A typical application involves using an automated guided vehicle (AGV) transporting stacks of pallets to the place where they must be loaded onto a conveyor belt or put onto another transport vehicle for shipment.
The stack is then sensed by overhead cameras and after being verified, it is picked up by mechanical arm tools equipped with suction pads or clamps which grasp each end of the freshly made pallet. The two ends are then lifted into position at either side of the AGV while its central pallet-holding section is being locked into the automatic mounting frame.
An alternative, more recent approach uses load cells instead of clamps or suction cups for holding the ends of the pallets to achieve a higher throughput speed, often up to 200 pallets per hour. The idea behind this form of gripping is that it provides an easier transition when these robots are operating in applications with loose products like puffed cereals, for example, where sticking pads can get stuck on small pieces and cause delays.
However, adhesive pads are used where there is no risk of debris in the air that could gum up suction cups or load cells. In Europe, they’re very common in warehouses handling powdered products like sugar because the dust created by these products could otherwise jam the load cell’s internal machinery.
Next, the AGV takes the loaded pallet to an empty slot on a conveyor belt or other transport vehicle (e.g., rail, ship, truck), where it is again held by clamps or suction pads before being lowered onto its final position. The cycle then starts all over again until there are no more stacks of product left to be palletized.