Home' MHD Supply Chain Solutions : MHD Jul-Aug 2016 Contents Sphere is a global company with
subsidiaries operating under the 'Sphere'
name. Its mission statement is "to provide
a better quality of life, a better quality product,
the ability for businesses to increase productivity
and for them become more efficient."
One branch of the company, Sphere
Automation, distributes, installs and maintains
equipment designed to minimise costs and
maximise efficiencies and accuracies throughout
processes. Conveyors, robotics, check-weighers,
sortation, labelling and more are integrated into
a solution specifically designed to meet the
requirements of individual businesses. Combined
with its in-house developed software modules, the
company undertakes complete turn-key projects.
Automated palletising project
Sphere provided the client with a state of the art
automation solution designed to automatically
palletise stacks of shrink wrapped egg cartons.
The Sphere system receives loose batches of
egg cartons from the end of the existing bundle
separator. The system will process the loose
cartons through various processes including
automated stacking, orientating, shrink
wrapping and labelling prior to palletisation.
The company's system includes the following
1. Transfer unit - automated stack transfer.
Sphere has incorporated an automated transfer
unit into the client's system. This transfer
facilitates the transfer of a full stack of egg cartons
from the bundle separator to the shrink wrapping
tunnel and makes use of a specialised conveyor
belt specifically programmed for the process.
2. Bundle manipulator
The bundle manipulator re-orientates every
other stack of egg cartons prior to shrink
wrapping. This step is required due to the
nature and shape of the product. Two bundles
require wrapping together prior to palletising.
The re-orientation ensures that the two stacks
hold a better profile whilst on the pallet as
well as being square. The Sphere bundle
manipulator makes use of servo motors and
linear drives in order to flip and re-position the
stack parallel to its partner.
3. Shrink wrapping
An automated shrink wrapping tunnel on the
line fully shrink wraps the stacks of egg cartons
on the line to ensure that the structural integrity
of the stack is suitable for automatic palletising.
The wrapper consists of two main zones. Zone 1
utilises a flow wrapping tunnel to fully wrap the
cartons in plastic. An oven in Zone 2 heats the
plastic so that it shrinks tight against the stack
and holds it securely.
4. Label application
Automated label application stamps products
with a unique ID before they leave the factory.
The label is generated with and applied after
shrink wrapping. The label will include various
product details, such as end user and batch
number. These details and will be called on at
the time of application and a unique label will be
generated and applied.
A product elevator will be used to transfer the
wrapped cartons to height. The elevator is
incorporated due to access requirements at the
Huhtamaki factory. The Sphere elevator uses
linear drive and conveyor technology to transfer
products from one level to another.
Various conveyors are incorporated into the
design of the project, which include belt,
roller and ZPA conveyors. The belt conveyor
is required when bundles are not yet wrapped
to provide stability. The roller conveyor is used
when bundles are wrapped and need to be
conveyed without tracking or gapping. ZPA
conveyor is incorporated prior to palletising and
separates each bundle into a zone to ensure the
accuracy of robot picking.
A state-of-the-art ABB robot is utilised in the
palletising cell. The robot is mounted at height
to deal with the elevated conveyors and also to
reach the top layer of the pallet when stacking
the cartons. Sphere's in-house palletising
software controls the robot motions and has
been pre-programmed with all of the pallet layer
variations and product variations. An automated
transfer car feeds the robot cell with pallets and
also removes the completed ones.
Sphere's main control panel and in-house software
is the heartbeat of the client's system and includes
the following Sphere software modules:
• Auto Label
• Sphere's custom palletising software.
AUTOMATE OR PERISH
MHD SUPPLY CHAIN SOLUTIONS --- JULY / AUGUST 2016
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