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Creating Solutions for concrete products:

Packaging system for drainage channels

The project

Creating high-tech solutions - This is the claim with which KELLER IMS has always been developing innovative systems for customers. That this guiding principle, manifested in the company slogan "Creating Solutions" is no longer focused on applications in the heavy clay industry is demonstrated by the project for BIRCO in Baden-Baden. In the new business segment for concrete products KELLER HCW developed a packaging system with robot technology. The task for the KELLER engineers was to design a system for concrete drainage channels to be taken-off from an existing conveyor system and which are then to be stacked on pallets according to different setting patterns. At the end of the process the packs are strapped, transferred to fork lift trucks and stored intermediately. With this project BIRCO made significant investments
in the future and, in addition, production processes could be made more flexible and faster.


Technical requirements of the plant

The width of the drainage channels to be handled varies between 160 and 560 mm. They are between 80 – 550 mm high and 510 – 1,020 mm long. Their weight is between 17.5 and 314 kg per product. Some drainage channels have gradients of up to 5 – 10 mm over the channel length. To avoid misalignment of shipping packs due to the amount of gradients, the shipping pack must be turned by 180° after each layer. Wooden strips are inserted between each layer.


Conclusion

KELLER was commissioned by BIRCO for the first time. The contact between the two companies was established at Automatica 2014. The short duration of the project is impressive: It took only 4 weeks from project conclusion to implementation. This is outstanding and demonstrates the strength of KELLER IMS! The very positive experience from this first cooperation strengthened the wish of both companies for a long-term relationship.


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The partner BIRCO - a short profile

"Drainage in its best form" is the company slogan of BIRCO GmbH in Baden-Baden. For more than 80 years and meanwhile in its 3rd generation, the family company has been located in Baden-Baden and has developed to one of the leading drainage specialists and supplier
of channel systems in Europe. Its ranges of services include the development and design of innovative drainage solutions and drainage concepts for heavy duty, environment, garden and landscaping, design and project management. The headquarters of the company are
located in the idyllic green landscape, thus confirming its high ecological standards for itself and its products. Similar to KELLER, a landmark product idea of the company founder was the basis for the today’s business success of BIRCO: In 1965, Fritz Birnbräuer was the
first German producer of a concrete channel with mesh grating. This was the birth and the beginning of specialization of BIRCO for solid and environmentally friendly channel systems for surface drainage. Today, the product range includes more than 280 different product sizes.
For integrating the new sorting line and robotcontrolled setting equipment optimally into the existing working processes, a new hall was built.

The system – a short description

Transfer gripper

After the drying process, the KELLER transfer gripper delivers the drainage channels to special wooden boards. Depending on the format, 1 or 4 channels are positioned on a board. The open channel side shows to the top. The gripper picks-up the entire layer in one cycle and
passes it to a toothed belt conveyor. Since the gripper can be positioned directly above the take-up position with still incoming channels, a very short cycle time is achieved. With the transfer device the individual layers are deposited on the take-up conveyor and are moved forward to the transfer device on the separating conveyor where they are spaced at larger distances. A lifting device transfers the channels to the following toothed belt conveyor (sorting line). Here, the products are entirely checked by a machine operator, who releases them to the palletising robots. Defective channels are deposited by robot on two separate lines (one line each for channels with and without metal) to be disposed of in accordance with the environmental regulations.


Palletizing robots

Two KELLER robots are used for achieving the requested output of the system. With a 6-axis robot the drainage channels are palletized. The gripper on the robot is driven by a motor and is able to pick-up channels with a length of 500 mm to 1,020 mm. It is able to
transfer 3 channels at the same time. On the pallet the drainage channels can either be stacked lengthwise or crosswise to the transport direction. The bottom layer is deposited with the open side to the top. Channels without gradient can be deposited like the bottom
layer. Channels with gradient are turned by 180°. When handling channels with gradient the pallet is turned by a turntable by 180° after each layer. For many formats the robot deposits the top layer with the opening downwards, so that in a further step the finished packs can
be strapped. Differences in height are also recognized by the robot and are compensated during stacking. Depending on the format, the shipping packs consist of up to 7 layers. As soon as the pack has been ready stacked, it is transported from the turntable to the
following chain conveyor..


Supply of empty pallets and wooden intermediate strips

The second 6-axis robot performs two jobs: Positioning empty pallets on the turntable and placing wooden strips between each layer. Outside the hall the empty pallets are set down on a chain conveyor in stacks. The stacks move forward in cycles and are taken over by a
second chain conveyor. The robot picks-up the pallets on the long side and transfers them to the stacking position (turntable). The pallets are adjusted in both directions when taking them up. Wooden strips are inserted between each stacked layer. This is also done by the second
robot. The robot gripper is equipped with 4 row suction devices which can be controlled separately. 2 strips are transferred when handling channels with a length of up to 1,000 mm and 4 strips when handling channels with a length of up to 500 mm. During the transfer
process the robot checks whether all required strips are available in the gripper.


Strapping and pack transport

On a chain conveyor the stacked packs are conveyed to the strapping equipment. Before strapping the pack is passed to a further chain conveyor, which is located on a carriage. The chain conveyor on the carriage can be turned (longitudinal or transverse strapping). Now the pack either moves into the strapping equipment without being turned before or the pack is turned, strapped and turned back. The strapped packs are finally transferred to a second identical carriage. This carriage moves to two magazine chains, is turned by
90° and delivers the packs. The used pallets (Euro pallets, one-way pallets) are always transported in longitudinal direction. At the end of the chain conveyors the dispatch packs are removed by a fork lift truck for intermediate storage.

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