READY Robotics
READY Cells: Palletizing offers flexibility in the choice of infeed conveyor configurations, as well as multiple different options for automated pallet movement and slip sheet handling.

Ready Robotics Reinvents Robotic Palletizing from Specification to Operation and Maintenance

April 3, 2024
Custom palletizers feature fast setup, low learning curve, ease of use and maximum efficiency and flexibility.

At a Glance:

  • READY Robotics developed a customizable palletizing system called READY Cells: Palletizing that can support up to 30 packages per minute. It is robot-agnostic, making it interoperable with most industrial robots or cobots.
  • The system is equipped with Festo IO-Link enabled pneumatics, including the Festo MSE6 air preparation system and Festo compact VTUG valve bank.
  • Rockwell Automation is distributing the system in the U.S. market, and will leverage the READY Robotics ForgeOS software suite with Logix control, design and emulation capabilities for a broad range of businesses.

READY Robotics, Columbus, Ohio, applied 21st-Century software engineering expertise along with considerable knowledge of industrial robots and cobots to develop READY Cells: Palletizing, a customizable palletizing system that reinvents the experience of specifying, operating and maintaining industrial palletizing cells, one of the most widely applied robotic applications. READY Robotics used best industry practices in applying Festo IO-Link enabled pneumatic devices to ensure overall equipment effectiveness. 

Rockwell Automation, in partnership with READY Robotics, will distribute READY Cells: Palletizing into the $752 million U.S. market for robotic palletizing solutions. “Rockwell’s distribution channel is stocking key components of READY Cells: Palletizing to assure component availability and Rockwell is bringing READY Robotics customizable palletizing cells to its current and future customers,” said Allan Gibson, READY Robotics vice president, Manufacturing Technology & Automation.

Introducing Ready Cells

Specifying a palletizing cell is easy. Configuration is based on an online tool. The online configuration tool presents the options and the end-user, system integrator or Rockwell representative selects choices from dropdown menus.

The partnership will include collaboration on robotics automation projects beyond palletizing cells. “We are excited to work with READY Robotics to help further simplify the use of diverse robotic systems in automation solutions for our customers,” said Matheus Bulho, vice president and general manager, Production Automation at Rockwell. “Linking the intuitive [READY Robotics] ForgeOS software suite with Logix control, design and emulation capabilities allows a broader range of businesses to implement these powerful tools and spend less time getting their systems up-and-running.”

A Modular, Customizable, Agnostic Approach to Robotic Palletizing

READY Cells: Palletizing is modular and customizable robotic palletizing cells for boxes, pails, bags, trays and display cases. Out of the box the system can support up to 30 packages per minute. The system is robot-agnostic, allowing customers to specify the industrial robot or cobot of their choice. This approach is a plus for customers looking for the optimum robot for the cell.

All top-tier robot brands are available, including Fanuc, Yaskawa, Universal Robots, Stäubli, Kawasaki, Epson and ABB. An intuitive dropdown menu-based interface makes operation, including building pack patterns, a snap. Manipulating the robot and controlling the cell does not require an OEM’s native teach pendant or interaction with any software other than ForgeOS, a plus for the ease-of-use, robot-agnostic environment.

READ MORE: Heavy-Duty Collaborative Palletizing System Addresses Potato Industry’s Labor Shortages 

The palletizing solution offers flexibility in the choice of infeed conveyor configurations, as well as multiple different options for automated pallet movement and slip sheet handling. Optimum for low- and mid-range industrial palletizing applications—up to 30 packages per minute—it fills the application gap above the typical cobot application of two pallets on the shop floor with weight-limited picks and below large specialized custom cells. READY Robotics solutions are comparable to cobot-based palletizers in one respect: Both are equally easy to set up and use. 

Specifying a palletizing cell is easy as well. Configuration is based on an online tool. The online configuration tool presents the options and the end-user, system integrator or Rockwell representative selects choices from dropdown menus. Choices include various infeed arrangements and right and left conveyor layouts, including inline or U-shaped.

With input on expected speed, weight of each pick, type of package and brand of robot preferred, the productivity tool offers an optimum cell configuration. Users can select from many styles of end-of-arm tools. Once the cell is configured, the specifier is presented with layout and key data on the cell.

Every aspect of the palletizing cell is pre-engineered and vetted, which lowers risk. After delivery, READY Robotics certified installers can set up the cell in as little as one day. With an interface that’s easy to understand and use, startup is rapid. 

Easy-to-Use Interface for any Brand of Robot

ForgeOS, the READY Robotics universal robotic operating system, is included with each READY Robotics palletizer. The operating system supports hundreds of robots, peripherals and other devices. ForgeOS gives operations live control over all of the automation hardware within the cell from a single interface. A single point of control simplifies palletizing cell operation, maintenance and technical support.

