The recent winner of the Best Automation category in the 2010 Metalworking Production Awards is currently increasing production flexibility at the multinational company, Johnson & Johnson, in Greece.
The Universal Robot, manufactured in Denmark and marketed in the UK by R. A. Rodriguez, was chosen by Johnson and Johnson to help handle its vast range of products, and in increasingly smaller batch sizes, more economically.
At its plant in Athens, the company manufactures, bottles, packs and palletizes medicinal shampoos and various skincare products. And although the majority of these processes are automated the transfer of full bottles from the production line to the packing machine had remained a manual task.
The transfer requires the product to be turned through 180° and this presented a problem to a standard robot as the bottles are small and smooth-surfaced and therefore not easy to grasp. A cost effective robot with an articulated arm was the obvious answer but the chosen system also needed to work at significant speed and be easy to re-programme to accommodate product variety.
System integrator InnoPro Technologies recommended the Universal Robot for this application. Weighing just 18kg and with a lifting capacity of 5kg it had all the necessary credentials for the efficient handling of different products. For this purpose InnoPro Technologies developed a special gripper that transports three bottles at a time and is sufficiently flexible to handling various types and sizes of bottle.
Following successful trials, the Universal Robot was installed at the end of 2009 and has provided trouble free, round-the-clock automated handling ever since.
“The bottles are vacuum lifted and transferred cleanly without any danger of scratching or sliding,” explained Ioannis Ypatidis, the Sales Manager at InnoPro Technologies. “Also, as the label is not printed on the same side on all products and the bottles are various shapes and sizes, the robot can grasp from both the right and the left.”
In total InnoPro Technologies have devised four standard programmes to meet the requirements of various production runs but as programming is so easy on the Universal Robot any member of Johnson and Johnson staff can swiftly change the parameters.
The Universal Robot now picks up three bottles simultaneously every 2.5 seconds, orientates them and places them in the packing machine. This has considerably increased productivity at Johnson and Johnson. Whilst manual handling processes 45 bottles per minute, the robot handles 70. And this output can be easily increased in line with production speed. Ioannis Ypatidis added, “We can simply attach a double, purpose-designed gripper to the robot so it can simultaneously transfer six bottles and therefore move 140 units per minute.”