A standard curve is useful in most situations for maneuvering relatively square, relatively small pallets around a curve, but what about short and wide, or long and narrow pallets and loads?
Don’t pull a Ross. “Pivot!” isn’t always the answer.
A pallet rotator mechanism can often be the solution. Pallets with so-called “challenging” L:W ratios can now be conveyed simply around the corner using Glide-Line’s unique Drop and Rotate unit, or DART. And, since this unit is floor-mounted, the DART can handle much heavier weight capacities than many curves, or for that matter, heavier weight capacities than a standard lift and rotate unit.
The floor-mounted Drop and Rotate also functions as a floor-mounted Lift and Rotate. For the purpose of this post, we will focus on the unique drop functionality of this pallet rotator mechanism. Depending on the application, a customer may need one or the other in their process.
How It’s Used
A Drop and Rotate Unit is used to drop a section of conveyor with the product on it, instead of coming up between the conveyor strands and directly interfacing with the product to re-orient the product itself, as a standard lift and rotate would do. It is a conveyor-shifting application.
This unit has multiple uses, including transferring products to transverse conveyors, which can actually be positioned at any angle. Because of the servo motors controlling the angle at which the conveyor rotates, customers are able to program any angle needed to accommodate their process and products.
When functioning as a Lift and Rotate Unit, this mechanism will lift and rotate the entire section of conveyor at any angle needed, again instead of making contact with the product directly. This prevents unnecessary product handling during the automation assembly process.
The DART functions similar to a train hub. When a train reaches a hub, there is a rotator at the center to direct the train onto any of multiple spurs around the hub. The rotator moves the entire section of track with the train car on it to distribute it to any of those tracks. We’re doing the same with the DART: we take the entire pallet, with the product intact on the pallet, and rotate it to distribute it at any angle needed.
Two Ways To Convey A Long Pallet Around A Curve
1. Change Orientation of the Product
The standard Lift and Rotate Unit (which is much more common in the industry) changes the product’s orientation without making physical contact with the product. Whether floor-mounted for extra stability or mounted directly to the conveyor, the lift functionality lifts the pallet itself, turns at any angle to change the orientation of the product, then brings it back down to the main line to continue motion.
2. Maintain Orientation of the Product
Dropping the conveyor under the product, with DART, while the product is suspended on stands or rubber “feet” allows the product to maintain its orientation onto a lateral conveyor as it turns a corner. This is what a Drop & Rotate Unit (DART) accomplishes.
How DART Solves Challenges
Size is often a hindrance for our integrator customers. When they have a large pallet or panel that needs to change direction, it’s very hard (often, impossible) to get the panel to turn around a curve. A standard lift and transfer won’t work, since the large pallet or product is too large and unwieldy. However, a floor-mounted Lift and Rotate or DART can handle the additional width since this unit rotates the entire conveyor, not just the product.
The second challenge DART helps solve is handling variable width products. In many cases, our integrators’ customers are processing large panels (many times glass for solar applications), and use centerline adjustable conveyors to run different width products. They want their transport system to be able to accommodate the different sizes they need to run. Using something like DART allows them to handle a variety of different-sized products without requiring any tooling changeovers to the conveyors. If they have a center line adjustable conveyor (feeding a discharge), the DART or floor-mounted Lift and Rotate makes the tooling changeover for running a different-sized panel much easier to manage. It’s simply a smoother solution.
Finally, the floor-mounted Drop and Rotate handles very heavy products with ease. Instead of the device being mounted to the conveyor, as a standard lift and rotate, the pedestal is mounted to the floor. This works better for lifting the conveyor up to rotate it and redistribute the weight onto the floor.
DART: Solar Panel Customer Case Study
One of our clients, a manufacturer of solar panels, devised an effective way to use a Drop & Rotate Unit (DART). Since they create solar panels in a wide variety of sizes, they use a center line adjustable conveyor to transport the large glass panels through the manufacturing process. They have multiple turns within their line, and to avoid damaging the product, it’s imperative that the glass panels make it around those curves without changing orientation.
Prior to developing the Drop & Rotate Unit – in fact, before we had established Glide-Line as a company(!!) – we did a lot a work for a different company that made solar panel assembly equipment. We built some very expensive and complicated custom devices that did what DART does.
Now, DART simplifies the process for our customers with multiple product sizes. It enables the largest panels to be transported through the process without changing orientation, no matter the size.
DART is shifting the conveyor itself. Conveyor-shifting applications are especially useful for manufacturers with center line adjustable conveyors or those with multiple set-ups for different product sizes. The DART and LRU options, whether your client is looking for a different product orientation, better visual inspection methods, or continuous rotation, can meet these challenges without requiring a conveyor tooling changeover. The conveyor-shifting application makes it simple to manage.
A standard lift and transfer or lift and rotate application requires the device to rise between the conveyor strands, directly contact the product, physically lift the product, and rotate the product to its new position. A conveyor-shifting pallet conveyor application (where we actually rotate the entire conveyor) added to your design avoids that extra contact, reducing risk of damage. It can also simplify the process and make the process smoother.
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