ICA’s automated layer picker technology

ICA has a technology available for volume distributors to allow the handling of whole layers of absolutely any palletised product with a flat bottom surface.

The company’s Layer Picker technology facilitates the picking of complete layers from palletised loads by using a ‘layer picker head’ embodying a centrifugal fan that creates a vacuum inside this picker head.

This vacuumed head works in synch with height adjustable and inflatable side skirts that gently seal against the layer completing the vacuum chamber.

Pallets with mixed layers of product can be automatically assembled for dispatch to customer order – with or without pallets in between layers.

De-palletisation and de-scrambling of whole layers into single items facilitates infeed to sortation, order release modules, or for replenishment of live storage systems.

Even those layers with gaps can be lifted with Layer Picker technology using a valve system that automatically closes when the air stream exceeds certain limits to ensure integrity of the layer transfer.

A touch-screen PC interface visualises layer picker functions, verifies new products and layer patterns, and displays alarms.

The PC control system tracks batch orders and their status.

Benefits of layer picking are obvious with high efficiency/low manning levels, minimum exposure to OH&S risks due to these low manning levels, fewer mistakes of the kind associated with manual processing, and low maintenance.

Layer picking is suitable for a huge number of applications including the following:

· automated de-palletising and high-speed sortation

· automated de-palletising and high-speed order release systems

· mixed palletising and buffer storage for customer pallets

As an example, in an automated de-palletising and high-speed sortation application, the common requirements would be one de-wrapping station, two layer pickers for de-palletising, one manual ergonomic picking station, and an extensive conveying system including transfer cars, one wrapping station and a PLC based control system.

Ideally, it would operate as follows:

At the first step, article pallets would be automatically delivered from high-bay storage by a conveyor system and high-speed transfer cars, de-wrapped and conveyed to layer pickers (about 85% of all products).

The remaining 15% of product lines is de-palletised at a manual picking station — one that is stepless height adjustable with tilt function designed for maximum ergonomics.

Step two would see automatic de-palletising and separation from layers to single items at the layer pickers.

At the third step, there would be conveying to a high-speed sorter with a number of chutes for collation of products to meet retailers orders.

Finally, at the end of each chute there would be an ergonomically designed manual palletising station with lift tables and transfer to automated stretch wrappers and a dispatch order pallet assembly area via transfer cars.

ICA has an engineering and design department that can configure turnkey solutions for any company looking to increase its productivity handling mixed pallets.

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