Automated robotic truck loader optimizes shipping space

Jack Mans, Plant Operations Editor

January 30, 2014

3 Min Read
Automated robotic truck loader optimizes shipping space




An automated robotic truck loader (RTL) from Wynright Robotics can load and stack boxes, bales and containers directly onto the floor of a truck or shipping container without the use of pallets. 

The RTL, which incorporates a robot from Motoman Inc. and operates on the latest-generation robotic control system, is an autonomous product loader, designed for fluid-loading of cases without pallets. The system loads cases automatically, adjusting its position by sensing the sidewalls as it loads and backing up for the next row of cases. It optimizes shipping space and improves loading efficiencies.

The RTL's advanced robotic technology provides enhanced flexibility to adapt to a variety of products, high speed and increased throughput. It uses Motoman's most recent robotic control platform and Rockwell Automation components and HMI technology, which make it extremely user friendly. 

Tim Criswell, president of Wynright, says, "We have used different robot suppliers, but Motoman was willing to allow us to integrate their software with Rockwell's, which we feel is a tremendous benefit. This enables us to use Rockwell's ControlLogix PLC for the entire operation, rather than needing a separate dedicated controller for the robot."

The RTL is mounted on a three-wheeled triangular base with two wheels in the front, which are driven by Allen-Bradley servos to control direction and speed. Product is fed through a connected telescoping motor-driven roller conveyor, and the system accumulates the product either vertically or horizontally, so that the robot can place multiple products at a time. 

The stacking process is repeated until a wall of cases is built within the trailer or container, after which the unit autonomously backs up one product length and builds another wall of cases. 

The robot can also track individual cases and place one product at a time to create a more complex stack pattern. As options, the system can track weights of cases and track individual cases that belong to specific orders. Criswell says, "We access the cases as they enter the RTL, and we use algorithms similar to those used for mixed case palletizing to track the products."

The RTL uses laser technology from SickUSA Inc. to track product delivery and stacking operations and to steer the vehicle as it places the product. The laser also maintains a safety perimeter around the work area. Criswell says, "The front laser scanner is controlled by a servo, which moves it to track the products. We extract three-dimensional data and create a point cloud analysis to determine the correct case placement."

Two versions of the RTL are available. The RTL 170 is the basic system as described. The RTL 170-V is a more complex system that builds unitized stacks of cases that are moved into place as an entity. In this process, the cases are delivered overhead by an elevator that forms the stacks.

Wynright is currently working on a comparable system for unloading cases that would use vacuum and clamps.

— Jack Mans, Plant Operations Editor


Motoman Inc., 937-847-3200.
Rockwell Automation, 414-382-2000.
SickUSA Inc., 800-325-7425.
Wynright Robotics, 817-701-1781.


About the Author(s)

Jack Mans

Plant Operations Editor

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