Power meets precision
Stick labels precisely and in different places on containers or insert them - this task can also be efficiently automated with a robot. This is what happened at the Stüken company in Rinteln. The newly installed modular labeling cell MEZ from de Man has recently taken over the fully automatic labeling of boxes, KLTs and RAKOs and impresses with its compact footprint, precision and flexibility. In this way, requirements such as short cycle times, high availability and the handling of both labels and plug-in cards could be met without any problems.
Hubert Stüken GmbH & Co. KG is a global technology leader for deep-drawn parts and a solution partner for small, precise parts and assemblies made of metal. For over 85 years, Stüken has been supplying high-quality ready-to-use products to a wide variety of industries, offering integrated finishing processes as well as guaranteed quality with the smallest tolerances and the highest level of repeatability. As part of the “SMILE” project, a new hall with an automatic small parts warehouse and various systems for logistics and secondary processes, including a system for labeling, was built at Stüken's company headquarters in Rinteln. The de Man Automation + Service GmbH & Co. KG, general contractor and system integrator from Borgholzhausen was commissioned to implement this sub-project.
Perfect coordination in the automation network
The reason for the automation of the previously manual work was the increased production volume, the necessary work in 3-shift operation and the monotonous activity for the employees. All in all, the installation of a fully automated system made economic sense. Specifications to de Man were the handling of both labels and plug-in cards, the option of flexibly sticking containers on one of the four sides, a short cycle time of six seconds for sticking the labels and seven seconds for inserting cards and easy access to the system for maintenance and changing of labeling material. The system availability should be 99%. Already during the planning phase, Stüken decided in favor of a robot due to its greater flexibility and usability compared to a special machine. The modular MEZ labeling cell from de Man was a perfect match for the requirements and guarantees fast and exact labeling in a compact space thanks to its high precision and flexibility. Since the cell is in an automation system network with the storage system, a palletizing cell and several buffer sections, special attention was paid to perfect communication and coordination between all components involved.
Stick on, plug in or insert
The labeling cell extends over the compact area of approx. 3 x 3.1 meters and is served by the new small parts warehouse and a conveyor line that branches off from it. A total of three types of containers (cardboard, RAKO, KLT) are processed by the system. Goods are delivered in cardboard boxes for customers as well as goods in plastic containers (RAKO, KLT) for external work, which must be provided with labels (cardboard boxes) or insert cards (RAKO, KLT) before palletizing. There are eight different versions of the boxes and two versions of the RAKO. The plug-in cards must either be inserted in pockets or placed in the container. All products entering the cell are scanned on the conveyor system and the corresponding print job is sent to the printer via the company's own SAP system. The printers (6 inches for the adhesive labels, 8 inches for the plug-in cards) are located in a printer frame and are each screwed onto a drawer that is queried for safety reasons in order to prevent access to the danger area through an extended drawer. The frame offers space for a total of four printers, so that printers of different or the same size can be retrofitted at a later date. The containers are first positioned so that the labels can be applied precisely. For this purpose, a rake, which is located between the rollers and can be lowered, pushes the container against a fixed stop. Movable stops also help with positioning. If the label has to be inserted into a RAKO, the lid lifting station sucks the lid with four suction cups operated by vacuum, lifts it up with a cylinder and lowers it again after the label has been deposited. The labels are now removed from the printer by the robot (type Kawasaki RS 10N) and, depending on the order, sticked on the intended side oder inserted in pockets oder placed in the conatiner. Since the conveyor technology runs at a height of 1725 mm, de Man placed the robot on a base. After labeling, the container is automatically transported to the palletizing system and a new one is moved into the fixing station.
The entire facility is surrounded by a protective fence at those places where there is no natural boundary by a wall. Access to the system is via a protective door, which must be requested. The safety interlock with guard locking only allows the protective door to be opened when the dangerous movements have been safely stopped. Thanks to an emergency release, trapped people can leave the cell. The system is controlled via a touch panel. The main view of the system control appears as soon as the system has started. It offers a schematic representation (layout) of the system and provides quick and easy access to all functions. Current process and system data such as cycle time, capacity utilization, speed, daily output, etc. are displayed here. There are interfaces to the printer, to the Stüken SAP, to the conveyor technology of the storage system and to the palletizing cell. As requested by Stüken, de Man trained their own staff in such a way that they can carry out small optimizations on the system themselves - such as changes to the robot's approach points or the speed on individual paths.
Standard and still individual
The modular labeling cell MEZ is part of the “M-series” from de Man. The automation specialist offers its customers a range of pre-planned modular robot cells for various applications: the MKA for erecting boxes, the MPZ for packing goods in boxes, the MRZ for palletizing and the MEZ for labeling. All cells are controlled by the MFR material flow calculator. The "M-series" is characterized by a compact footprint, great flexibility and high precision and speed. All cells can be individually adapted to the specific requirements and expanded with options such as camera technology or additional conveyor lines. All products in the series can also be combined to form a complete packaging line. The advantages of the standard cells are obvious: customers benefit from a faster planning phase and delivery time as well as lower costs compared to individual solutions.
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