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High performance robots optimized for packaging are delivering exceptional speed and precision for picking, packing and palletizing applications. Whether a manufacturer’s focus is food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, consumer products or specialty items, a growing number of advanced technologies are making it easier to configure, program and integrate ideal solutions that meet production goals.

This is especially true for secondary packaging tasks such as case packing and palletizing. Aside from highly versatile and easy-to-program robots, most components in a given packaging line are easily manageable via Singular Control. Standard programming environments eliminate the need for proprietary programming languages and enable operators to oversee robots and surrounding components via a motion control platform or a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) brand programming language.

Advanced interfaces such as Yaskawa’s MLX300 software option facilitate the programming and control of Yaskawa industrial robots with a variety of motion control and PLC platforms. This software provides a well-integrated environment that leverages the knowledge and experience of the PLC programmer while providing access to industry leading robot technology.

One of the biggest challenges any consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturer or food processor faces today is having enough flexibility on a single packaging line to accommodate dynamic packaging needs of distributors, retailers and consumers alike. That said, manufacturers are realizing the right mix of robots and technologies can provide the functionality to address evolving customer demands, including the growing variety of packaging types, product counts, palletizing configurations and more.

This can be seen with the automation process for a variety of personal care products. In this market expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 7% through 2024, sanitary wipe manufacturers are turning to highly experienced robot integrators such as Viking Masek Robotics & Automation to quickly design, build and install flexible and efficient robotic systems for secondary packaging processes and more.

Automation Control Overview and Benefits

With the pace of manufacturing increasing to meet the growing demand for these personal care items and other household products, manufacturers are looking for robots with familiar, easy programming capability, where prior knowledge of robot programming languages is not required. Not only does this minimize the amount of training needed for staff, but it also enables fast equipment integration. As mentioned, the MLX300 software option provides the standard programming environment necessary to make these things happen.

Faster Setup via Simplified Communications

VMRA and other valued Yaskawa Integration Partners have a deep understanding of what is required to help manufacturers achieve their packaging goals. Robots within workcells can be programmed through intuitive Add-On Instructions (AOIs) or function blocks, and optimum performance can be maintained using proven kinematics solutions. “The Add-On Instructions give system engineers a pre-configured toolset to teach points, define coordinate systems and handle robot motion,” says Scott Skowronski of VMRA. “This, combined with MLX300’s ability to work with other software, provides the robust control needed for more complex sorting and handling tasks.”

To give a robot the ability to “know” the location of a specific product and act on that product, as needed, ancillary equipment drives can be wired back to the PLC for position speed feedback information. This gives the robot program the information required to perform tasks such as conveyor tracking and keep robots operating within their safe zones.

Furthermore, with MLX300, engineers do not have to go through the laborious tasks of addressing PLC inputs to robot inputs and converting bits to bytes to facilitate the proper communication between the PLC and robots. By eliminating this section of the set up and simplifying the background communication, companies like VMRA can accelerate the integration process.

Increased Production via Singular Control

The use of MLX300 software enables a robot to relinquish itself as a master in the system and allow all programming and control to be done within a PLC. Once a workcell is installed and operators are trained on the system parameters, robot fault messaging, new configuration setup and product changeovers can be efficiently performed. Operators can more easily touch up robot points, redefine tool/user frames and alter interference zones (machine-safe boundaries) directly from a human-machine interface (HMI). All of this serves to streamline the production process, supporting safer operation and increasing units per minute.

Whether a robotic system is being used for a single job or a combination of tasks, this user-friendly approach to robot control and robotic automation implementation is providing the flexibility and capability to effectively address production goals. The MLX300 interface gives experienced integrators like VMRA the ability to assist manufacturers in a timely cost-effective manner, providing tangible results.

Interested in implementing robots that can run with full PLC control? VMRA is here to help! Contact us for more information.