UK team develops low-cost autonomous robot technology

Posted on 10 Aug 2017 by Jonny Williamson

Packaging manufacturer, The Cardboard Box Company, has collaborated with the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) to develop a cost-effective automated system which uses a robotic arm to palletise bundles of boxes.

UK university team in Sheffield develops low-cost robot technology – image courtesy of AMRC

The autonomous robotic technology reportedly improves process time and health & safety during the manufacture of cardboard boxes.

The system has been developed by the Integrated Manufacturing Group (IMG) of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) for The Cardboard Box Company.

The packaging company, which is based in Lancashire, designs, prints and manufactures corrugated packaging solutions for industrial, retail or promotional displays.

The Cardbox Company produces 22,000 cardboard boxes per hour on its machines, with operators loading and unloading cardboard bales which weigh between 15-20kg manually, an incredibly labour intensive process.

To address this manufacturing complexity, IMG successfully developed a cost-effective automated system which uses a robotic arm to palletise bundles of boxes. The prototype system was used to demonstrate to The Cardboard Box Company how they would be able to halve the time operators spend manually handling the cardboard materials during production.

Managing director of The Cardboard Box Company, Ken Shackleton, explained: “The AMRC came to visit us in Accrington to look at our operation and how they might improve upon any of our manufacturing processes.

“It was decided that exploring the possibility of installing some form of robotics at the end of one of our production lines would help with our palletisation process. With potential benefits of maintaining consistent production speeds, whilst reducing manual labour and the health and safety issues related to the process.”

The Cardboard Box Company was able to access the expertise and state-of-the-art capabilities at the AMRC due to a funding initiative ran by the High Value Manufacturing Catapult (HMVC). The initiative match-funds the costs involved in conducting research and development projects for SMEs.

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