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Automated Prism Tray Packing Machine

Development of an Automated Prism Tray Packing Machine for the Medical Packaging Industry


A customer in the medical packaging industry commissioned our services to design and build an automated prism tray packing machine. This customer needed three robotic cells to reduce labor and to handle these delicate medical trays. We were employed to design, build, and install these three systems on a very tight delivery schedule. The process required receiving trays as they are fed from the injection molding process, which then needed to be collated into rows of eight and placed with layers of protective foam into a tote for transport. The tote required maintenance of control of the poly bag while each row of trays was inserted in them.


To meet this challenge, Big Sky Engineering developed a specialized conveyor to feed and transfer the eight trays to a pick position for the robotic EOAT. We designed a unique foam roll unit to reliably feed and cut the foam sheet, then presenting it to the EOAT. When needed, our system provided an automatic change-over feature to allow the machine to switch from a depleted foam roll to a new one. A 6-axis Fanuc LR Mate 200iC was equipped with a very specialized vacuum pick head that gripped the foam sheet independently from the row of trays. We then developed a closed loop conveyor system to feed and present the totes to the robotic insertion position. This tote conveyor also presented the tote in a favored position that assured the poly bag insert was clear for robotic loading. This complex system was engineered in just 10 weeks.

Robotic Automation Capabilities - Applied / Processes

  • Engineering
  • Product Design / Development
  • Component Sourcing / Purchasing
  • Assembly
  • Rigging and Shipping
  • On-Site Installation and Operator Training
  • System Integration
Assembly Fixture Feed and Handling System
  • The fixture handling system consist of a series of powered roller conveyors
  • An operator will load assembly fixtures onto the infeed conveyor that have bags inserted and cuffed around the outside of the fixtures.
  • The assembly fixtures will continuously feed into the system on demand.
  • The fixture will be conveyed to the load position where it will be held and engaged with the bag expander.
  • The expander will engage the inside of the case and expand to a controlled dimension to allow insertion of trays without interference of the bag or the expander tooling.
  • After all trays have been inserted into the assembly fixture, it will be released to the accumulation conveyor.
  • A recirculation conveyor section will allow the assembly fixtures to be reintroduced to the infeed conveyor without manually transferring the fixtures.
  • A manual tray handling area will allow operator access to trays and cases in the event the system is not in operation. A chute will bring the trays to an access point from the end of the infeed conveyor.
Six Axis Robotic Pick and Placement System with EOAT
  • Fanuc LR Mate 200iC
  • The robot centrally base mounted to allow access to the staged tray with foam sheet and the secured assembly fixture.
  • The robot EOAT consists of a flat plate that will support underneath the foam pad while the top end of the trays will be engaged vacuum suction cups that will securely hold the entire row of seven trays for the transfer to the case.
  • Additional guide and alignment features will maintain the integrity of the row.
  • The EOAT will allow every row of trays with foam sheet to be inserted completely into the case without risk.
Machine Controls
  • Allen Bradley CompactLogix PLC
  • All inputs: 10 - 30 VDC
  • Outputs: 24 volts
  • Power requirements: 480 VAC 3 phase 60 amp service
  • All pneumatically controlled components operate at 80 psi
  • 7-inch color touch screen interface control panel: All machine control and manual functions built in along with parameter entry selection menu.
  • The operator control panel will have all manual control buttons.
Safety Guarding
  • Each door will be interlocked to the emergency stop switch and will be electronically locked during machine operation.Other safety equipment will be utilized as needed, to meet Category 3 safety requirements per RIA/ANSI/ISO 10218-1-2007
  • Follow the specifications defined in Rexam current G.U.R.S. and P.U.R.S
  • Ability to assembly 15 cases per hour
  • Collate and stage trays for robotic picking
  • Robotically insert (18) rows of (7) trays into the case
  • (6) Specialized Assembly Fixtures
  • Cut and insert foam liner between each layer
  • Allow staging of assembly fixtures on infeed conveyor
  • Accumulate filled assembly fixtures on exit conveyor
  • Secure and tip assembly fixture for bag expansion and tray loading
  • Manual load area for system override
  • PLC / HMI controls package
  • Engineering development
  • Assembly, debug, installation, and training
In Process Testing / Inspection Performed
  • Functionality Testing
Industry for Use
  • Medical Packaging
Delivery / Turnaround Time
  • FAT in 20 - 22 Weeks
  • Engineering Completion in Approximately 10 Weeks
Delivery Location
  • Buffalo Grove, Illinois
Standards Met
  • Customer Specifications
  • 2D CAD Drawing