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Robotic or mechanical bottle unscrambler: which one fits better my needs?

At Packfeeder we have always dedicated ourselves to unscrambling bottles and our long history supports the effectiveness and reliability of our equipment, but the way we do it has changed over time.

Robotic vs. Mechanical

Aspects to consider in a bottle unscrambler

At Packfeeder we have always dedicated ourselves to unscrambling bottles and our long history supports the effectiveness and reliability of our equipment, but the way we do it has changed over time. With the intention of adapting to the continuous and frequent changes in the demands of our clients, we have been introducing and designing new technologies. At first, obsessed with offering ultra-simple solutions, all of our bottle unscramblers were mechanical, but since 2015 we also have a line of robotic unscramblers. For different needs, different technologies.

But, what is the automatic bottle unscrambling?

Automatic bottle unscrambling consists of moving the containers from their bulk state in an accumulation hopper to their vertical and stable position with the opening facing up, on a conveyor belt, ready to be filled.

The origin of our range of robotic bottle unscramblers responds to the growing need of certain industrial sectors for greater flexibility, versatility and functionality, in addition to how the industry has changed year after year.

  • Flexibility: our customers increasingly need to introduce new container formats more frequently to their production lines. In addition, they want to do it as quickly as possible and with the lowest possible costs. For example, multinational cosmetics companies often release new products in new formats, in these cases the robotic bottle unscramblers are more suitable for these requirements.
  • Versatility: a sorter with the ability to work any type of geometry or container (bottles, jars, vials, tubes…), any material (plastic, glass, aluminum…) any size, any weight and even that allows to position objects (covers, cutlery…). So the automation possibilities are practically endless, and most importantly: in any case vastly greater than those offered by the mechanical bottle feeders.
  • Functionality: many times the process of orienting containers requires complementary functions such as puck introduction, orientation of asymmetric containers, cleaning, laser marking, traceability… that mechanical unscramblers are not prepared to easily integrate. In addition, robotic sorters do not require more space in the packing room as these functions are included because no modules need to be added for those specific functions.
  • Format changeover time: production batches are smaller every day and the packaging line changes the container more often, even several times a day. For these reasons, the need of minimal format changeover times or even non-existent increases since that means periods in which the production is stopped. This scenario is enhanced by the increasing business volume of ecommerce since it demands small production batches for their agile distribution.

What is the format changeover time?

In a packaging line, when it is necessary to go from producing one container to another, different adaptations are made in the machines, so the time that takes to carry out these adaptations is the format changeover time and therefore, time during which the line cannot produce.

The format changeover is carried out by the operators of the line when the equipment are simple such as the Packfeeder ones, but it will require the intervention of a mechanical technician in other types of more complex systems. Machine emptying and filling time is often also included as format changeover time. Understanding by emptying, removing all the containers from the previous batch that may have remained in the accumulation hopper, and understanding by filling the introduction of the new containers into the machine until they come out through the conveyor correctly positioned.

Faced with these new needs and for the request of our customers and partners, in 2015 Packfeeder reacted developing the revolutionary range of pickFeeder robotic bottle unscramblers. Which is possible and becomes a reality thanks to our accumulated experience both in the packaging sector and in the sector of special and personalized machinery.

The mastering of robotics and the most advanced systems of artificial vision, allows us to develop a unique system with the high added value as it is the house seal. The latest robotic and intelligent processing technology is used to devise a solution that maximizes the capabilities of its different assemblies. This increases efficiency, which is the best on the market and with the smallest machine size. In addition, it solves the inefficiencies of older less developed robotic systems. With all this, Packfeeder again provides differentiated solutions specifically developed for the packaging sector, with high added value and through commitment to the real needs and limitations of the sector.

So, what does the robotic unscrambler consist of?

The main reason for its existence is flexibility, since it seeks to work with very diverse ranges of products and from high to low speeds. Packfeeder’s unique system relies on three major elements that allow it to be a benchmark in the sector:

  • Advanced artificial vision that identifies the position of the container and gives to the robot the coordinates to pick up the container.
  • High-speed robots that, depending on the information received from the vision system, pick the containers with a vacuum system based on suction pads working at high-speed.
  • Intelligent transfer carousel that collects the packages from the robot and transfers them to the exit conveyor in a vertical and stable position.

The excellent combination of these three elements allows the maximum performance occupying the minimum space in the packaging line, a critical aspect for many sectors and manufacturers of cosmetic, pharmaceutical or home care products when developing or renovating their lines.

But, for which needs is the mechanical unscrambler still better?

  • In monoformat lines or with very few formats, in which only a few different geometries are packed.
  • In packaging lines with large production batches that present the same packaging format for several days or weeks.
  • In lines with no prediction of working new containers in the short or medium term because the type of product does not require it as for example the marketing related to packaging has little importance.
  • When the line works with types of container geometries that are linked to the classic concept of bottle.
  • In lines where the material of the bottles to work is generally plastic and at most cardboard or aluminum.
  • When there is no need to integrate many additional functions such as laser marking, aspiration, traceability, etc.
  • In packaging lines that do not have qualified staff to work with 4.0 technologies.

What other benefits does the robotic unscrambler provide?

  • It is a technological forward-looking speaking of automation, as it is the global trend of the production processes due to the great long-term advantages that it provides.
  • The great adaptability will allow to solve the needs of today and also those of the future without having to change the equipment.
  • Client’s own technological positioning.
  • For co-packers or third-party manufacturers, it provides great productive flexibility and an image that end customers value.
  • Regarding costs, far from being a halted technology, it is seen that year after year the prices of high-tech materials fall, so the prices have a downward trend both in the short, medium, and long term.
  • It adapts to a multitude of different formats including tubes, jars and other geometries.
  • It allows working with glass containers as well as plastic, cardboard, or aluminum in the same line.

From Packfeeder and together with the major players of the industry, we are fully convinced of  the path to robotization is already a proven reality that will mark not only the long-term future of the sector but also the current present in permanent change and in adaptation process. On this matter, our commitment is the result of our knowledge of the market, which makes sense with all the projects carried out with robotic sorters together with those that are in progress and those that have to start.

The future and the present of bottle unscrambling is robotic, and in Packfeeder we are committed to this path. We will be happy to help the sector with our solutions and developments.