Augmented reality using a tablet

Pack Expo is More Than “Palletable”

Sept. 29, 2021
Sensors, robotics and software innovations have been drawing big crowds to the event.

For those who were wondering whether a full trade show would succeed in the midst of mask restrictions and health protocols, Pack Expo in Las Vegas has demonstrated that this material handing show can be—if you’ll pardon the pun—palletable.

Large crowds have been criss-crossing the Las Vegas Convention Center looking for packaging solutions, and the estimated 1,500 vendors who have their innovations on display are feeling the enthusiasm.

The consensus from vendors on the show’s second full day is that traffic has been brisk, and that manufacturers and supply chain leaders are ready to go beyond browsing booths and are ready to upgrade systems. The issues of a depleted workforce and constrained supply chains also are causing end-users to look for automated solutions.

And while the focus of this event is packaging and conveyance, there are a number of solutions that have wider appeal, as companies continue to integrate robotics technology to help reduce worker injury and improve efficiency of new sensors and data management tools. Among the vendor announcements:

Emerson: One of the company’s key initiatives is sustainability, including  IIoT-enabled pneumatic sensors to detect leaks and optimize compressed air consumption. Other areas displayed at the show include augmented reality to help pinpoint machine performance issues in real time, increased development of plant SCADA and analytics, and improved leak detection using laser technology.

 Festo displayed its Simplified Motion Series (SMS) that now includes an IO-Link control to manage multi-position applications. SMS combines pneumatics with the benefits of electric automation. “SMS takes proven ball screw axes, toothed belt axes, mini slides, electric cylinders, piston rods and rotary actuators and integrates them with an onboard servo drive,” company officials said in a press release. “Users commission two-position functionality via onboard push buttons with no additional software needed.”

Regal Beloit introduced its Regal Perceptiv intelligence system to interact with Regal products and services. Regal Perceptiv intelligence features customized solutions—including enhanced web-based and mobile-friendly tools—to find Regal product information such as online catalogs, 3D CAD drawings, selection tools, mobile apps and QR codes on products.  Augmented reality tools and cloud-based solutions allow monitoring from a smartphone, tablet, laptop or computer.

Universal Robots: The UR10e cobot features an increased payload to 27.55 lb (12.5 kg) and increases payload by 25% for palletizing operations. “That means you can move more per pick, use heavier tools and process heavier parts, supported by the 1300 mm reach (51 in.) and small footprint,” said Joe Campbell, senior manager of applications for Universal Robots.

Yaskawa Robots: The company offered a wide array of robotics solutions for packaging, order picking and palletizing. The four-axis PL190 and PL320 models are seen as solutions for end-of-line or distribution automation. The PL190 has a 190 kg payload capacity, and the PL320 has a 320 kg payload capacity. Each robot features a 3,159 mm horizontal reach and a 3,024 mm vertical reach.

A one-piece upper arm reduces mass and increases durability, while parallel-link construction for strength and heavy-duty bearings for smooth arm rotation support the handling of large, heavy payloads. A 75 mm T-axis pass-through facilitates easy connections to the end-of-arm tool, and its high moment of inertia ensures unbalanced loads are handled effectively. The PL190 and PL320 robots can be floor-mounted, and brakes are included on all axes.

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