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tray handling systems for cleanroom operations


Due to the increasing cost pressure in the medical technology sector, effective production automation is increasingly becoming a key competitive factor. This is particularly evident during the assembly process, where components need to be provided fast and precisely, for feeding into pre-defined positions for various processing steps.

To achieve this, the German pharmaceutical packaging company, Gerresheimer AG, selected a special palletiser from IEF Werner whose automation systems are available in the UK from RARUK Automation Ltd.

With its headquarters in Düsseldorf, Gerresheimer is a leading global partner of the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry. The company produces a wide range of pharmaceutical packaging and products for the easy, safe administration of medication. The company has around 11,000 employees in more than 40 plants in Europe, North and South America as well as in Asia.

 “The complete manufacturing chain from injection moulding through assembly and inspection up to packaging, takes place in cleanrooms of ISO class 8”, explained Eduard Maier, Gerresheimer’s Project Manager.

He continues: “Using highly automated machinery, we produce millions of different customer-specific plastic systems seven days a week, 24 hours a day.  High importance is attached to manufacturing systems that reliably produce high quality products at high speed to ensure consistent availability.”

Gerresheimer already had a proven track record with IEF Werner unmanned feeding, assembly and palletising systems.  For the product assembly application, the additional requirement was for the palletiser to be integrated seamlessly into the existing assembly line and connected to an indexing table. It also needed to be able to operate in an ISO class 8 environment and carefully handle delicate medical components.

The solution developed by IEF Werner is a compact and modular palletising system with open architecture, enabling it to be adapted to Gerresheimer’s specific needs. The system offers short cycle times and can be operated under cleanroom conditions. The palletiser inserts components, line by line, into designated, disposable trays with nominal dimensions of 350 x 470 millimetres.  The trays are extremely thin and can vary in size but nevertheless require reliable, automatic handling.

Fifty empty trays are manually stacked in a drawer on the special palletiser. The system automatically removes the first tray, moved on the Y-axis and placed above a shuttle.  A wiping unit then detaches the tray.  Now the pallet is directly positioned by the shuttle under a fourfold suction gripper with rotary unit, which removes four devices from the transfer nest. They are then turned through 90 degrees and placed in the empty tray; eleven lines with eight modules in each.

Concurrently, a further empty tray is separated and transferred to a second shuttle. This cover tray moves beneath the first tray, situated in loading position, to the stacking position. Here it is lifted from below.  When the first tray is full, it also moves into the stacking position.

The shuttle then runs back, to take over and place the next empty tray for product handling. This exchange takes less than five seconds. As the second tray is being filled, it is positioned by the shuttle in the stacking position and the system lifts it beneath the first two trays. The stack, now consisting of one empty and two filled trays, is placed on a buffer belt line and forwarded directly to the packaging station.

For this task The IEF Werner posyART Transfer System is used. This is a flexible and modular system that can be tailored to the precise needs of virtually all transfer and assembly tasks. The modules are moved on workpiece carriers across the transport line and positioned precisely for the next process.

The Gerresheimer system is equipped with a Siemens S7 control with type TP700 operator touch panel.  The user interface integrates all necessary functions to operate the system with ease.  For communication with the customer specific system, the palletiser is also equipped with a Profinet interface.

The IEF Werner product portfolio allows RARUK Automation to tailor bespoke systems from standard modules and add grippers, motors and controls that best suit the task.  All elements are supplied from a single source enabling RARUK Automation to ensure everything is fully integrated and optimised for purpose.

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