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Quick stacking: KUKA robots palletize water bottles

Three different KUKA palletizers stack water bottles on pallets - quickly and precisely, layer by layer - at a water factory in Ramah, Saudi Arabia. Integrated KUKA software solutions make the process work.


Palletizers deliver- 81,000 bottles per hour

At the Ramah Water Factory in Saudi Arabia, KUKA robots work hand in hand – or, more accurately, arm in arm. Three different palletizing robots sort, bundle and stack packaged water bottles on pallets at the end of a production line, typically 20 bottles per package and 18 packages per layer, at an average pace of 81,000 bottles per hour.
Three different KUKA palletizers in use: they stack water bottles automatically. The software enables flexible setdown formations

“Automation was the logical approach for us”

At the press of a button, a Ramah employee operates the fully automatic line via the system controller installed by KUKA system partner MEMCO (Middle East Factory for Machines Co. ltd), developer and manufacturer of fully automated filling and packaging lines for the food and beverage sector since 1998. “This high-speed palletizing application is difficult to handle manually. Automating it with robots was the logical approach for us because they can meet our high requirements while they work with maximum cost-effectiveness. The low maintenance requirements of the palletizers was another positive aspect for us,” explained Ibrahim Alassaad, MEMCO Project and Design Director.
The high-speed palletizing application is controlled by an employee at the press of a button

Palletizers perform precise preparatory work on the conveyor

First up in the new line are two KR 40 PAs. These palletizers for medium payloads (up to 40 kg) position packaged water bottles on a conveyor, ideally spaced to stack later, with one crate on the left and one on the right. Their four-axis kinematic system earns these robots high scores for their working speed, up to 56 cycles per minute. For maximum precision and reliability during palletizing, MEMCO integrated KUKA.ConveyorTech control software into the production line. The software automatically adapts the robot's actions to the motion of an assembly line or conveyor belt.
Two KR 40 PAs sort the water bottles on the conveyor, ideally spaced – one package on the left, one package on the right
Automatic palletizing: three different robot types are deployed at the Ramah Water Factory

Easy changing of setdown formations

“The technology package we used ensures that the two palletizing robots at the conveyor work together in a coordinated manner,” said Bashir Alqatanani, MEMCO Automation Director. That package integrates KUKA.PLC mxAutomation another piece of KUKA control software that simplifies programming of the industrial robots and interfaces with other machines that support the packaging operation. “The use of mxAutomation enables the PLC that controls the robot to reduce programming time and makes it easy to change the setdown formations of the water bottles if necessary,” Alqatanani continued. “The operator only needs to touch the machine controller screen..”
Runs fully automatically, efficiently and gently: palletizing system and software ensure that PET bottles suffer little to no damage

Playing for high stacks: KR 700 PA scores highly in terms of reach

Once the KR 40 PA robots complete a layer, a KUKA KR 700 PA takes over. This heavy-duty palletizing robot grips an entire layer of water bottles with a special gripping basket and lifts it onto a pallet. The number of bottles per layer varies based on packaging. With a reach of up to 3.15 m and high working speed, the KR 700 PA is ideally suited to this task. Thanks to its standard protection rating of IP65, the palletizing robot is impervious to dust and water spray. “It was particularly important for us to keep the maintenance requirements of the entire line as low as possible,” Ibrahim Alassaad said. “With its long maintenance intervals, the KR 700 PA was ideal for us.”
Grips every pack: the KR 700 PA is made for heavy loads and effortlessly palletizes the water bottles to the exact position.

One of the fastest lines in the beverage industry

The third process step in the line looks easy. Here the KR QUANTEC PA which excels with payloads up to 240 kg, places a slipsheet – a piece of cardboard that weighs only a few hundred grams – on the water bottles already on the pallet. Once a minute, it uses a vacuum gripper to position the board precisely before the KR 700 PA places new bottles on it. When the pallet is full, another conveyor transports it away and a pallet dispenser brings the next one. The line at the Ramah Water Factory now boasts one of the highest speeds in the beverage industry.
When one pallet is full, the next pallet arrives on the conveyor

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Through the KUKA.PLC mxAutomation software, a simple system-controller setting modifies the formation of the water bottles in each pallet layer.

Bashir Alqatanani, Automation Director MEMCO

Increased system productivity and lower costs

The automated solution also makes it possible to process several different types of beverage bottles simultaneously for continuous production and greater flexibility at times of high demand. Short changeover times, achieved through a simple touch on the user interface, enable the Ramah Water Factory to achieve still more time savings, which yields a lower total cost of ownership and higher product quality. Gentle handling of bottles and packages during automatic sorting, bundling and stacking minimizes deformation or damage to the goods.

“Our customer is highly satisfied with the solution we developed using KUKA technologies,” confirmed Bashir Alqatanani. “In particular, the simple changeover of layer configurations thanks to KUKA.PLC mxAutomation has convinced the employees.” Integrator MEMCO intends to continue working on the palletizing line, however, to make it even faster – and MEMCO will continue to rely on KUKA solutions in the future.

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