READ MORE: Driving Robotics and Embedded Motion Applications with Next-Generation Servo Technology

The ForgeOS operating system eliminates having to master each robot brand’s proprietary programming language. Instead, it replaces proprietary programming with an easy-to-grasp interface for any brand of robot and all the automation hardware within the palletizing cell. Suitable for every employee skill level, it includes options for no-code, low-code or traditional code-based programming. There is on-screen help functionality, the availability of remote access troubleshooting and 24/7 free online courses at READY Academy

The palletizing application allows the operator to drag-and-drop boxes to build a pallet pattern. Operators can also input sizes and dimensions of the cases to be palletized and the software application builds the pack pattern for the user. The interface provides information on the cycle time of each pack pattern.

ForgeOS knows the performance specifications of the robot and the mechanics of the cell—in-feed speed, for example—and calculates the time to complete a pallet load. With cycle time information combined with pack pattern, operators can optimize the cell for the highest throughput. Pre-sales cycle time simulation data is a unique feature of the online configurator tool providing upfront clarification that application needs will be met.

Best Practices Lower Risk and Improve Operation

READY Robotics used industry experience in engineering and selection of components to ensure peak performance. For example, the Festo MSE6 air preparation system common to all READY Cells: Palletizing cells is custom manufactured to READY Robotics specifications. During an emergency stop, the compact air preparation system will instantaneously evacuate compressed air with a soft start/quick exhaust MSE6-SV valve but keep vacuum.

“It’s important to keep vacuum, so that whatever is being held remains in control and isn’t dropped,” Gibson explained. “Festo assembles this custom configuration at its customer solutions center in Mason, Ohio.” Festo assigned a unique part number to the custom air preparation system to make reordering easy. The air preparation system also features a specified IO-Link pressure gauge for optimum monitoring data on the compressed air pressure within the cell.

If there are more than two or three compressed air valves, READY Robotics applies a Festo compact VTUG valve bank that is controlled via IO-Link. This simplifies installation and provides for a clean install, Gibson said. On the robot arm, for example, READY Robotics mounts the VTUG close to cylinders and the vacuum generator.

READ MORE: Deliver Robust Automated Systems Through Servo Maintenance 

The closer the valve is to the actuator, the faster the system can respond, and there is also less potential for leakage due to short runs of tubing. In this best practice design strategy, only a compressed air line, Ethernet cable and 24-volt power cable must be on the arm. This results in a clean install, which is common regardless of robot or end-of-arm tooling choice. 

Within the cell, Ethernet cables are plugged into IO-Link Master modules. The Ethernet/IO-Link strategy requires less wiring and offers easier maintenance. The choice of using IO-Link Master modules rather than IO-Link hubs is based on best practices for obtaining optimum data. “Using an IO-Link Master provides more information than running IO-Link through a hub,” Gibson explained. “For example, if we have applied a laser distance sensor or an optical sensor and an IO-Link Master, the system obtains margin information on the operating condition of the sensor—how clean or dirty is the lens, etc.

“This level of data is lost when running through a hub,” he continued. “While the choice of IO-Link Master modules over hubs adds incremental cost, the operational and preventive maintenance benefits outweigh the cost consideration. When customers purchase a READY Cells: Palletizing, they know they are receiving a well-engineered system.” 

Festo DFM guided pneumatic cylinders are used for pop-up stops and pushers to center pallets before the palletizing process begins. DFM cylinders offer lateral stability and high force in a compact package. To ensure feedback that the cylinders are performing to expectation in the critically important centering process, the design team selected the Festo IO-Link enabled SDAT dual-position proximity sensor.

With two-position sensing, the SDAT confirms the cylinder has deployed and retracted properly. Even with two-position data, the SDAT requires only a single point on the IO-Link Master module, which is a cost-effective solution and one that gives designers greater flexibility in the choice of other IO-Link components.

“We believe that standardizing on Festo’s globally leading IO-Link-based components provides customers with the utmost in digitalization, performance, quality components and global field support,” said Gibson. “The digital data from IO-Link and the ForgeOS operating system connects to the Rockwell higher level control architecture for a state-of-the-art digitalization solution. Rockwell Automation’s investment in READY Robotics and distribution channel sales of READY Cells: Palletizing signifies the confidence Rockwell has in READY Robotics for making robots easier to specify, operate and maintain, and in the end increase the value of the investment in robotic automation.”

This article was submitted by Steve Sterling, president, Sterling Public Relations, Inc., Minnetonka, Minn. 

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