Emplyees at rocketfarm solving reach issues

4 Tips To Solve Reach Issues In Cobot Palletizing

In this article we have gathered four of our best tips to help you solve reach issues in cobot palletizing.

Because there are many advanced components that needs to work in tandem to make the solution function properly – and the most common issues you can encounter is connected to its reach.

There are different actions you can try to solve it.

Reach issues makes the cobot unable to move and place boxes in certain locations on the pallet. The reason for this is varying, and the solution to the issue will depend on several factors.

Based on our experience, with more than 700 real user case simulations, we will present common solutions to the issue.

Why does reach issues appear in cobot palletizng?

Before we start listing tips, it’s beneficial for you to have a basic understanding of why reach issues appear at all. So let’s begin with that before we get into more technical details.

Every palletizing project is unique.

Ideally, a palletizing software should be able to determine the best way to place the boxes onto pallets. But this is not always the case. Some of them needs more advanced configurations, rather than using default setups to ensure optimal reach.

One obvious reason for why some projects encounter reach issues, has to do with the cobots total length. But this is actually just one of several factors that affects the reach.

In simple terms, it comes down to these factors:

  • The type of cobot
  • Its mounting
  • The gripper
  • Weight and size of the boxes
  • The way the cobot choose to place the boxes onto the pallet
Emil Nissfolk, Project engineer, Kameleon Group

Installing the right palletizer is more complex than you think. The feasibility analysis from Rocketfarm is extremely accurate, and has become a “must have” when proposing palletizing solutions to customers.

Knut Thomassen
Maskinpakking AS

Common solutions to solve reach issues in cobot palletizing

Some of the tips we are about to present, are specifically drawn from Pally, our palletizing software. If you are using Pally, you can easily make new software configurations to increase reach by using our developed features.

The tips will also work without Pally. But it is important to note that you will need a bit more knowledge, time and effort, unless the software provides you with similar flexibility for palletizing.

Janni Rocketfarm

With Pally, you can easily adjust to new patterns without the need for engineers. This saves you from unnecessary downtime and new costly installations.

Janni Røssevold

Channel Executive at Rocketfarm AS

With these tips, you’ll be guided through certain actions that you can try for yourself. Hopefully, these will prove helpful in solving your specific reach issue.

1. Investigate software configurations for the gripper

First and foremost, we recommend start searching for possible solutions with the setup you already got. If you can solve the issue through software, you’ll save yourself from any additional costs.

We’ll start by looking at the gripper and how it pick up boxes, which affects the placement.

Here are some actions you can try regarding the software configurations for the gripper:

extending reach with gripper orientation
Illustration of gripper pickup from left side

The gripper orientation is a feature that allows you to choose the exact direction of the gripper when it picks up boxes (front, back, left and right). By changing the gripper orientation, you can potentially increase the reach of the cobot, when placing the boxes.

This is especially true if you are using a gripper that can provide you with some extra reach (typically oblong or big grippers).

Note: As an alternative (if possible), you can also change the direction of the box on the conveyor.

The gripper optimization is a feature similar to gripper orientation. Only this allows the software to calculate the best directions for the gripper to pick up boxes.

Within the Pally software, you can choose between None ( Same as “front”), 2_way (same as “front” or “back”) and 4_way (all directions possible). Enabling one of these can potentially solve the reach issue.

Multipick enables the gripper to pick up several boxes at once. This is a great feature, that can speed up your palletizing.

In some cases, picking several boxes can also increase the range, but sometimes you need to disable the feature for specific layers and boxes. Usually this can be an issue with the bottom or top layers depending on box size, pallet height and pattern.

palletizing gripper piab cpt
Multi picking cases with Piab CPT with suctioncups

2. Investigate the pattern and its layers

This second tip can also potentially save you from any additional costs. By looking into the box pattern of your pallet, you can make small changes that can solve the reach issue.

Move boxes closer to each other. If you have a pattern with unnecessary spacing between boxes, closing the gaps can help with the reach issue. It also enables you to multi pick boxes, which can also increase the reach of your cobot.

Switch first and second layer. If you got an interlocking pattern where every other layer is mirrored, you can try to switch them to see if this will solve the issue. Considering the location of the edge boxes on the different layers, there could be a layer that is more suitable to be placed first.

