Autonomous Finishing: Automating the Folding Process
Angelo Chapa, Heidelberg (InterTech Award Recipient)
Push to Stop” is the Heidelberg philosophy and vision for fully autonomous processes, where the operator only intervenes manually when the production needs to be stopped.
Seamless section changes are a feature for Heidelberg Stahlfolder peak performance folding machines Stahlfolder TH 82-P, KH 82-P and TX 96, which reduces manual touchpoints. The folding machine recognizes the change fully autonomously by the means of a camera system in the feeder and a printed barcode on the sheet. If the camera detects a section change, the production will be interrupted autonomously and restarted as soon as the separation of the different sections in the pile is guaranteed. Job data of the processed job will either be sent to the MIS system and/or printed to attach them to the pallet.
The Stahlfolder P-Stacker is a fully autonomous stacking system, which, placed downstream inline to the delivery of the folding machine, stacks the section piles on to the pallet with up to 300 piles per hour, which matches the speed of the highly productive folding machine. For this it uses an industrial articulated robot with a very sophisticated gripper.
A newly designed gripper for the task of securely grabbing unstable section piles in different formats without damaging the folded sheets or their sensitive surface. Afterwards it is placing them precisely with minimal gaps on the pallet. This is only possible due to the combination of interlocking and force-closed gripping and the diagonal arrangement of the grippers, which close and open lateral. To stack even slippery, coated paper without slipping sheets, an integrated pneumatic plunger will hold down the sheet on the top until the until the entire pile is safely placed on the pallet – just like a human operator would do it.
Format changes for all common sizes are fully automated at the push of a button. Unique features allow the possibility to turn the piles from the first page facing up to facing down, depending on how they are needed in the downstream process. Moreover, it’s possible to insert interlayers automatically by the P-Stacker.
In combination with the Th82 P seamless section change, the P-Stacker can stack different products in different areas of the pallet to avoid getting mixed up. These two technologies combined enable a fully autonomous production of several sections with the same folding scheme. The operator only must check the quality.
The Pinnacle InterTech judges were impressed with the application of automation and robotics to a production area often under resourced.