Employee Owned Family Farm

KUKA Robotics: Future Within Reach

Inside a facility somewhere in Washington, thousands of apple cartons are being palletized every day not by human hands, but by robots. Tall, mechanized metal arms are hoisting these heavy cartons and placing them gently onto a pallet at a speed that no ordinary worker could hope to achieve. For many produce companies, relying solely on manpower to pack and ship fruits and vegetables can be costly and time-consuming. With robotics on the rise as a trending subject in the industry, more and more businesses are turning to automation to reliably improve their efficiency. 

Many apple growers are now using technology developed by Michigan-based KUKA Robotics, one of North America’s largest robot manufacturers, to find a cost-effective solution to increase the speed of their operation. One of these solutions is KUKA’s palletizing robot arm.

Designed to be light, fast, and powerful, KUKA’s robots help to reduce the exhausting effort that goes into palletizing heavy cartons of produce. Aside from the obvious benefit this speedy technology brings, the robot also lessens the possibility that the cartons could fall or tip over thanks to the innovative PalletTech software embedded in each machine. Each box is placed with incredible accuracy and speed, and little effort is required on the user’s part to program the robot to their exact specifications. 

 

The PalletTech software features enhanced capabilities for complicated robotic palletizing applications. Augmented gripper support and multiple orientation pick-up, are some of these capabilities. A suite of application development and runtime tools, this software reduces engineering and development time and enables the out-of-box implementation of complicated applications.

KUKA offers more flexibility to accommodate its customers’ processes, and also has the ability to work offline and dynamically reposition itself during pallet builds. 


The company offers businesses several models of compact, robotic palletizing arms that are constructed for a number of conditions, especially for fresh produce. One of these models, the KR 180 R3200 PA (KR QUANTEC), boasts high-performance motors that can allow palletizing operations up to 27 cycles per minute. Its arm can also handle a payload of 180 kg. The company offers an array of options for different sizes, loads, and climates.

KUKA Robotics is the North American headquarters of KUKA Roboter GmbH, based out of Augsburg, Germany, and is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of industrial robots. KUKA generates an annual production volume approaching 10,000 units, and an installed base of over 75,000 units. In addition, the company’s five and six axis robots range from 3kg to 570kg payloads, and 635mm to 3700mm reach; all controlled from a common PC-based controller platform.

Robot

KUKA built its first industrial robot in 1977, and has earned an international reputation for robotic excellence. The company considers Shelby Township, MI one of its headquarters and is home to KUKA Robotics’ USA-based sales, applications, project engineering, service, parts, training and administrative staff, plus North American business leadership personnel. 

Inside the building you will also find the opportunity for “hands-on” experiences with the latest robotics technologies, products, and training. Stocks of robots and parts are also on-hand to meet an ever-increasing pressure for fast delivery. 

Along with fresh produce, KUKA robots are utilized in industries including the appliance, automotive, aerospace, consumer goods, logistics, food, pharmaceutical, medical, foundry and plastics industries. Multiple applications also include material handling, machine loading, assembly, packaging, palletizing, welding, bending, joining, and surface finishing. 

As the produce industry turns to automation to help their employees improve efficiency and lighten the workload, you can expect to see major robotics companies like KUKA continue to innovate and find solutions to tackle any problem.