A major player in the pharmaceutical industry came to us with a request to develop a machine solution that packaged pharmaceutical bottles in a tray. The solution had to contain several parts and there were multiple challenges:
The bottles arrived in an uneven flow on the line at a speed of up to 220 bottles a minute.
A sufficient number of bottles had to be grouped and picked up simultaneously to give the robot sufficient cycle time.
The bottles had to be accurately arranged so they could be picked up by the robot. At the same time, they had to be arranged loosely enough to avoid the risk of getting caught when the robot picked them up.
The machine had to be able to handle three different sizes of bottles.
One bottle model had a lid with a diameter larger than the bottle itself. When lined up, they had a built-in tendency to fall over.
A precise number of bottles had to be grouped so they could be picked by the robot.
After an initial analysis of the entire situation and an intense brainstorming session, we arrived at an idea for a solution that we felt was both simple and powerful. We knew that we wanted to use robots as part of the solution. The first prototype was built out of wood and plywood to prove that the concept worked. After this step, we were able to continue designing the solution. Since the machine was to be used in a drug-production process, the final design also had to address challenges concerning hygiene and enable rapid, tool-less format changeover, etc.