Consumer demand is constantly growing. No matter what the industry, customers are always looking for more product variety, utility, and innovative solutions for their needs. Organizations must now rethink their packaging processes and overall strategies to keep up with this modern demand and foster real growth to stay relevant. Many packagers and processors – at low, medium, and high production levels – are evolving their methods from manual to automated and integrating automatic loading and unloading machinery as essential first steps.
What is Automatic Loading?
Automatic loading is the method by which you load product into packaging cavities or trays via high-speed production robotics and automated systems. Automatic loading happens at every level of initial production, including infeeding, weighing, quality control, and more. There are different options depending on the production level requirements and the product being loaded for later packaging. These systems are designed to load only the products that fulfill the required parameters with superior rates of accuracy and precision.
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Automatic Loading and Unloading Applications
Your production line is unique and requires automatic loading and unloading equipment that matches the size and shape of your containers, delivery methods, production rates, orientation, and packaging process. At Harpak-ULMA, we offer automatic loading options for primary, secondary, and even palletizing stages for various applications, including:
Thermoformers and Tray Sealers
Product loading into a thermoformer or tray sealing machine is from above into the defined cavities. There is a designated loading area (in a thermoforming machine, it is between the forming and sealing devices. In a tray sealing machine, it is between the tray denesting and sealing units). Our systems utilize advanced robotic technology for loading and aligning functions, transporting products with belts where the ULMA U10H or D12H robots pick them supported by a vision system or other detection system to define correct positions. Our robotic system also offers precise tracking and manipulation for high-speed applications.
Automatic loading for flow wrapping equipment utilizes specially designed ULMA D12H compact robot cells, each with their individual controls. Equipped with sophisticated vision detection systems, these cells dynamically pick and plan product in tracking from the transport system to the wrapping machine infeed conveyor. The speed capacity of each cell varies according to the product dimensions, characteristics, flow, and specific functionality requirements of the system; however, it does allow for single-file orientation, multi-packing, and continuous group packaging chains even at high speeds and volumes.
In a vertical wrapping line, the product is received randomly and is introduced in an inclined transport system up to the multi-head weigher. This feeding system makes de-dosifying and weighing of the product to be wrapped in the Vertical Form Fill Seal (VFFS) machine. The automation of the line is made with different processing and dosifying units, depending on the application and required production goals.
What are the Advantages of Automatic Loading?
Harpak-ULMA offers product-to-pallet automatic loading and unloading solutions that can enhance volume, throughput, and quality output and save you more facility space for both the infeeding and outfeeding stages. By automating everything from product allocation to insertion, you have a quick, safe, hygienic loading and unloading process that eliminates damage to the product. In addition to improved safety, hygiene, and efficiency, automatic loading and unloading offer other benefits as well for your modern packaging operations:
Extra (Improved) Quality Control: Previously, Quality Control (QA) was left to human workers over the course of an 8-hour shift. Modern Artificial Intelligence (AI) has changed that process, working tirelessly beyond a human worker’s average day and catching up to 100% of errors or defects.
Improved Production Speed: Automated systems can multi-task tedious or menial jobs faster with better packaging consistency and output at almost every stage of the packaging process than the average human employee. Tasks like sealing and labeling become automatic and other tasks that require human interaction – shipping, receiving, and product styling – can be attended to by your trained staff.
Enhanced Ergonomics and Lower Risk of Employee Injury, Error, Fatigue: Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) – injuries of muscles, nerves and joints – account for more than one-third of all workplace injuries. By allowing automated loading and unloading machinery to perform more tedious tasks, you can prevent injuries and fatigue and achieve better consistency and productivity at almost every stage of your process.
Improved Information Access: Integrating automated turnkey solutions for your packaging strategy can give you better access to processing data and analytics, as well as essential information concerning Human Machine Interface (HMI). HMIs make your machines more user-friendly and cut down on training costs, improving your process and making your production operations more streamlined and profitable.
Advanced Rockwell Automation: Every one of our smart, connected packaging platforms utilizes innovative Rockwell Automation’s Integrated Architecture to reduce solution complexity and maintenance costs and realize better quality, capacity, and throughput. We focus on lowering your total cost of ownership and offering the most reliable systems available while addressing all your packaging issues.
Looking to learn more? Get a comprehensive breakdown of automation with our eBook:
Automated Loading with Vision System
Loading of Medical Picks and Sponges using Vision