This automation, which was built for one of our customers in the cosmetics sector, unscrambles bottles and places them into pucks, prior to them being filling. It has the capability to run at an operating speed of 135 parts per minute. The machine has the flexibility to unscramble different size bottles with quick changeover initiated through HMI selection and interchangeable quick-release inserts on the robot gripper heads

Bottles are tumble loaded from boxes into the bulk storage hopper. The hopper has a large capacity, capable of holding 4-hours buffer stock. A conveyor, aided with the help of an agitator mechanism, removes the bottles, in a controlled manner, from the hopper. The bottles fall onto a vibrating plate which is designed such that as the bottles feed forward they separate into lines. Prior to the bottles exiting the vibrating plate, a rotating wheel flicks back any that are sitting too high i.e. they are not lying in the tracks. Proof-of-principle work was carried out to develop feed system before the final solution was arrived at.

From the vibrating plate the bottles transfer onto a conveyor which has a belt with dividers to match that of the plate. A camera mounted above the conveyor finds the location and orientation of each bottle as it passes. 2-off ABB IRB360 FlexPicker robots have been fitted to pick the bottles and place them into the pucks. Specific software, ABB PickMaster, tracks both the bottles and the pucks as they move inside the working window of the robots. Each robot is fitted with a gripper head specifically designed to pick the bottles, using vacuum, rotate them through 90° so that the bottle axis is now vertical and place them into pucks.

A rotating scroll controls the puck feeding through the machine. The scroll ensures that the pucks are accurately located and feed repeatedly. This is key as to achieving consistent bottle placement as there is very little clearance (0.5mm) between the puck cavity and the bottle outer diameter. A vision sensor has been fitted to detect any puck missing a bottle and when one is detected the empty puck is ejected for the conveyor onto a reject conveyor, ensuring that only pucks with bottles enter the filling stage.

Any bottles unpicked from the conveyor fall onto a return conveyor which takes them to a lift mechanism and feeds them back onto the vibrating plate.