New Pallet+ programming technology unveiled by Pacepacker Services is being hailed as one of the biggest technology advances in automated packaging. Bringing about new levels of flexibility and agility, coupled with significant time, energy and cost savings, it could soon make engineer-programming visits a thing of the past for in-house packers.
Rather than relying solely on robot teach pendants, Pallet+ allows users to easily programme, change, store and recall new or revised robotic palletising ‘recipes’ using a more intuitive and easy-to-use interface. Catering to ever-changing product formats and designs, including volume, shape and size, Pallet+ users can easily modify the packaging parameters on the fly and in a very short space of time, with little or no robot programming knowledge. More importantly, once set up, modifying recipes doesn’t require constant intervention from the machine’s supplier.
“Traditional reprogramming of palletising machines can be a laborious, time-consuming, trial-and-error process in primary, secondary and even tertiary packaging processes,” highlights Lee Moss, Pacepacker’s Electrical Design Engineer, who created the Pallet+ software.
All programming can be performed on a control panel local to the machine or off-line via a separate computer. Should users still require assistance, Pacepacker can create or re-programme palletising recipes and then simply email them to the customer – or even login remotely – removing the need for costly and time-consuming engineer visits.
“The benefits if this new approach are huge,” emphasises Richard Gladwin, Technical Director, at Pacepacker Services. “With robotic palletising systems, users have to understand the robot’s programming methodology and how to apply it using a teach pendant. This not only requires training, but also regular use in order to maintain familiarity. We’ve observed that very few of our customers use pendants for these very reasons, usually relying on an engineer’s visit. With this technology we have removed the need to touch the pendant, or at least keep interactions with it to an absolute minimum.”
Pallet+ is not just for new profiles, it also demonstrates huge benefits when it comes to fine-tuning existing profiles. “Boxes are unforgiving,” Richard explains. “You cannot overlap them like you can with bags, so packaging profiles are very dependent on the dimensional tolerances, which can actually vary by as much as 5 mm in some box formats.”
Machine stoppages slashed from 60 to several minutes
Pallet+ gives users the capability to enter new packaging programmes without having to understand a programming language. “Using graphical elements and value-entry boxes makes the new Pallet+ interface much more intuitive to use; it really is remarkably simple,” adds Richard.
As well as offering ease of use and greater in-house agility, Pallet+ can reduce machine downtime by over 800%. “The knock on effects of a machine being down for even several minutes to downstream processes and delivery schedules – especially in the fresh produce and food sectors can have major cost and contract implications,” comments Richard.
Putting the time savings into context, Lee concludes: “Pallet+ can reduce machine stoppages from 1 hour down to just 5 minutes, potentially even less, with its offline programming capabilities. Previous packaging profile modifications would involve multiple robot jogging and coordinate-recording steps, but with Pallet+ this can all be performed and tested offline on a separate screen, with the only downtime being the negligible time it takes to transfer the data.”
Early successes have reinforced Pacepacker Systems’ faith in the capabilities of its new technology, with one customer already looking to replace all of its robot-based systems after trialling Pallet+ on one of its packaging lines.
Pallet+ will be offered as standard on all new robotic palletising systems supplied by Pacepacker Services. It will enable customers to become immediately self-sufficient, without having to sacrifice the agility needed to adapt to changing packaging shapes and formats.