Robotics in Packaging

Douglas Machine SCARA Robotics


Wikipedia defines the SCARA acronym as a “Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm.” Around Douglas, we just refer to it as a SCARA robot arm. Wikipedia goes on to say, “By virtue of the SCARA’s parallel axis joint layout, the arm is ‘compliant’ in the XY direction but rigid in the Z direction, hence the term: Selective Compliant.”


How did Douglas arrive at utilizing SCARA robotics? A few years ago we developed a “variable pitch” solution for accumulating pouches and loading them into top load cases. This variable pitch technology enabled us to easily adjust the collation system to allow for pouches of various thicknesses and pack patterns. Servo technology has given us variable pitch benefits; however, the ability to have both variable pitch and variable path was even more desirable as it would provide for enhanced flexibility.


Third party robot manufacturers, by nature of their design (having multiple servo controlled joints), offer a variable pitch and variable path solution. The Douglas Research & Development (R&D) team brought in a commercially supplied 6-axis robot to test. They were able to collate pouches and present them to a top load case successfully; however, were not able to realize the desired footprint, cost target, speed and payload capability by incorporating a third party supplied robot.


This finding led the R&D team to develop their own solution. Ultimately the TriVex SL product line that collates and top loads corrugated cases at high speeds within a compact layout, was born. Developing our own robotic solution provided multiple benefits. Higher payloads are achieved via a direct interface to the partner-supplied Rockwell controller and eliminates an additional third party controller that would require more space and cost.


Additional advantages to our SCARA robot solution, include:

  • Modularity and standardization of the arm
  • Fewer parts and reduced labor
  • Highly accurate life cycle calculations
  • Virtually no maintenance

Currently, SCARA robot technology is being utilized in multiple areas within Douglas. You can find this technology in the TriVex SL platform, CpONE case packer platform, 60-Series and 80/105-Series Contour Shrink Wrappers and INSITE Case Erectors. Douglas really appreciates customers who possess an early technology adoption mindset and who recognize the value this technology provides.


As we are sure you can imagine, developing our own SCARA robotic solution has been challenging! Have you heard the phrases hard/easy and easy/hard? Essentially, if you tackle the hard things first, it should make it easier down the road compared to vice a versa. As time passes, we will make incremental improvements and gain more knowledge and application skills. This process will make us more efficient in providing solutions encompassing this technology to our customers. As it stands now, we are conducting hard development work on the technical side, but as history has proven with other developments, it will get easier and provide great value!


Contact us today to learn more about our SCARA robot technology and the advantages it can bring to your secondary packaging applications!