Palletising is a type of handling application but owing to the huge number of installations that directly involve the use of pallets this has become a subset of its own. ABB and other manufacturers have even designed specialist palletising software packages and even palletising robot arms although in practise these are not often needed.

The principle is simple, the robot picks part or parts from one or more positions and the places them in sequence. This is usually on a pallet, stacking for example bags of cement, in such a way that will stop the stack from easily falling over. This could also mean placing parts into a stillage or other rack but the most important part is that the robot keeps count of the position to which it has gone and must go to next. Count functions were one of the first logic functions included in robot controllers and are probably one of the most used.

In a palletising job the robot will often pick the part, box or bag from a conveyor either using conveyor tracking or more simply at a fixed point and then put the parts in order until the pallet is full. The pallet can either be changed by hand (with the robot stopped or working in another area) or the full pallet can be carried away on a second conveyor for wrapping etc. If needed the robot itself can pick an empty pallet from a stack and start palletising again saving operator time and effort.

Dedicated palletising robots such as ABB's "Flexpalletizer" and Fanuc M420iA are usually simpler than a full 6 axis robot, often only having 4 or 5 axis and are designed to be simpler and cheaper. However because 6 axis machines are made and installed in such large numbers (largely in the car industry) they are actually often cheaper than a dedicated palletiser. In addition parts are not as widespread and therefore we would often suggest the use of a standard 6 axis robot such as the ABB IRB 6400. We have sold robots for a multitude of palletising work, including palletising potatoes, frozen fish, furniture, pipes, masonry, even live worms for the long-line fishing industry.

This is a picture of the ABB IRB 640 - a dedicated handling robot. It has less flexibility than a full 6-axis machine but is very robust and simpler and cheaper new than an IRB 6400 for example. However due to the availability of 6400's they are usually cheaper on the used market than robots like the 640.