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Automatic handling of porcelain stoneware slabs and related sub-formats

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Piab's Kenos vacuum gripper handles porcelain slabs of any size

Thanks to Piab's Kenos® KVG area vacuum gripper, an extreme variability of sizes and surfaces can be managed, using just a single robot gripper. This allowed a leading Italian company, that manufactures automatic systems for the ceramic industry, to reduce costs and increase productivity.

In a newly built plant, in Modena, the Italian center of the tile industry, a leading manufacturer of complete lines for ceramics has installed Piab's Kenos® KVG vacuum gripper on three different types of systems: translators, traslo-rotators and palletizers. In translators the Kenos® KVG vacuum gripper is used for picking up the entire slab or the forming of the related sub-formats from the roller conveyor and depositing the pieces in another point of the production line. In traslo-rotators this robotic gripper is deployed for collecting the slab from the roller conveyor and placing it on a high-bay racking using a tripod (with an inclination of about 85°). In the palletizing systems Kenos® KVG vacuum gripper is employed for taking the entire slab or the forming of the related sub-formats and storing the pieces inside the wooden crate, in which these are packed and sent to the logistics stage.

The process is characterized by a large assortment of pieces to be handled. They range from formats with a minimum size of 1,200 x 1,200 mm to formats with a maximum size of 1,620 x 3220 mm, with weights from 20 to 300 kg and thicknesses varying from 6 to 25 mm.

In addition to the size and weight, another critical characteristic is the extreme variety of the gripping surfaces, which can be smooth, corrugated (peeled, scratched and mosaic), textured (stone cut and parquet-like).

Furthermore, in the process it is necessary to handle the pieces even with shear grip, with lifting force parallel to the surface. Since these are very heavy, there is the absolute need to safeguard the integrity of employees and systems, preventing the pieces from falling, which could cause relevant accidents and high downtime costs.

Using traditional gripping systems, the company was unable to optimally manage the continuous variation of formats and surfaces. The operators were forced to make frequent adjustments such as changing the suction cups, exclusion of gripping points, mechanical adjustments, etc. with consequent downtimes. All this had a negative impact on productivity and costs.

Thanks to the use of the Kenos® KVG vacuum gripper, the company is now able to handle the slabs with a single gripping system, which guarantees maximum versatility with respect to the different surfaces and sizes of the pieces to be handled. Kenos® KVG vacuum gripper has also proved to be extremely reliable and safe in the face of the non-optimal conditions of use typically found in a ceramic factory.

Piab's Kenos® vacuum gripping systems are designed to simplify the handling processes in many industries such as ceramic, wood, packaging etc. It is a versatile range, designed for the handling of a wide variety of objects with different shapes, sizes and densities. Most of the gripping solutions can be equipped with integrated vacuum generation or are suitable for separated vacuum generation, by means of a vane pump or side channel blower. Among the various Kenos® systems available, KVG is the model that best suits the tile industry thanks to its high adaptability.

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