Case-loading prototype shows Pacepacker’s Cartesian capabilities

29 September 2015

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Case-loading prototype shows Pacepacker’s Cartesian capabilitiesAt PPMA (Stand C50) Pacepacker Services is unveiling a prototype twin-axis Cartesian case-loading cell for handling packaged goods. Incorporating Festo mechatronic motion systems, the cell demonstrates the flexibility that can be achieved with a Cartesian arrangement.

With a 400mm-wide infeed and adjustable guides, the cell can pick individual products from a single line or pick entire layers and pack them into secondary trays or cases. A vacuum gripper maximises efficiency and ensures gentle handling of any pre-packaged item, from trays of fresh meat to yogurts, ready meals and punnets of fruit. As many as a dozen items can be picked up simultaneously.

Capable of speeds in the region of 120–180 packs per minute (depending on the number of packs per pick), the demo system proves that there are cost-efficient options for high-speed pick-and-place applications beyond a delta or six-axis robot.

Paul Wilkinson, Pacepacker’s business development manager, says: “With this system we are showing that there is more than one way to achieve the same end result. This Cartesian-based system can perform the same function as a conventional robot but with a potentially lower initial investment in both equipment and training.

“Obviously in some scenarios, for example, if a customer wanted hygienic wash-down or more freedom of movement, an articulated arm or delta robot might be a better solution. However, Pacepacker is not in the business of making customers spend money unnecessarily on an over-specced machine for a low-spec application.”

This system is based around an electrically driven Cartesian mechanism from Festo – Pacepacker’s technology partner on twin-axis Cartesian style robots since 2013. Being constructed from standard off-the-shelf products, such as belt-drive/ball screw axes, servo-motors, drives and standard grippers, Festo’s Cartesian systems can cost far less than traditional five- and six-axis robots, and spares are readily available. Also, because all set-ups are carried out via the touchscreen – rather than storing a series of positions in memory – operators regularly comment on the ease of use.

Cost savings

Nigel Dawson, product marketing manager at Festo, likens the Cartesian toolbox to a “huge meccano set”, saying: “Other companies make either motors and drives or mechanical axes, whereas we offer all of these parts in one ‘basket’. This dramatically reduces the amount of engineering and build time, yielding cost savings that can be passed on to customers.”

The Cartesian system on display at PPMA is a high-speed servo-driven electrical model, but if potential users wanted a lower-priced, lower-speed, smaller-footprint system, Pacepacker can just as easily supply a more compact cell with a pneumatically driven Cartesian arm. Equally, whilst this demonstration system has two axes of movement, additional axes can simply be added to create more complex systems.

Paul highlights: “The beauty of the Cartesian approach is that it offers complete design flexibility.”

Elaborating further on what makes Cartesian solutions so adaptable to different environments, Nigel adds: “A Cartesian handling system allows users to pick and place with different accelerations, decelerations and speeds and an infinite number of positions. It can also apply force if the application requires, for instance, when pushing a tray into a box.”

Nigel says: “We are seeing considerable growth in the take-up of Cartesian systems for automating product handling. More and more manufacturers are looking to automate, and the choice they have is between a full robot – expensive and complex but needed for certain applications – and a Cartesian robot with linear movement. Many manufacturers are realising that the latter is cheaper to buy and maintain and simpler to use.”

Paul concludes: “Our case loading robot portfolio incorporates the widest range of Cartesian, articulated arm and delta-style robots on the market, so we can make sure each integration is based on the technology and components required.”

Please go to for further details on the twin-axis Cartesian case-loading cell for handling packaged goods.

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