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Quick stacking: KUKA robots palletise water bottles

Three different KUKA palletizers stack water bottles on pallets - layer by layer - at a water factory in Ramah, Saudi Arabia. Quickly and precisely. This works primarily thanks to the integrated KUKA software solutions.

Palletizers deliver- 81,000 bottles per hour

KUKA robots work hand in hand at the Ramah Water Factory in Saudi Arabia. Or, to put it better: arm in arm. Three different palletizing robots sort, bundle and stack packaged water bottles on pallets at the end of a production line – generally 20 bottles per package and 18 packages per layer. In this way, the robots achieve an average 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, an employee operates the fully automatic line via the system controller installed by KUKA system partner MEMCO (Middle East Factory for Machines Co. ltd). “It is a high-speed palletizing application that is difficult to handle manually. Automating it with robots was the logical approach for us: they can meet the high requirements while working with maximum cost-effectiveness. The low maintenance requirements of the palletizers were another positive aspect for us,” explains Ibrahim Alassaad, Project and Design Director at the developer and manufacturer of fully automated filling and packaging lines for the food and beverage sector, which was founded in 1998.
The high-speed palletizing application is controlled by an employee at the press of a button

Palletizers perform precise preparatory work on the conveyor

The first robots in the new line are two KR 40 PAs. The palletizers for medium payloads (up to 40 kg) position the packaged water bottles on a conveyor, ideally spaced to allow them to be stacked later. One crate on the left, one on the right. The robots score highly for speed with their four-axis kinematic system, as they achieve a working speed of up to 56 cycles per minute. For maximum precision and reliability during palletizing, MEMCO has integrated the KUKA.ConveyorTech control software into the production line. The software automatically adapts the actions of the robot 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 used ensures that the two palletizing robots at the conveyor work together in a coordinated manner,” explains Bashir Alqatanani, Automation Director. Another software package from KUKA is also integrated: KUKA.PLC mxAutomation. The control software simplifies the programming of the industrial robots and uses interfaces to other machines that support the packaging operation, for example. “The use of mxAutomation enables the PLC controlling the robot to reduce the programming time and allows the setdown formations of the water bottles to be easily changed if required. It is sufficient 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 a layer has been completed, the KR 700 PA takes over. The heavy-duty palletizing robot grips the entire layer of water bottles – the number of bottles varies according to the packaging – with a special gripping basket and lifts it onto a pallet. With a reach of up to 3.15 m and high working speed, it is ideally suited to this task. Ibrahim Alassaad says: “It was particularly important for us to keep the maintenance requirements of the entire line as low as possible. With its long maintenance intervals, the KR 700 PA was therefore ideal for us.” Thanks to its standard protection rating of IP65, the palletizing robot is impervious to dust and water spray.
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, a seemingly easy task, is assigned to the KR QUANTEC PA for high payloads. Although designed to handle up to 240 kg, its task here is to place a slipsheet – a piece of cardboard weighing just a few hundred grams – on the water bottles that are already on the pallet. It positions the board precisely using a vacuum gripper before the KR 700 PA places new bottles on it. Once a minute. When the pallet is full, it is transported away by another conveyor and a pallet dispenser brings the next one. The speed of the line at the Ramah Water Factory is now one of the highest in the beverage industry.
When one pallet is full, the next pallet arrives on the conveyor

Thanks to the KUKA.PLC mxAutomation software, the formation of the water bottles in each pallet layer can be modified by means of a simple setting on the system controller.

Bashir Alqatanani, Automation Director MEMCO

Increased productivity of the system, lower costs

Additionally, the automated solution makes it possible to process several different beverage bottles simultaneously – for continuous production and greater flexibility at times of high demand. Due to the short changeover times, achieved by simply touching the user interface, the company achieves further time savings. This results in a lower total cost of ownership and increased product quality. The gentle handling of the bottles and packages during automatic sorting, bundling and stacking ensures minimized deformation or damage to the goods.

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

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