Pick-and-place solution for new East London brick and block plant

25 March 2020 | Web Article Number: ME202018561

Automation & Robotics
Construction, Civil & Structural Engineering
ICT In Industry

WHEN a local Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) of concrete brick, block, and paving machinery had an opportunity to build a Greenfield plant for a longstanding customer in the East London area, it turned to SEW-Eurodrive for its easily-configurable HandlingKinematics pick-and-place solution.

Pick-and-place robotics is based on kinematics, a mathematical model used to control and coordinate multiple axes.

SEW-Eurodrive engineer Dylan Enslin said the machine developed by the OEM is essentially an automated gantry system, with an upper-level controller to send the relevant coordinate data. The distance involved during the pick-and-place process is about 4m, with a 2m to 3m lift. The rotation and clamping of the gripper is controlled by a combination of pneumatics and servo motors.

The HandlingKinematics application module allows for machine control at a higher level by means of a lower-level Configurable Control Unit (CCU) for carrying out precision path movements. During start-up, all the end user is required to do is enter the relevant mechanical data for the initial configuration of the motion parameters.

Enslin said the pick-and-place solution from SEW-Eurodrive is essential for bricks or concrete blocks to be palletised in cube-sized packages for easy transport. Bricks or blocks are manufactured, compacted on a vibrating screen, placed on steel or wooden boards, and stacked in a curing chamber for three days, during which time a high humidity is maintained to crystallise the cement.

Thereafter a destacker feeds the boards onto a conveyor belt, which is where the pick-and-place application comes into play. Shaving even a single second from this process can translate into a massive increase in the daily production rate. The actual pick-and-place machine itself is robotic, which is not supplied by SEW-Eurodrive as an off-the-shelf unit. Instead, it supplies a retrofit kit that includes geared motors, cables, inverter, Variable Speed Drives (VSDs), and the software.

SEW-Eurodrive has been working closely with the OEM for about two years to refine its latest upgraded equipment. A specific recommendation, for example, was to use a combination of high-flex and standard cabling, as the cabling is subjected to a lot of bending. This saves costs, as well as increasing the durability of the system.

Other factors that had to be taken into account were the motor mountings, as the oil levels had to be correct and all the necessary oil seals in place.

“From the initial designs, we actually ended up with a unit smaller than envisaged initially, due to us refining the calculations provided by the client. The smaller the unit, the more cost-effective it is,” Enslin said.

“There are global companies manufacturing similar equipment, but it wanted to design and build its own unique version compatible with local operating conditions and requirements. A standout feature of the OEM’s equipment is the application of servo technology. The fact that we have been able to supply it with the latest advances in this field positions us firmly as a complete solutions provider for our customers in a range of industries,” Enslin said.

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