The delivery of raw materials in bagged form is essential in many production processes. Especially for small quantities where larger containers like Big Bags are not suitable, emptying bags manually can be time-consuming and physically demanding, with potential risks for operators and products. AZO has taken up this challenge and developed an innovative solution: automatic depalletizing of bagged raw materials using robot technology and artificial intelligence.

“As for whether artificial intelligence is good or bad, the question is how we use it to improve our lives,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, in an interview back in 2017. At AZO, the decision was made to take advantage of AI for optimizing and supporting raw material automation. The intelligent combination of robot technology and AI allows AZO to elevate raw material automation to a new level.

The delivery of raw materials in bagged form is essential in many production processes. Especially for small quantities where larger containers like Big Bags are not suitable, emptying bags manually can be time-consuming and physically demanding, with potential risks for operators and products. AZO has taken up this challenge and developed an innovative solution: automatic depalletizing of bagged raw materials using robot technology and artificial intelligence.

“As for whether artificial intelligence is good or bad, the question is how we use it to improve our lives,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, in an interview back in 2017. At AZO, the decision was made to take advantage of AI for optimizing and supporting raw material automation. The intelligent combination of robot technology and AI allows AZO to elevate raw material automation to a new level.

Steffen Günter, Head of Research and Development department at AZO, explains: “The use of artificial intelligence for process automation has the potential to improve working and production conditions while ensuring the high quality of end products. By strategically employing robots and AI, the physically demanding manual labor involved in emptying bags can be avoided, which is particularly crucial in areas with high hygiene standards or when dealing with critical or hazardous raw materials.”

The intelligent camera system enables the processing of various bag types without manual adjustments, thus reducing time and effort. Additionally, the integrated vacuum system helps to reduce dust emissions. The entire system is easy to clean and is ATEX certified for handling explosive products. As a result, AZO’s solution not only enhances efficiency but also provides safety and reliability in production.

Advantages of AZO’s automatic bag depalletizing:

The automatic depalletizing and emptying of bagged materials offers numerous benefits for companies aiming to optimize their production processes. It enables a continuous material flow, ensuring smooth 24/7 production, which allows companies to fully utilize their production capacities and ensure a seamless operation. The system’s reliability is ensured by the integrated 3D camera system in conjunction with AI. It accurately detects the bag positions and enables reliable depalletizing, regardless of whether the bags are made of paper, have inner liners, or are made of plastic – even if different types of bags are stacked on a single pallet. This reduces errors and production downtime, resulting in higher quality end products.

The system also ensures the safety and protection of operators, as the automatic emptying process requires no operator contact. This avoids direct contact between the operators and sensitive raw materials. The physical burden on the operators is largely replaced by robots, resulting in minimal manual effort.

The system’s easy cleaning allows for compliance with high hygiene standards. All components are easily accessible and cleanable. The integrated vacuum system reduces dust emissions during the emptying process. The fully automated process allows for reduced manpower, leading to more efficient resource utilization and cost savings. Overall, AZO’s automatic depalletizing and emptying of bagged materials provide an attractive solution for companies seeking to optimize their production processes.

System components and operation:

The system for automatic depalletizing and emptying consists of several components that efficiently work together for optimal results.

After removing the stretch wrap from the pallet and scanning the product via barcode, the pallet is placed in the designated position.

The automatic emptying process is initiated, and the integrated 3D camera system captures the top layer of bags on the pallet. Using AI, the bag positions are determined and the coordinates are transmitted to a robot with a vacuum gripper. The system also recognizes any intermediate packing layer, and the robot places them in a separate collection area. If a bag is not automatically detected, the operator can manually indicate it to instruct the robot to empty it, generating training data for the AI camera system.

All captured bags are automatically emptied. The vacuum gripper lifts the bags from the pallet onto the bag emptying station, where they are opened by a circular blade and emptied into a suctioned collection container. The empty bags are conveyed by a screw conveyor into a discharge chute, where they are compacted and tied by a connected baling press.

The SE25Ex bag emptying station used offers several advantages:

  • It has a swivel side door with an attached circular blade for easy maintenance and cleaning, minimizing downtime.
  • The use of electrical plug connections in conjunction with IO Link simplifies installation and commissioning, allowing for the decentralization of control components and the use of intelligent sensors.
  • The discharged material can be further transported either pneumatically or through free-fall, depending on process and material requirements, providing flexibility and adaptability in material transport.
  • The screw conveyor conveys the empty bags into a discharge chute, where they are compacted and tied by a baling press, ensuring low dust disposal, especially in areas with high hygiene requirements.

The throughput capacity of the system is 90 bags per hour, with each bag weighing a maximum of 25 kg. “The actual throughput capacity depends on various factors, such as the training state of the AI, stacking pattern, the number of intermediate packing layer, and the bag’s fill quantity,” emphasizes Günter. Bags weighing between 10 kg and 25 kg can be used, showcasing the system’s high flexibility and adaptability in efficiently processing different materials.

Why AZO relies on AI-based raw material automation:

The automatic depalletizing and emptying of bagged materials using robot technology and artificial intelligence offer numerous advantages for companies seeking to optimize and streamline their production processes. The system enables continuous production, increased  reliability, improved working conditions, operator protection, and compliance with safety standards. It simplifies the emptying process, reduces the workforce’s physical burden, and ensures easy cleaning and low-dust disposal of empty bags. The use of AI allows for continuous optimization of the camera system, contributing to ongoing process improvements. The automatic depalletizing and emptying of bagged materials are thus essential steps towards optimal raw material automation, helping companies efficiently achieve their production goals. By investing in innovative technologies like AZO’s developed solution, companies can strengthen their competitiveness and prepare for future challenges.