Industrial Palletizers vs Collaborative Palletizers – Which is Better?

“When should we choose industrial palletizers and when should we choose collaborative palletizers?” This is one of the questions we get a lot from our customers, since they want to know which is the right way for them to go. There are a lot of factors that go into choosing the right automation system for your business, but there are four key characteristics that are extremely important when choosing between industrial and collaborative palletizers.

1. Payload
One of the easy questions you can ask yourself is about the required payload. It’s common knowledge that collaborative robots have lower payloads than industrial robots do. Typically, when talking about collaborative arms from Universal Robots, the maximum case payload is about 20 pounds. In some cases, a higher payload of up to 40 pounds can be achieved, thanks to assistance tools that can be adapted to robotic arms. Even so, you would still need a comprehensive risk assessment, since a person could get hurt if they come into contact with a 40-pound box in motion. In summary, if you are attempting to move a payload that’s greater than the common standard of 20 pounds, that’s a sign that you may need to look towards industrial solutions rather than collaborative ones.

2. Reach
Another factor to consider is the required reach for the palletizer. How high do you need to stack? There are some big robotic arms for collaborative palletizers that have come out on the market recently, like the Doosan arm. However, collaborative arms usually reach about 80 to 85 inches in height, and in some rarer cases 88 inches. Once your required stack height for a pallet goes beyond that maximum, it may be difficult for a collaborative robot to meet your needs. In that kind of case, an industrial palletizer would likely be more useful instead.

3. Workspace Efficiency
The third factor to consider is what space you have available on your production floor. Of course, if you got a collaborative robot, it would take up less physical room than an industrial machine. However, speed is an additional component  that’s closely related to the robot’s footprint and overall efficiency. If you want to pick up 10 to 12 cases per minute, you would have to go outside the collaborative line speed that’s allowed. Achieving this would require some area scanners, and even though those Apex Motion Robotic palletizerarea scanners are not a physical barrier, they create a space that people can’t walk into without lowering the operating speed of the line. Despite the fact that you can’t see a physical barrier with a collaborative robot, that space in your production floor may still be used up, because nobody can operate in that area. As a result, the overall footprint and efficiency of the palletizer is a very important consideration when looking at collaborative robots. Even so, this doesn’t change the fact that collaborative robots still ultimately use up less physical space than industrial robots, which may be important depending on the layout of your production floor.

4. Configurations
The final factor to consider is your required palletizing configuration. How are you stacking products onto your pallet? There are a lot of software programs out there that will generate various stacking patterns for you, but a lot of them cannot accommodate for irregular box sizes with unique shapes. For example, maybe you have two different box sizes that are coming down your conveyors, each from a different product line in your factory, but you still want to package them on the same pallet. For situations like that, you may need a unique custom solution, and a robotic integrator can help figure out whether the optimal choice for that configuration is collaborative or industrial.

Overall, collaborative robots certainly have their benefits. We build a lot of them, and we’ve sold a lot of palletizers, but they do still have their limitations. We build industrial robots as well, and in contrast, they provide the freedom in speed and payload, at the consequence of a large footprint that requires physical guarding. Making the decision between an industrial and a collaborative palletizer is a complex choice, so if you need any extra help, you can reach out to us to learn which palletizing solution is right for your business, and we’d be happy to help. Get in touch with our experts today through our Contact Page.