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Automation News

Custom end-of-arm tooling for anything from lick tubs to sour cream

Sometimes, off-the-shelf options just don’t cut it.

Not with your new truck, not with an engagement ring and certainly not with your end-of-arm tooling. Just like the ring you need depends on your partner’s size, setting preference and personal style, your end-of-arm tooling depends on your application, product and packaging materials.

The right end-of-arm tool could simply improve your efficiency … or it could make your seemingly impossible goals a reality.

As an automation integrator, we’ve seen it all. And as an OEM, we’ve built it all. That means no matter what your application requires, we have the experience and the engineering expertise to make it happen.

Nine times out of 10, that begins with using the right base.

Robust, versatile tooling provides the best starting point

As a general rule, we try to use standard tooling when possible — after all, why reinvent the wheel? But if your packaging materials, the shape of your product or the layout of your facility are working against you, sometimes the standard needs a little something extra.

Accommodate any requirement with our standard bag gripper, the Ferrari of end-of-arm tooling

Faster and more high-performing than anything else on the market, our tried-and-true bag gripper can handle nearly any need.

It can pick slip sheets. It can pick pallets.

It can pick an entire layer, just like it did for American Crystal Sugar. Nearly 450 pounds, in one pick.

It can even accommodate different attachments. Do you also need to depalletize your inventory? We can add a vacuum tool. What about adapting to different bag sizes without downtime or human intervention? A servo actuator will do the trick.

And when you add on these bells and whistles, it saves you space, money and headache. Instead of having multiple systems, potentially from multiple suppliers, to perform these tasks, one machine can do it all.

Palletize and depalletize with our foam vacuum gripper

The foam vacuum gripper attachment picks with a foam pad filled with check valves instead of individual suction cups. The design allows the check valves to open and close as needed, meaning you can easily pick up different sized objects without leaking vacuum.

These end-of-arm tools are highly customizable — each one we’ve produced in conjunction with one of our partners is different. Here are a few designs we’ve done:

  • An application palletizing boxes with six different dimensions

  • One that alternated orientations (wide side leading vs. the narrow side leading) on the conveyor

  • A product that required multiple zones (pick six, drop two, turn, drop two, turn, drop two)

  • One that required multiple zones and the ability to pick pallets and slip sheets

  • A system that could palletize and depalletize bags and cases

But that’s just our bag gripper and foam vacuum gripper. Let’s take a look at some of our less standard custom end-of-arm tooling.

Picking lick tubs by the base, not by the lip

A few years ago, ethanol producer Arizona Grain approached us for a palletizer. Specifically, they needed a way to palletize lick tubs of dried distillers’ grains (DDG), a byproduct of the ethanol distilling process. While tubs of condensed grain make great cattle feed, they’re also heavy and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

We had manufactured other lick tub palletizers in the past. Unfortunately, Arizona Grain formed their tubs in a way that didn’t work with any of the end-of-arm tools we already designed.

The problem was they weren’t exactly tubs. Instead, it was a plastic base with a fork pocket molded into the bottom and a cardboard shroud that would dissolve when it got wet. This design made it easy for a forklift to palletize the tubs manually.

It also entirely eliminated the lip at the top of the tub. And that lip was how all our existing end-of-arm tooling picked the tubs.

The pincer tool we designed gripped the base of the whole tub, not the lip. The challenge was getting enough torque on the pincers to keep them closed. We weren’t sure if it would work. But we built it anyway. The result?

It worked so well, we ditched our original design and use the pincers for all our lick tub projects now. No matter what shape or size. We even took it a step further to handle pallets and slip sheets.

Reducing downtime with a simpler design

Prairie Farms’ old palletizer had been out of commission for years when they finally came to us for a new one. The old one had worked well for them — they wanted us to reproduce it almost exactly.

We took one look at their system and knew there was a better way.

The legacy system used a two-step process. First, a vacuum tool with multiple suction cups picked sour cream tubs from an open-top tray. Then, that same tool returned to pick the trays as well. Whenever they ripped a cup or lost vacuum, sour cream splattered and smeared everywhere. Which meant production stopped as they hosed the equipment down.

They needed something more reliable. So, we designed a rake-style tool that could palletize four or five trays (depending on orientation) in one pick.

While still custom, it was simpler than the vacuum tool. And simple designs leave less room for things to go wrong. And when fewer things go wrong, you spend less time cleaning sour cream off your equipment.

You can palletize anything with the right end-of-arm tooling

Reliable. Durable. Exactly right for your application. That’s what you need out of your end-of-arm tooling. And that’s the type of end-of-arm tooling our experienced engineers design and manufacture in-house.

So, get in touch with our team and let’s get started on your new equipment. Whatever’s on the line, we can handle it.

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