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Robotic Case Handling System

Development of a Robotic Case Handling System for the Consumer Goods Manufacturing Industry


A customer needed us to design and build a system that would assemble a warmer / bottle and insert this assembly into a thermoform tray. This automated system would reduce their work cell staff from 12 to 2, and also would eliminate ergonomic problems that could result in repetitive motion injuries. One challenge was that the product needed to be unloaded from a bulk case, and the packing material needed to be dealt with. There was also some complexity involved, with the product needing to be assembled with a bottle that was to be fed from auxiliary equipment and then inserted into a thermoform package, all while in motion at 120 parts per minute.


At Big Sky Engineering, we reduced our client's staff to two operators by utilizing six high-speed 6-axis ABB IRB 140 robots, combined with an extensive case handling system. The first three robots would unload cases of material and deal with the packing materials in the cases. Then, these robots would place the units onto a fixture indexing conveyor for assembly with the bottles. The fourth robot would pick the bottles from a puck conveyor and place them into the units. The last two robots utilized the robot's line tracking ability, placing the assemblies into the thermoform on the fly at 125 parts per minute. The engineering for this project was completed in just 10 weeks, with a total turnaround time of 18-20 weeks for the whole project.

Robotic Automation Capabilities - Applied / Processes

  • Engineering
  • Product Design / Development
  • Component Sourcing / Purchasing
  • Assembly
  • Rigging and Shipping
  • On-Site Installation and Operator Training
  • System Integration
Robotic Unload
  • 3 independent ABB IRB 140 robotic units with the IRC 5 controller placing warmers on demand onto the fixtured indexing conveyor.
  • Each robotic station will pick the warmers from the case while the case is firmly held in position.
  • Three warmers will be picked from the case at a time with the use of (3) mechanical gripper heads.
  • Sensors will confirm warmer placement into the fixtures.
  • The robotic system will also be responsible for removing fitting cards.
Case Handling System
  • The case handling system will consist of two independent conveyors sets.
  • This systems will present full cases of the warmers to the unload robot.
  • Up to (8) full cases can be staged on the infeed conveyor that feeds each unload robot.
  • After the case has been emptied the case is discharged to a collection conveyor.
  • All conveyor components will be built from powered roller conveyor with specific zones to feed each pick head.
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.
  • Allen Bradley PanelView: All machine control and manual functions built in
  • The operator control panel will have all manual control buttons.
Safety Guarding
  • Category 4 Enclosures
  • Completely guarded using lift-off removable doors: Constructed from structural steel frames with polycarbonate panels.
  • Each door will be interlocked to the emergency stop switch.
  • Lower conveyor frame panels will consist of sheet panels.
System Specifications
  • Throughput production rate of 100 up to 140 units per minute
  • The system will be mechanically designed to operate at 140 assemblies per minute. Actual throughput rates are dependent upon upstream and downstream feed rates.
  • Unload warmers from bulk cases
  • Provide staging area and automatic feed for warmer bulk cases
  • Load warmers onto indexing fixtured conveyor
  • Load bottles from transfer pucks
  • Place assembled warmer / bottle into trays on Serpa conveyor
Additional Facts
  • The case handling system was designed to allow one common entry and exit position for single operator handling of products. Three case unload positions were maintained with the common infeed conveyor while maintaining out flow of case dunnage and the emptied cases.
In Process Testing / Inspection Performed
  • Functionality Testing
  • Cycle Time Simulation Verification
  • Site Acceptance Test
Industry for Use
  • Consumer Goods Manufacturing
Delivery / Turnaround Time
  • 18 - 20 Weeks
  • Engineering Completion in Approximately 10 Weeks
Delivery Location
  • St. Louis, Missouri
Standards Met
  • Customer Specifications
  • 2D CAD Drawing
  • P & G St. Louis Electrical Specifications revision 4.0