Investment in a high-speed robotic system from RTS Flexible Systems at Jeyes Ltd has paid for itself in just one year, thanks to a bespoke solution which eliminated manual handling of plastic bottles into carrier blocks by finding a solution to gripping the bottle necks for placement.
The RTS system based on an ABB robot replaced a labour-intensive and difficult bottle filling operation and has significantly lowered operating costs at Jeyes, the manufacturer of toilet bowl cleaners and air fresheners.
RTS developed an innovative bespoke ‘bellows’ gripper fitted on the wrist of an ABB IRB 140 six axis robot, as part of an automated cell integrated into the existing Aircare bottle filling line. The system achieved a return on investment in one year and has continued to improve cost-efficiency and profitability.
Explains Jeyes Engineering Manager Geoph Holcroft: “The Aircare bottle has a difficult circular shape in slippery PET that doesn’t stand up, so it has to be placed in a puck prior to filling and capping. We used to have two operatives who took bottles from large boxes, re-orientated them and placed them in pucks prior to filling.”
“The RTS system can pick and place up to 100 bottles a minute, at an average of 5,400 bottles an hour. It can do this 24 hours a day, while the operatives worked for up to 3 shifts, and needed regular breaks. We calculated we broke even in just over 12 months and it has been increasing our margins ever since.
“Orientating the bottles properly takes several processes. The filling line starts off with a large bowl of bottles, from which a bucket elevator lifts bottles into 2 bowl feeders, which channel them into a single line. At this point a microswitch detects a moulded stud on the bottle which indicates the bottle’s orientation and informs the robot which way the neck is facing.
“Because the bottle is circular and slippery, RTS devised a bespoke air gripper, comprising a pneumatic bellows, which is inserted into the neck of the bottle and inflated. The bottle is then placed in the puck in the correct orientation, and goes on to be laser marked, filled and capped.
“The six axis robot fitted very neatly into the feeding and orientation line in a confined space, where the operatives had been something of a bottle neck. It has enabled us to run the line at projected capacity at constant rate, instead of the fluctuations which occurred with manual labour.”
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