iCam-Based Linear Pick-and-Place Mechanism Maintains Control of Empty Cartons

Transferring empty cartons from a high-speed forming machine into a smart carton identification and loading system helps to maintain control of the lightweight boxes prior to use.

JLS Automation, a manufacturer of hygienic robotic packaging solutions for a broad spectrum of applications, including primary product handling, case packaging, and cartoning, recently added a vision-guided carton loading solution to its product offering. The patent-pending Peregrine uses JLS TRAK technology to transport cartons between grippers for robotic loading.

“We have incorporated the linear servo motion technology of the JLS Trak to manage the carton size and position within the system,” says Craig Hafner, chief technology officer, JLS. “The machine even has the capability to handle different carton sizes concurrently as the focus has been to accurately manage the cartons within a small footprint with quick and repeatable size change.”JLS designed and manufactured this carton handling system for high-speed, low-noise operation.JLS designed and manufactured this carton handling system for high-speed, low-noise operation.

A potential shortcoming of the approach was the transfer from the carton former into the grippers. If the cartons were dropped or handled roughly, it could create a weak link or bottleneck while transporting the cartons.

To resolve this issue, JLS designed and built a carton handling system using a two-axis linear pick-and-place mechanism. The system is lightweight and fast to meet strenuous production requirements, according to the company. To minimize the need to stock a new part for maintenance and repair of the system, JLS used similar components featured in some of its other machines. After some evaluation, designers made their selection.

A primary component required for this carton handling mechanism included cam followers designed and manufactured by Intech. Intech’s PowerCore concave cam followers provided a maintenance-free operation, which was necessary for the conditions that the JLS system would experience during production. Compared to metal parts, the components also operated more quietly since they didn’t require lubrication, and because of this, JLS also eliminated the possibility of contaminating the cartons with grease.

The carton handling system had to operate under loads of 5 lb vertically and 15 lb horizontally, during acceleration speeds up to 3g in the vertical direction and 1.5g in the horizontal direction. As a high-speed operation, the mechanism needed to function at speeds of more than 80 inches/sec. vertically and 20 inches/sec. horizontally. Furthermore, the system had to operate at 60 cycles/min., where each cycle included up to 18 inches of vertical stroke and up to 2 inches of horizontal stroke.

There are multiple placements for the iCams used in the JLS carton handling system. The iCams are arranged to minimize wear for both the cam followers and the rail.There are multiple placements for the iCams used in the JLS carton handling system. The iCams are arranged to minimize wear for both the cam followers and the rail.Intech engineers worked closely with the JLS engineering team to calculate the proper specifications for the cam followers and fit the rail properly, which helped solve the challenges JLS was encountering. This team approach led to checking other details to be sure that Intech’s custom shaft fit the precise cartridge-to-rail positioning needed in the JLS carton handling system. Using the company’s proprietary load calculations based on the specific material selected, Intech ensured that the iCams would carry the specified load easily, adding additional life to the system. The iCams were fitted with stainless steel, sealed bearings, stainless steel shafts, and were pre-lubricated for life.

The linear guide design and concave cam followers running on a round rail provide a self-cleaning operation. The self-cleaning nature of this design makes the iCams resistant to wear in box or carton handling operations where paper, dust, and other debris are present. To minimize wear, Intech engineers used a gothic concave profile, which has only two-point contact with the round rail, roughly at 11:00 and 1:00. Strong enough to carry the load, this arrangement minimizes wear for both the cam followers and the rail. The eccentric shaft in the second cam follower is used to eliminate any gap between the cam followers and the rail. A full contact of both cam followers with the rail is a must for a controlled, precise movement of the pick-and-place mechanism. 

The greaseless, precision machined cam followers reduced noise and absorbed shock and vibration that is usually present during the fast, reciprocal operation. Overall, the PowerCore components allowed the machines to operate faster using less torque and energy than would have been typically needed, according to the company.

The first machines are being commissioned and several are under construction.

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