More and more packaging robots are being used in industrial production throughout the world. According to the International Federation of Robotics, around 75 percent of these robots are split across five countries: China, South Korea, Japan, the USA, and of course Germany. While the automotive industry in particular makes use of these automated aids, the robots are also increasingly being used in the packaging industry.
COMMON LANGUAGE, 3D VISION AND SMART LEARNING
Currently, packaging robots are most often used at the end of a packaging line, for palletizing. However, with the increasing diversity of modern packaging robots, the range of applications for them is also diversifying. Image processing systems and machine learning technology permit these automatons to evaluate data and make targeted decisions that are far beyond the scope of simply shifting products. Machines and products can be networked with each other with ever-increasing levels of complexity using the innovative industry 4.0 automatisation and digitalisation platforms. This means that robotic systems can monitor production lines and communicate with other robots. The digital communication standard Packaging Machine Language (PackML) should be established as a global industry benchmark by 2023.
In addition, the increasing implementation of packaging robots in packaging processes enables the production sites to be constructed or to remain near their customers instead of being transferred abroad, where labour is cheaper. In turn, keeping factories close to home elicits cost-efficient logistics and a higher level of uniformity in producing and printing packages. This results in a sleeker and faster supply chain, which is particularly useful in this current era of stringent requirements for smaller orders with a higher level of personalisation.
MADE-TO-MEASURE PACKAGING ROBOTS
If you’re on the look-out for the perfect robot created uniquely for you, you can actually make your own packaging robot right now, starting at prices of 3000 Euro. On an internet marketplace created by Igus GmbH and RTBX.com, an online platform, 16 current partners present their technical expertise and the components required to build these robots. Customers can configure their robots by adding drives and other parts that they may need such as sensors, cameras or grippers made from plastic, and put together their personalised robot solution with just a few clicks. The basic structure is generally one of the numerous electromechanical raw versions of a robot, such as an articulated arm, a delta robot or a Cartesian robot. In the next step, this base is expanded upon using individual components. If the functions are not correct, the individual parts can be swapped out immediately. The components may come from different suppliers, but all components are compatible with each other. Using augmented reality also enables the configuration of robot mechanics, such as joints and connection components, to be achieved in the long-term. The customers can simulate changes to the process sequence at any time, using a simulation of the motion sequences on a tablet.
COBOTS IN THE PACKAGING SECTOR
The swift rise in sales for collaborative models of robots is also evidence of the growing demand for packaging robots that are easy to program. These “cobots” are fitted with proximity sensors and stop their motion sequences if a human gets too close to them. Almost every type of robot can be programmed with this sensor technology. Cobots constitute around three percent of the global robot market; forecasts are stating that this percentage will grow to 34% by 2025.