Simplifying Palletizing With a PLC-based Collaborative Robot Solution

March 22, 2023 by Stephanie Leonida

OMRON Automation now offers a PLC function block-based cobot palletizing solution that aims to help machine operators speed up deployment and boost productivity in manufacturing environments.

Electrical equipment and robot systems manufacturer OMRON Automation (OMRON) announced the release of its cobot palletizing solution. The solution features OMRON's newly released 20 kg payload TM20 cobot and its NX1 series machine controller with a palletizing function block (FB). 

OMRON pairs up its NX controller with its 20 kg TM20 cobot to create a cobot palletizing solution that minimizes programming time. Image used courtesy of OMRON


Enabling Flexible Deployment

OMRON's new PLC-based cobot palletizing solution is possible through OMRON's compact, modular NX1 series controller. The controller is integrated with a palletizing FB, enabling a "layer by layer" approach to pallet definition through a user-friendly HMI. Slip sheets can be added between pallets, and the overall cobot trajectory—from moving boxes from the conveyor belt to the pallet—can be set up through teaching and coordinate setting systems.

Operators can make quick changes to machine layout and product format through the wizard-based interface if they need to adapt to changes in production requirements. A teach pendant is also available to ensure more accurate positioning of the cobot during palletizing. The TM20 weighs 33 kg and has a reach of 1.3 m which is ideal for palletizing workspaces. 

The NX controller controls the palletizing system, including the cobot, gripper, conveyor belt, pillar, sensors, safety components, and servo motors. Image used courtesy of OMRON


Optimizing Control and Secure Communications

Omron's NX1 modular machine controller interfaces with the cobot controller through a Listen Node and Modbus.

A Listen Node is a device or controller that listens for incoming communication requests on a Modbus network, a widely used communication protocol for industrial automation and control systems. Modbus is a client/server protocol that defines how master devices (clients) can communicate with slave devices (servers) over a serial or Ethernet network. The protocol specifies the message structure, data encoding, and other communication parameters.

The NX controller controls the palletizing system, including the cobot, gripper, conveyor belt, pillar, sensors, safety components, and servo motors. The controller also handles data processing and integration with Open Platform Communications Unified Architecture (OPC UA) integrated as a standard.


OPC UA is integral to secure communications between systems and machines in industrial environments. Video used courtesy of OMRON

OPC UA is a machine-to-machine communication protocol for industrial automation developed by the OPC Foundation. It is designed to provide secure and reliable communication between devices, machines, and systems in industrial environments and supports a wide range of platforms and operating systems.

OPC UA is built on a service-oriented architecture and uses a common object model to represent data and functionality across different systems. It provides a standardized way to access data and services, enabling interoperability between devices and systems from different vendors.


A Complete Palletizing Solution

OMRON's palletizing solution was developed in collaboration with its Automation Center based in Barcelona. The solution is designed to be flexible, intuitive, and adaptable, assisting machine operators by speeding up deployment through low-intensity programming and reducing downtime. If a human worker enters the palletizing cobot's working environment, it adopts a collaborative mode without stalling production.