardless of the size or weight of box being manoeuvred by the M-710iC robots. “We chose a shovel shape with an integrated slide, which pushes slightly against the boxes when setting them down on the pallet, whilst the gripper shovel retracts,” explains Robotec’s development engineer Daniel Bärtschi. Although the Fanuc robots installed by Hero have a payload of 70kg, when

designing the gripper, Robotec also had to factor in the different box weights, the centrifugal force of the fast pivoting movement from the conveyor towards the pallet, and also how foil packs still warm from the production line might behave when gripped and impact the palletising pattern. “With the jam temperature transferring

onto the foil, a box may become slippery during the gripping and transport process potentially resulting in a crooked stack which would need re-palletising,” notes Bärtschi. Commenting on the role that automation plays in reducing human hazards and the subsequent risk of product damage, Fanuc UK’s regional sales manager, John Rainer, says: “Robots help to eliminate workforce injuries, especially on tasks like palletising which are repetitive and arduous. Equally, you need to keep operatives safe, and there are all types of technologies and safety concepts that can be deployed within the working envelope when automating a task. “In the case of this Hero jam palletising

application, it’s a typical caged solution. However, there is a wide range of reliable, approved software based safety systems, including Fanuc’s Dual Check Safety system (DCS), available to manufacturers today that have the potential to optimise productivity by providing faster, easier access to the robot working area, reducing any potential downtime.” Fanuc UK offers a complete range of

industry-leading products and services for robotics, CNC systems and factory automation solutions, helping to transform the manufacturing industry through innovation in automation.

Fanuc UK /AUTOMATION T: 02476 518449

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