Previously, companies in the liquid products industry (cosmetics, pharma, household) wishing to launch new products had to consider substantial costs and long implementation times. Traditional customization made it unprofitable to release small batches. Now, with Cleanline — a new, fully automated line based on B&R’s ACOPOStrak transport system, this is finally possible and can be deployed rapidly. Solutions provided by the Polish company Unilogo Robotics offer optimization performance with just a few clicks.
Unilogo Robotics designs and manufactures solutions for the cosmetics, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries. The company specializes in designing and manufacturing systems for liquid product customization.
Here’s how Tomasz Nowacki, founder of Unilogo Robotics, talks about the origin of the idea to develop the area of optimization in the machines designed by his company.
“Initially, we provided services to large corporations moving their manufacturing plants to Poland. After some time, large retail chains appeared too and began to roll out private labels. This changed the playing field: the market demanded machines adapted to diverse bottle shapes, caps, and labels. At that time, we set ourselves the goal to create the highest-performing productive production line.”
The company also set itself specific objectives and targets for the productivity of its lines. Production batches are getting shorter and require constant machine changeovers, so Unilogo Robotics assumed that its line would always release 12–15 thousand units per shift, regardless of how complex the customer’s components (bottles, corks, labels) are and if changeover would be required 1, 2, 3 or 4 times.
E-commerce standards in B2B
The approach that has become a standard now in individual customer service is familiar within e-commerce: speed and flexibility of service are universally required qualities. Is this approach also penetrating the B2B market? Most companies still have a traditional supply and production chain, built for an outdated sales model based on holding expensive product inventory. Today’s world demands immediate response and flexibility.
Production on Demand
One example of a production line by Unilogo that brings to life the Product on Demand concept is Cleanline. With Cleanline, the companies from such industries like cosmetic, chemical, or pharma can implement production on demand, and this step will bring new dynamics into production and let their customers make meaningful savings in warehouse and product storage.
Cleanline is an integrated system of robotic modules in the form of a compact production line, designed and developed following the Industry 4.0 concept: a fully automated robotic production line for lotions, personal care products, perfumes, and household chemicals with changeover and start-up times of several minutes. 3D-printed format parts allow the line to work with any packaging and closure and make it possible to launch new packaging on the market within only a few days.
The biggest advantage of Cleanline is its flexibility, resulting from the modular design. The whole line is based on building blocks that can be easily combined and adapted to the needs of the individual business and expanded with new modules. Cleanline includes a module responsible for sorting and capping — with 3D-printed format parts, a dosing module, a labeling module, and a module responsible for packing the units into cardboard boxes and placing them on pallets. A part of the modules is connected with the ACOPOStrak intelligent transport system by B&R.
ACOPOStrak intelligent transport system
The innovation that makes Cleanline so versatile is the specially developed intelligent transport system. It is based on magnetic trolleys that move along a magnetic track. The trolley shape makes it possible to handle and transport any packaging type without performing a changeover. The system’s core is B&R’s ACOPOStrak technology: It makes the entire line considerably smaller, extremely flexible, and sustainable, which is particularly important for calculating capital expenditures. The entire process takes place in an end-to-end system without involving human resources.
What makes Cleanline stand out is the fully robotic unpacking/packing module. A set of several robots autonomously unpack the pallets with the packaging units, and perform their blowing, laser marking, and feeding. Robots are also used at the final stage of packing the finished products, and human labor is only required to transport the empty pallets and collect the loaded ones.
Capping module using 3D printing
After seven years of experiments, the Unilogo Robotics team successfully developed a capping module. It is fully automated and uses 3D-printed format parts, allowing Cleanline to remain a 100% versatile machine. The whole system is efficient and optimized in dimensions, occupying only 2.1 m of line length.
Industry 4.0 compliance
Cleanline as a whole complies entirely with the Industry 4.0 and Internet of Things principles. This means, among other things, that the machine is coupled with a smart network. The entire process is simple to control and monitor, and it can be done in real-time.
Cleanline is controlled using a universal HTML5-based panel. This solution makes sure that all process parameters can be changed from a single place. In addition, the panel can be expanded by adding features required in the customer’s process, and personalized and adapted to the individual expectations, the standards adopted in the relevant manufacturing plant, or simply to the operators’ habits. Another advantage is the use of the OPC UA (Open Platform Communication United Architecture) technology. It makes it possible to monitor data, also in real-time, and to access detailed reports, or even videos recording key process stages or emergencies. Data is stored in the cloud, maximizing working convenience and making it possible to control the whole process from any place.
This solution also significantly facilitates repair and maintenance of the line and shortens the response time of Unilogo tech support in emergencies. This all supports the Unilogo Robotics goal to provide a production line that can unpack a pallet of empty packaging units, fill them, cap them, apply labels, and pack them into boxes ready to be shipped to the customer, all done efficiently and involving as few people as possible.
Filed Under: Robotics • robotic grippers • end effectors