Robotics is making its way increasingly into end-of-line packaging—from more established palletizing applications to up-and-coming medical device packaging—and Brenton had a lot to show of this technology and its capabilities at PACK EXPO Connects. With 12 different virtual demonstrations, Brenton detailed a variety of ways to integrate robotics into end-of-line packaging, showing integration methods as well as new technologies in case packing and linear servo tracks.
In Brenton’s video demonstration of a very high-speed, continuous-motion robotic top load case packer, it was easy to see how the incorporated linear servo tracks would benefit the packaging operation. Rockwell Automation’s Intelligent Track System (iTrak) replaces chains and belt drives to replace fixed pitches with a more flexible system, automating changeovers easily. “With the push of a button, you can change from a 20-in. to a 25-in. pitch with no changes,” explained Ryan Glenn, vice president of sales.
This type of technology has been around for a few years—demand driven by SKU proliferation a move toward mass customization—but it’s newer in case packing, according to Glenn. “It’s becoming more cost-effective. It hasn’t been mainstream on fixed-asset machines; we’ve seen it more on larger-scale processing machines,” he said, adding that Brenton is one of the first case packing companies using the technology. “We’ve already sold a prototype machine, and customers are excited about it.” Interest is coming primarily from retail food customers.
Robotics for pharma and medical devices
Demonstrating how modules can be integrated into a full end-of-line packaging system, Brenton showed why robotic pick-and-place has been gaining acceptance in pharmaceutical and medical device packaging. Robots enable a more compact, efficient line design; a higher level of cleanliness; and high reliability, durability, and accuracy.
Operation Warp Speed and other government programs built around speeding COVID-19 test kits and ultimately vaccines to the public are adding to the need for life sciences manufacturers to improve efficiencies and speed production, Glenn noted. “We’re kind of on the tail end of gearing up to be prepared for that,” he noted. “We’ll have a big focus around delivery of vaccines by the middle to end of next year.”
Complete lines show a range of packaging capabilities, including solid dose end-of-line, robotic sterilization tray handling, thermoformed (blister pack) packaging, and vial packaging.
Watch the Tuesday Daily Download, where we discuss these and other solutions on exhibit at PACK EXPO Connects, and how they fit into larger trends in the industry.