In 1999 Macron delivered its first large-scale sorting gantry, capable of distributing totes of contact lenses to 1,700 individual compartments using infrared signaling technology.
Macron Moment: First large-scale, wireless infrared signaling gantry system
Application: Pick and place package sorting
Industry: Packaging automation & material handling
Problem: A client required an in-house automated sorting and packaging system to fulfill shipping orders for prescription contact lenses. The linear robotic system needed to be capable of filling 1,700 dispensary compartment locations with totes from a dispenser locator, with speed and accuracy. The large system needed to be structurally sound and fit within the packaging warehouse, and since the machine would be constantly running, the client required a system with high repeatability and reliability.
Solution: To meet the client’s specific motion requirements, Macron developed a custom, large-scale crane assembly mounted with gantry systems, led with wireless infrared signaling. The structure was 167’ long, 13’ wide, and 18’ tall, configured with two 83’ dual x-axis gantries constructed of MSA-14S actuators. To provide a full range of motion, each gantry was additionally equipped with two independent Y/Z axes, constructed with Macron MSA-14S and MSA-14Z actuators, powered by Yaskawa motors.
The client initially approached Macron Dynamics with a system plan in hand, a complex horizontally designed system consisting of many individual mechanisms to operate a complicated sorting unit and logic program. Pairing innovation with Macron products’ modular capabilities, engineers suggested a simpler design to effectively fulfill the client’s requirements.
The Macron solution entailed building a vertical system with 2 dual x-axis gantries, reducing mechanisms and providing a less complex sorting logic. To complete the comprehensive sorting linear robot, Macron developed a gripping mechanism attached to the gantry systems’ Z-axes, designed to grab the totes, and carry them to their correct dispensary compartment.
Due to the large nature of the linear robotic system, Macron Dynamics integrated bus bars into the gantry system to supply power to the linear robot’s controller panel while avoiding the difficulty of controlling and managing cables and airlines.
To control the motion and navigational function of the gripper, Macron Dynamics used infrared receiver transmitter technology provided by a distributor partner, serving to guide the gripper and gantries to their precise sorting locations. The new wireless infrared signaling system provided controlled routing of the Y/Z gantries, allowing the system to successfully automate the constant pick and place sorting of boxes and totes to their various dispensary compartments.
Macron’s custom vertical gantry design provided the client with a less complex solution than fit within the spatial constraints of the client’s warehouse. Total travel distance for the large-scale system consisted of 83 feet for each X-axis, 13 feet for the Y-axes, and 4 feet for Z-axes.
Constructed of Macron 14 actuators, the system had X-axis repeatability of +/- .003 in, Y-axis repeatability of +/- .001, and Z-axis repeatability of +/- .002 in. This repeatability provided an extremely accurate and reliable system to sort and distribute totes to individual compartments in a large assortment of 1,700 dispensary slots. Travel times met the client’s need for quick sorting and dispensing, with X-axis and Y-axis travel speeds of 2-3 m/sec, and a Z-axis travel speed of 1 m/sec.
Macron’s belt-driven linear robotic solution provided the client with a faster, economical alternative to a robotic arm assembly. The gantry structure consisted of 20 axes, simultaneously running to provide multiple sorting functions at once. Since the system contained 2 concurrently running gantries, the sorting machine never had down time. Even in the event that one gantry would be down for maintenance, the other gantry would still provide order fulfillment.
The X/Y/Z gantry system was able to detect depleted containers ready for refill, and would automatically deliver empty totes to the refill side of the machine. This reliable detection allowed for a constant replenishment of totes, supporting the need for an automatic, continuous sorting flow.
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