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Big cobots and height-adjustable bases: Complementary or competing?

The trend of cobot palletizing has been on the rise since 2020, and it has become an important contributor to material handling. The types of palletizing tasks that can be automated have grown rapidly, as has the range of cobot brands and models for these tasks. The latest addition to the cobot world is the increasingly popular big cobots. They present a compelling advantage with their versatility, surpassing their compact counterparts by offering a reach of up to 1.8 meters and a payload capacity of 25 kg or more.

ELEVATE™ electric lifting column with a drawing of a cobot and a pallet with boxes on each side

Palletizing setups with compact cobots, which typically feature a reach around 1.3 metres requires a lifting column or another type of height-adjustable pedestal to reach the upper levels of a pallet. With the arrival of the big cobots, it might seem that height-adjustable bases are becoming unnecessary, which holds true for certain setups.

Big cobots allows for simplified palletizer design and also enable the handling of heavier products and extended reach. In some scenarios, height-adjustable cobot pedestals are still necessary, but the requirements for these pedestals have changed, as the big cobots generate higher forces, necessitating more stability from the base.

To adapt to the new circumstances, we have updated our ELEVATE™ lifting column for cobot palletizers with stroke length options up to 1100 mm. For big cobots, you can run this column up to 900 mm, allowing greater profile overlap to provide the necessary stability.

In the sections below, we will explore various setup options for stacking at different heights and palletizing heavy goods. We will discuss cobot sizes and when it makes sense to use a height-adjustable cobot base – using the ELEVATE lifting column as our example – and when it does not.

 

Given the increasing diversity of the palletizing market, there are numerous setup options available. To make it easy to determine if ELEVATE is suitable for a specific setup, we have compiled B10 data to show if the column's estimated lifetime aligns with the palletizer requirements. Additionally, duty cycle data can help assess if a palletizer equipped with an ELEVATE lifting column can meet a certain production line cycle time. Find the details in the user manual.

LINAK® ELEVATE™ lifting column for cobot palletisers

 
 

Different setup options for your palletizing solution

Generally, the size of your cobot and its base determine how high you can palletize. However, many applications require more than just longer reach, and several factors influence the ideal setup. Cobot path planning is one of the key factors, as the cobot must operate within allowed limits to avoid collision with surrounding objects. The programming complexity increases with the cobot size. Adding a lifting column to the setup can simplify the task by enabling the cobot to move to positions with a lower risk of collision. Furthermore, pallet size influences the setup; the broader your pallet, the less stacking height you can achieve. Factors such as the weight and the size of boxes, as well as the gripper design, also affect the palletizer solution. We cannot account for all these factors in this article, and therefore the figures provided are estimates. For a tailored evaluation, you can simulate your specific setup using tools like MyRobot.cloud paired with ELEVATE and Universal Robot cobots, to refine your approach.

 

Stack your goods up to 2 metres

If you want to palletize your goods up to a height of 2 metres, you basically have two options: The simple way is to choose a big cobot with a reach of around 1.8 metres, which allows you to stack goods on a Euro-pallet up to 2 metres. There are various cobot models with around 1.8 metres of reach and different payload capacities available on the market. A considerable benefit of this solution is the reduction of components that need to be integrated into your palletizer, as you do not need a height-adjustable base. However, your production line might not have the space for a big cobot, or your preferred brand might not offer a big cobot. In these cases, pairing a compact 1.3 metre cobot with an ELEVATE lifting column with 900 mm stroke and built-in height of 730 mm is an option. For broad pallets or when palletizing boxes with low height dimensions, 730 mm might be too high to reach the lower pallet levels. In these scenarios, an ELEVATE with a 700 mm stroke and a 630 mm built-in height could be ideal. Combining a compact cobot with a lifting column can also be a more budget-friendly solution.

 

Going above and beyond: Stack your goods up to 2.4 metres

If your goods are shipped in a container or truck, you are most likely aiming to stack up to around 2.4 metres to maximise your shipment. 2.4 metres is the standard height for containers and trucks worldwide. Big cobots with a 1.8 metres reach cannot achieve this height alone, whether on a Euro-pallet or on larger pallets for many box sizes. You will need to extend the cobot reach. An ELEVATE with 1100 mm stroke (run up to 900 mm) will allow you to stack up to 2.4 metres easily on the most common pallet sizes, – and this model can handle big cobots and keep them steady during operation. If you are working with Euro -pallets, you can also opt for a compact cobot with a reach of 1.3 metres. Paired with an ELEVATE 1100 mm stroke, you can palletize up to 2.4 metres.

 

Stacking above 2.4 metres: Planning for automation compatibility

If your operation includes not only forklifts but also top-loaded Automated Mobile Robots (AMRs) or Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs), you need to factor in extra stacking height. For most AMR/AGVs, the pallet position must be 400 mm above the ground, and this additional space should be calculated into your overall palletizing solution to make it compatible with these vehicles.

If you aim to palletize as high as 2.4 metres, your stacking height thus needs to be 2.8 metres, which can only be achieved by adding a height adjustment to your big cobot. By adding an ELEVATE 1100 mm stroke (run up to 900 mm), you can reach this height on a Euro-pallet.

Cobot palletiser stacking boxes on a pallet moved by an AMR

 
 

Palletizing goods that weigh 25 kg or more

Most big cobots can be divided into two groups. Those with payloads up to 20 kg that also have a long reach, and those that can handle heavier items up to 30 kg but fall short on reach. This means that if you want to palletize goods that weigh 25+ kg and also require a stacking height above 2 metres, you have fewer cobots to choose from, as not many deliver this level of strength along with a long reach.

If the reach of your 25+ kg payload cobot does not meet your requirements, you can combine it with a lifting column. With the ELEVATE 1100 mm stroke you can achieve stacking heights up to 2.3 metres, depending on your specific big cobot model. In this setup, you can run the column up to 900 mm to allow an extended profile overlap that keeps the column stable, regardless of the higher forces created by the big cobot during operation.

If you are curious to learn more about the ELEVATE lifting column for cobot palletizers, visit the application page or contact your local LINAK® office for a talk about the options for your palletizer setup.

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