Robotic rotary palletizers find new use
Robotic rotary palletizers address ergonomics and the workforce shortage with high throughput in a compact footprint.
Originally designed for building pallet loads of heavy cases in freezers, BW Integrated System’s robotic rotary case palletizer has been increasingly deployed to create shipping pallets of lighter weight products from general warehouses, explains Eric Rohlf, the company’s value stream leader for robotics.
“Given the rising cost of labor, the shortage of available workers and ergonomic concerns, we’ve seen a significant uptick in interest for this product,” he says. “When compared to conventional palletizing, this machine can build eight different pallet loads in a far more compact footprint that saves up to 50% of floorspace.”
Configurations differ by application, but the system includes a robotic arm that builds up to eight separate pallet loads arranged around it. Cartons arrive at the robotic rotary palletizer on a single infeed conveyor. The different stock keeping units (SKUs) are identified with a bar code camera and placed on one of the eight full pallet build positions.
Completed loads exit onto a transfer conveyor that delivers them to a stretchwrapper. The robot pulls empty pallets from a pallet stand and can even build two half-height loads—one on top of the other—in a single position.
Loads built with cases weighing less than 40 pounds can be stacked up to 110 inches, explains Rohlf, while heavier products are limited to 55-inch heights.
“We use a robot with greater payload capacity to pick heavier product or a long reach robot for lightweight, tall loads. Either way, the robotic solution is far more ergonomic and faster than having a person build the load because a single cell can handle up to eight cases per minute.”
For greater throughput, two systems are installed side by side. “We’re often asked to handle 12 to 15 products at one time, realized with a pair of machines to achieve rates up to 16 cases per minute as they simultaneously build eight pallets apiece. For even faster rates, we can also pair cases up before sending them to the robot.”
While an investment in one or two robotic rotary case palletizers is not insignificant, it’s vastly more affordable than a sortation system diverting cases to multiple conventional or robotic palletizers, Rohlf adds. “It also saves a tremendous amount of square footage, while eliminating the risk of injury to a worker.”