After various discussions with customers from plant engineering and the beverage industry, it was clear to Piab’s experts that a gripper for the simple automatic handling of six-packs with cardboard packaging was needed. Because this is how beer and beer-based mixed drinks are offered and must be packaged and palletized accordingly by the beverage industry.
The difficulty with the automation of this process step has been that mechanical grippers cannot pick up the bottles from the top of the bottle caps, as these are usually sealed with a banderole made of aluminium or paper, which would be damaged. At the same time, the cardboard is very thin and unstable and must be handled with care. The gripper should also not leave any marks on the cardboard box to avoid an impression of the packaging being damaged.
The vacuum specialists from Piab, headed by Bernd Gries Manager Global S-Accounts, therefore developed a special gripper with rectangular suction cups. The rectangular suction cups take up the six-pack in only three places. In order to prevent the cardboard from being drawn into it due to the large suction surface and leaving marks, the Piab team developed a corresponding load support as part of the suction cups. This prevents the cardboard from being drawn in and getting damaged.
The gripper is manufactured using a 3D printing process and can therefore be easily adapted to different six-pack sizes. The fastest way to do this is via the exchangeable cheeks, which serve to stabilize the six-pack in the gripper during handling.
In addition to Piab’s rectangular suction cups, the gripper contains powerful COAX® vacuum ejectors. One COAX® ejector is integrated decentrally for each square suction cup. This provides additional safety when handling, because each ejector works independently of the others. So if one ejector fails due to contamination, the six-pack will continue to be held reliably by the other two. The gripper has an automatic blow-off pulse to enable the six-pack to be put down quickly.