High-level agility when filling and packing cosmetics

Retail chains and consumers are demanding increasingly limited and personalised cosmetic products, as well as increasingly smaller order quantities. This trend is leading to smaller batch sizes in production and will result in future demand for highly agile filling and packaging lines. Above all, manufacturers are looking for a cost-effective way to fill and pack cosmetic products, even in small batch sizes. Together with a German natural cosmetics manufacturer, the Schubert-Cosmetics specialist team has developed and built a complete line that includes everything from feeding the components to filling, packing and palletising. The innovation makes it possible to carry out a format changeover in under twelve minutes. Furthermore, new size parts are available in less than two weeks, thanks to Schubert’s advanced 3D Printing technology.

The cosmetics industry is changing. