Robotic automation solutions for compact spaces

Robotic automation is helping factories big and small grow in sectors such as food and packaging as demand for quality and affordable products increases. Fibre King, an automation industry specialist, is leading the technology charge by designing their own robotic arm.

The company creates turnkey solutions to meet its clients’ packaging requirements, budgets, available space and time frames with the help of the latest technology, which includes the company’s newly developed robotic arm. The three-axis articulating robotic arm suits multiple applications around product collation, sorting and loading.

Fibre King CEO, James Windsor, said it gives the user the ability to pack and load items that are difficult to work with, such as soft packaging. “We developed the three-axis robotic arm to fill a gap we had seen in the market. It works into our existing product range and it gives more flexibility in how products are handled.

“In the past we would use multiple machines. Now we can do it all in one.” The robotic arm picks up delicate items, but it also has the muscle to carry heavy products. “We wanted more payload to move heavier items. We are able to carry up to 15-20 per cent more weight. We are always looking at ways to improve productivity within tight spaces and robots provide the flexibility needed to multi task within a small footprint,” said Windsor.

By having Fibre King’s research and development team creating products such as the robotic arm, the company is able to rely less on suppliers and therefore ensures that it products remain available for clients well into the future, said Windsor. “We found over time, that designs have to change because a particular supplier doesn’t make a component anymore. Now we have more control.

“Our relationships with other industry leading OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] enables Fibre King to provide complete turnkey production lines for our customers. Our relationships are not binding, which means we can provide a tailored solution to our clients built from the best equipment available for their needs, or from their preferred brands,” he said.

Experience in improving facilities
Fibre King’s core business is focused on providing end-of-line packaging equipment and servicing solutions that exceed production expectations. The company’s solutions provide reduced direct labour costs, improved productivity, increased product quality and capacity, and reduced risk of injury.

With more than 90 years’ experience, the company’s value on service remains a strong focus. “From a market perspective we are known in the industry for packaging automation solutions, but our value to the market is broader than that. It starts earlier than a case packer,” said Windsor.

The company offers site audits and helps customers plan for the best equipment they can install to utilise the space they have and the products they’re manufacturing. “It’s all about giving the customer that overview and a recommendation. At the end of the day they have a plan for the next three-to-five years that they can implement.”

Supplying a thorough solution
Fibre King put a plan into action for Nestlé in Smithtown, NSW, as the global food manufacturer wanted a fully automated end of line packaging solution that would integrate into the existing production line. The company designed, manufactured, installed and integrated the packaging solution into the facility.

Fibre King has worked with Nestlé and its associated entities for more than 20 years, providing end of line packaging solutions for a number of its facilities around the globe.
For this project, Fibre King delivered dual palletising robots and conveying system. The products exit the case packer – in a tray and hood – at low level and are conveyed on a spiral elevator up to a high-level case conveyor. A custom inline flipper inverts the product, so the hood is on the top. After the flipper, the products are conveyed to the pick-off conveyor of the robot palletising cell and oriented as required.

The ABB IRB460 robots will pick up the products using a vacuum gripper in groups of one-to-seven products at a time, depending on the pattern required. The gripper head has 32 cups – split into 20 segments and connected to a vacuum pump – that are controlled to operate on and off, depending on the product formation. The products are picked and placed on to the pallet in the correct pattern formation. A pallet conveying system also allows stacks of 10 pallets to be loaded into the pallet dispenser.

Available from start to finish
Fibre King’s equipment and services can also help customers beyond the sale and set-up. The company is there to offer support throughout the manufacturer’s journey. Windsor explains that Fibre King staff can support customers remotely and on-site if issues occur.

“If the customer is happy to give us access to an internet connection, we can have the machine remotely monitored.” Typically, in the past, staff would go to the customer’s site to check any discrepancies, but now a lot of that can be done remotely, he said. Staff also help with troubleshooting. For example, Fibre King can advise a customer if a fault is small enough to be fixed in-house rather than waiting for a technician.

“If the machine is slowing down through wear and tear, or it’s starting to use more power because the machine is working harder, providing feedback to the user gives them the opportunity to fix it and save money and time in the long run. If you start seeing these issues you are not too far away from a failure. We offer services to all of our customers to fix that,” said Windsor.

Taking centre stage
In order to show new and existing customers what Fibre King has to offer, the company is exhibiting at AUSPACK in March, continuing its 20-year participation in the event. “It is another way to show support for the industry and it enables us to educate potential buyers and develop alliances and integrated solutions that will shape the future of packaging.

“Our team is passionate about helping our clients achieve the best solution for their production lines, so we will be providing the opportunity to speak with our team about our facility design services and automation audits.

“Our stand will incorporate a robotic palletising and depalletising display. We may also have a few extra surprises, which we will keep to ourselves for the time being,” he said.

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