LEPS Robot Cable Management System Improves Uptime for Smart Pallet Manufacturer

The relationship between food safety and wooden pallets continues to draw interest throughout the entire supply chain. While wooden pallets are typically the most inexpensive and efficient way to ship food, increasing restrictions by the U.S. FDA require companies to continuously monitor the safety and cleanliness of pallets. With wooden pallets, this makes it difficult to ensure that consistently high sanitary practices are exercised throughout the supply chain.

As a response to strict FDA regulations and millions of dollars in spoilage in the food & beverage industry, Lightning Technologies developed a proprietary composite that makes pallets food-safe, easy to sanitize, and nearly indestructible. The pallet is also embedded with track-and-trace technology that allows for location tracking, temperature sensing, and more. The composite is sprayed onto a manufactured pallet, which was initially performed manually, but the company recognized the need to automate the process in response to growing demand for their product. A spray cell was installed with use of a robot to keep up with the spray’s dry time of seconds. However, the robot’s initial cable management system comprised a mixture of hoses and balances that hung from the ceiling and caused frequent breakage of braided-steel lines. This required weekly replacement of wires and cost the company several hours of downtime.

Lightning Technologies contacted LEONI Engineering Products & Services, Inc. (LEPS), who designed a custom cable management system that followed the path of the robot and was compatible with the fast cycle time required to spray the material before the adhesive cured.

The LEONI solution offers cable management on the robot and removes it from the ceiling. LEONI’s cable management solution comprises a two-piece system: One piece starts at the base of the robot and works its way up to the second axis, and the other extends from the second axis to the sixth axis. The LEONI protective cable system covering the second to sixth axis is designed to withstand high usage and to put the least amount of stress on the robot, which continually flips and rotates. The bundled hose package includes heated, high-pressure component lines; power and data; and compressed-air lines.

The biggest challenge for LEPS was ensuring that the end-of-arm tooling that held the spraying application was reinforced enough to support the bundle, which had to handle the rapid pace of coating 10,00 pallets in a 24-hour day with no stops.

“Engineering the system required a custom cable management design to fit this specific application. This included taking exact measurements to ensure that we had the right length of bundles for all axes to support the unique motion of the robot,” says Chris Miller, Sales Engineer, Business Unit Robotic Solutions, at LEPS. “We also looked at improving the system as a whole by replacing the control cable with a flexible LEONI cable.”

The modular design of the cable management system allows the customer to easily change out parts. However, LEONI’s solution has operated with 100 percent accuracy in the year it has been in service, eliminating hours of weekly downtime associated with fixing broken wires. The LEONI cable management system also keeps with Lightning Technologies’ focus on a clean look and environment, providing an option that maintains, protects, and secures the cables and their aesthetics and integrity.

Lightning Technologies currently uses a single-spray robot cell as a prototype, but the company plans to design a mega-booth — a high-volume spray line that will comprise 18 robots with a water system to manage the overspray.

The company’s upscaling of its spray line reflects the increasing industry demand for automated spraying systems. “Over the last five years, many sealing companies have asked for our help to manage their sealer equipment on the robot arm,” Miller says. “LEONI’s design of custom cable management solutions allows quick, efficient, and precise movement of robots.”