For a renowned company in the pharmaceutical industry, we developed a cobot installation to take tubs out of boxes, cut them open and put them on a conveyor belt. This slow and repetitive process was carried out manually by an operator and could be significantly improved ergonomically. A cobot was chosen for the automation of this process for two reasons: firstly because of the low cycle time of the process and secondly because a cobot installation is particularly safe for operators.
One of the biggest difficulties was the cutting of tape along 2 sides of the tubs. The operators used to do this with a knife but for the cobot another solution had to be found to remove the lid. Eventually, in close cooperation with the customer, a design was made in which the tubs are picked up by a gripper with suction cups and deposited in a shaft. As a result, the tubs are centered nicely and are dragged by the cobot on a smooth surface along 2 blades sitting at the right height on both sides. The sliding motion cuts open the tape and the tubs are immediately placed on a conveyor belt. This technique has the great advantage of keeping costs down because there are no moving parts other than the cobot itself.
The tubs are delivered in opened boxes on a pallet. This often creates a positioning problem because the cobot needs to know exactly where the boxes are. To solve this problem, a 3D camera was mounted on the head of the cobot which can detect where the box is, how high and how full the boxes are. In addition, a couple of sensors were also installed that detect the presence of a pallet and whether it is placed close enough to a stop point and therefore in the right place.
Finally, a great deal of emphasis was also placed on safety: to determine the ideal speed of the cobot, an intensive risk analysis was carried out which included a torque measurement to measure the impact. This was essential to fully comply with CE guidelines. Thanks to the comprehensive analysis, safety for operators is guaranteed.
Advantages for the customer:
- 3D sensor that detects the position of opened boxes
- Maintenance friendly
- Very hygienic installation, ideal for pharma environment