Economic Pick and Place: Pepper Handling and Packaging

VELTRU AG / Feuerthalen / Switzerland

VELTRU AG provides parallel kinematic robots and application support to machine builders and plant manufacturers to simplify the realization of complex handling tasks.

Handling standardized products is state of the art in modern automation. Naturally grown products, however, are still a demanding task and therefore many pick and place applications use labor. Pepper packaging in Almeria (Spain) is challenging automation: An only six-months-long season is a short period for amortization. Minimum wages are low due to high unemployment in the region and finally, the automation process has to adjust to naturally grown products. Successful solutions therefore depend upon automation engineers who are able to fully concentrate on their specific task – the customer and his requirements. The relevant technology is provided by VELTRU: Parallel kinematics and a control platform with an extensive functionality for highly integrated, flexible automation solutions. Depending on the specific circumstances, VELTRU robots typically achieve more than 100 cycles per minute.

As controller platform VELTRU chose CoDeSys from 3S-Smart Software Solutions and can thus also concentrate on its core competencies. Most programmers, commissioning engineers and service personnel working for plant manufacturers are familiar with the PLC world. It, thus, requires only little training to operate and maintain the plant robotics. After all, a specialist is someone with in-depth knowledge of the application and a thorough understanding of the customers’ requirements. Technological mastery is not essential.

Packaging peppers requires various tasks. After cleaning the peppers they are calibrated and sorted. The location and orientation of the peppers is determined using machine vision, which enables the robot to build a presentable pattern within the wholesale crates. Alternatively, typical assortments of flow wrapped peppers are created by placing red, yellow and green peppers directly into the flow wrapper chain. The packages are then put into boxes which are transported to the palletizing unit when filled.

The VELTRU C10 Motion Controller is the core of the handling unit. The entire path planning process including conveyor tracking is executed under CoDeSys RTE V3. EtherCAT provides a powerful fieldbus to attach the robot and application-specific peripherals in real time. But the VELTRU controller offers far more than just robot motion. The machine vision solution connected can be used to determine the location, orientation and quality of the products which are managed and sorted in the logistics module. The application programmer is supported in many ways: A sophisticated alarm handling, a recipe manager with an integrated language translation and different visualization elements facilitate the programming process. A sample application in source code shows how the modules are to be used and how they interact. This saves time and gives the plant manufacturer a significant time-to-market advantage.

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