Overloaded actuators need customizing for enhanced pivoting alignment
Automation continues to evolve and improve efficiency, especially on the production-line. While the initial system integration can incur higher start-up costs, manufacturing lines that run 24/7 save thousands in annual labor costs.
This was the case for a newly designed bottle cleanser packaging and sorting conveyor that relied on actuating systems in a de-stacker. During the early stages of testing, engineers found their first actuators to become loaded beyond their rating, and would subsequently become damaged when the system was misaligned by out-of-position product pallets. This test revealed potential machine shutdowns and safety concerns.
The de-stacking challenge
The de-stacker is positioned at the forefront of the robotic packaging conveyor. Boxes of empty bottles are stacked on pallets and stocked in front on the packaging line, awaiting retrieval. As the de-stacker cycles down the pallet stack, it moves the 272-pound pallets into position where they are lowered onto the conveyor and moved to the next station. This mechanism requires a complete system of durable and sophisticated actuators to work synchronously in order to complete the de-stacking tasks.
To attempt to meet this challenge, the design team implemented the versatile MT series actuators from PBC Linear into the robotic conveyor and de-palletizer. The MT linear actuators were chosen to complete two different tasks: horizontally driving the bottle boxes into the lowering position, and vertically raising and lowering the boxes onto the transfer conveyor. These tasks demanded optimal control, smooth linear motion, and tolerance for high offset loads. Initially, the in-house design team was pleased with the performance. However, they soon began to notice significant strain on the vertically mounted actuators, and realized they needed help. To find a solution, engineers from PBC Linear were asked to provide specific application assistance with the problem.
The PBC Linear solution
The MT series has several key advantages that made it an attractive positioning system for this application:
- High load tolerances facilitated by a steel-reinforced timing belt
- Smooth motion and velocity control supported by a ball guided rail system
- T-slots for vertical and horizontal mounting.
When engineers from PBC Linear investigated the actuator breakage, they realized extreme moment loads were the root cause. During normal operation the load ratings of the actuators were barely exceeded. However, when the boxes were misaligned, the actuators were exposed to more than twice their rated load capacity. This excessive load offset led directly to machine shutdown and repair, and required an immediate solution for the manufacturer to keep their lines operating.
To absorb the high moment loads, PBC Linear installed the similar actuators (same model and size), but with dual carriages to absorb higher moments. They also designed and produced a special hinged mount that would attach the de-palletizer to the actuators, preventing breakage and machine shutdown. The two mounting plates were spring-loaded, allowing for the actuators to pivot when the boxes were misaligned. This prevented the actuators from being strained under high moment loads.
Critical support yields positive results
Since the dual-carriage actuators have been equipped with the new customized mounting plate, the production line has been operating smoothly. Overall, the manufacturer was pleased with the design team’s packaging system as well as the expert actuator support from PBC Linear.
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