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Handling of beverage crates with 180 PA robot

Starting point / Task definition
Handling of beverage crates with 180 PA robot

As the crate sorting system at the Hofbräuhaus Brewery was having to deal with more and more different types of beer crates, meaning that the level of mix in the system was rising, manual handling was becoming less and less cost-effective. In addition, the brewery wanted to spare its employees this heavy physical work – from 2,500 to 3,000 crates per day have to be palletized. Since the new solution had to be capable of integration into the existing equipment, the brewery was looking for a customized automation concept. The system had to be installed in a small space, while at the same time being easily accessible.
Implementation / Solution

The complete automatic palletizing process for the crates of empty beer bottles, which is built around a KUKA KR 180 PA palletizing robot, was accommodated inside the compact sorting system. Other suppliers wanted also to make use of a neighboring loading warehouse. This would have resulted in additional space requirements, mainly because an aisle for forklift trucks would have been necessary. Thanks to its large radius of action, the robot can pick up crates from four roller conveyors and stack them on a pallet, as well as fetching empty pallets.

The empties are transported to the robot on four conveyors; the robot only stacks crates of a single type on any individual pallet. Two of the conveyors are reserved for crates with half-liter bottles, and one for crates with 0.33-liter bottles. The brewery uses the fourth conveyor for empties from other bottling companies. The KR 180 PA picks up four crates at a time and sets them down, precisely positioned, on the corresponding pallet. For this purpose, its gripper is equipped with locating plungers which ensure that the crates are always picked up in the same way. The robot sets down two groups of four crates each to form a layer, with a total of five layers per europallet. Once a pallet is full, it is automatically transferred on a sliding carriage to the forklift truck pickup station. Meanwhile, the robot picks up another empty pallet and begins a new stacking process. The robot controller communicates with sensors on the accumulating conveyors; if the status reported by the sensors is “full”, the KR 180 PA goes into action.

System components / Scope of supply

  • KUKA KR 180 PA palletizing robot
  • PC-based robot controller, including control panel with Windows interface for rapidly changing the palletizing program
  • Special gripper with locating plungers
  • Mounting platform for the robot
  • Robot programming
  • Installation of the system
  • Safeguards
  • Commissioning


Supplied by KUKA systems partner RST Roboter-System-Technik, Barbing/Unterheising, Germany.

Results / Success

  • Advantages of the “palletizing expert”

    The KR 180 PA “palletizing expert” is a four-axis robot with a passive fifth axis, whose application-specific, FEM-optimized kinematic system guarantees particularly efficient palletizing processes. Its arm is made of carbon fiber composite material (CRP), which, thanks to its lower mass moment of inertia, provides truly remarkable acceleration rates. The KR 180 PA can stack loads weighing up to 180 kg to heights of up to 3000 mm. It is also more economical to manufacture than a six-axis machine.

  • Continuous availability

    The palletizing robot operates with virtually continuous availability. A failure would mean that a large amount of manual work would have to be carried out by temporary workers.

  • Short cycle times

    The robot’s short cycle times enable it to achieve the required high productivity of 1,000 crates per hour.

  • Flexibility

    The flexibility of the KR 180 PA opens up the option of converting to other sizes of crates in the future. Moreover, besides the empties, which weigh some 40 kg, the robot has no problem lifting four crates of full bottles, which occasionally appear among the empties. Together, four full crates weigh about 80 kg.
Number of report
R 171
Food and beverages
Handling, loading and unloading
Packaging and order picking
Other handling operations
High payloads (90-300 kg)
Palletizing robots
KR C (Robot Controller)
Brauerei Hofbräuhaus,
München, Germany

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