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MOTOMAN robots + AirGrip = a better grip on bottles

04 September 2017

Bottling is an important stage in many manufacturing processes where liquid products are packaged as part of the final stage of production, for example in the brewing, distilling and beverage industries.

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The physical ‘bottle lifting’ process is a key part of this and is an area where highly sophisticated automated systems have revolutionised the process. 

However, for the high volume manufacturers, there are the specific challenges to develop systems which are able to meet the increasingly demanding and more flexible production schedules. A good example of this is a new combination of an air gripper tool and sophisticated robot controller which is helping large-scale manufacturers to get a better grip on their bottles and improve their bottling process.

The patented AirGrip bottle gripping tool and MOTOMAN robots developed by Yaskawa features a unique combination of industrial robots equipped with patented robust rubber grippers which are designed for safe handling of bottles at very high speeds without damaging the screw caps. For example, in one bottling application for a major soft drink manufacturer 1.5 litre PET bottles are being handled at a rate of 47,000 bottles per hour. Other sites where the system has improved the efficiency of the bottling process include a number of major European breweries in Sweden and Norway.

The AirGrip gripper tool has been introduced to meet the increasing demands for a flexible application in bottling plants where the same basic concept can be used for both small and large applications and for a wide variety of purposes. The bottles are lifted by compressed air with minimal mechanical stress which helps to reduce maintenance requirements. Also, because the cuffs are open at the top there is no restriction in bottle height. 

The cuffs are available in five standard sizes which cover most popular bottle sizes from 0.5, 1.0, 1.5 and 2.0 litres while customised designs are also possible. 

AirGrip is available as a basic model in which the rubber gripping cuffs can be replaced when worn by simply unlocking and pulling out the gripping head compartment without the need for special tools

The technology can be adapted to meet the requirements of individual production lines, speeds and product development. This enables production to be more easily adjusted to meet the varying demands of the market whilst ensuring that high standards of reliability are met.  

Depending on the application, for example handling trays from a pallet, or bottles into trays, the AirGrip concept includes a MOTOMAN-MPL160, or MOTOMAN-MPK50 robot, the AirGrip device, a conveyor, a pallet magazine and an operator’s control panel. When the requirement is bottles into trays, a configuration table replaces the pallet magazine. Either way AirGrip makes sure that the bottles are picked up with a secure hold and controlled movements are possible at high speeds. In addition to these benefits, AirGrip requires little maintenance, is easy to operate and requires only a small footprint.  

Norwegian beverage manufacturer Roma Mineralvannfabrikk AS is one of many breweries already using the AirGrip system including the sorting table to good effect. Its system employs two YASKAWA Motoman robot models, a five axis heavy-duty SP800 robot with a payload of 800kg and a 4-axis MPL500 palletising robot with a capacity of 500kg. Due to the higher bottling capacity the company has been able to increase sales by about 30 percent.  

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