Rotate or mirror the whole pattern. This is worth trying if the pattern is asymmetrical, to get the boxes closer to the cobot.

Inverted approach

Inverted approach is a feature that allows you to change the order of which boxes to be placed first. This will determine in which direction the cobot is building a layer, as well as the directional approach for final placement.

Having inverted approach disabled (default), the cobot will use a logical approach, starting a layer by placing a box in the furthest away corner of the pallet. This will in some instances solve reach issues, especially in the top layers, as it doesn’t need to lift boxes above previous placed boxes.

By enabling the inverted approach function, you’ll allow the cobot to use an illogical approach. This way it will be able to lift boxes above previous placed boxes. A layer can then be build starting from the corner closest to the cobot, which sometimes can be beneficial. This approach may cost extra time and result in less reach, but in return it can create extra space to move smaller boxes closer to the cobot.

inverted approach enabled illustration
Inverted approach enabled
inverted approach disabled illustration
Inverted approach disabled

Generally, enabling inverted approach will give the cobot less reach but have better maneuverability to place boxes closer to the cobot. Having it disabled will maximize its reach but at the cost of maneuverability.

This shows the complexity involved in palletizing, and the easiest way to test and evaluate, can be done through simulations.

3. Talk to experts

At this point, we would advice you to get in touch with a palletizing expert.

Even though you are becoming more of an expert reading this article, it would be wise to consult someone for a second pair of eyes to look at your situation.

With the technology available today, you can test projects in digital environments. This way, you’ll save yourself from spending too much time and resources on testing it physically.

We can quickly run a simulation like this for free.

rocketfarm employees together with a palletizing solution
Screenshot of a cobot palletizing simulation video by Rocketfarm
Pally Simulation

We use digital twin technology to verify feasibility of palletizing projects. This means that we use a very realistic and digital replica to get accurate information and a visualization of a palletizing solution. And this information and visualization will be important in the decision making process.

The Digital Twin allows the decision makers to gather validated information at an early stage when considering new palletizing projects. This helps the decision makers to draw conclusions based on qualified information with minimal effort. That is just one of many reasons why the Digital Twin is an essential tool contributing to the shortening of cobot adoption time.it

Mathias Flo

Sales Executive at Rocketfarm AS

Mathias rocketfarmer
Request a simulation and let us solve your palletizing reach issues in a digital environment

4. Investigate hardware configurations

With this final tip, we are now moving over to getting extra hardware to be able to palletize you specific project. If none of the two first tips helped you, getting new hardware may be the only solution.

Adding an offset bracket could be a quick fix to further increase the reach of the gripper.

However, this would also affect the payload limit. So make sure the weight is still supported by using an offset bracket.

To give you an idea, the graph illustrates the relationship between accepted payload and the center of gravity offset for a UR10e cobot. This has to do with the warranty of the cobot.

graph illustration about center of gravity offset and payload ratio in UR10e cobot palletizing
palletizing lifting column illustration
Lifting column illustration

Installing a lifting column can in many cases solve reach issues, as it provides an extra axis for the cobot to move.

We often recommend investing in a lifting column, as this provides you with a lot more flexibility for palletizing future projects.

Choosing a different gripper can be a great option, as not all grippers are the same. They vary in shape and size, and some of them are better suited for palletizing than others.

Similarly to the lifting column, this will also give you some extra flexibility to palletize and adapt to future projects.

Learn more about Universal Robots palletizing configurations

Conclusion

Our goal is to make the palletizing software as easy to use as possible.

In most cases, the software will calculate the best options for you. But sometimes it proves difficult with all different kinds of palletizing projects.

With Pally, you can do quick changes in the software to perhaps solve issues and avoid extra costs buying hardware. In other words – there is a lot that can be done to try to solve reach issues in cobot palletizing by investigating what you already have.

Looking into software should therefore be your first priority. But if your current setup proves insufficient, looking into new hardware may be the only solution.

At this point, consulting a palletizing expert is advisable. To verify the feasibility of a palletizing project, you are welcome to reach out to us. We are happy to help you by simulating your palletizing project in a digital environment.

Request a simulation and let us solve your palletizing reach issues in a digital environment

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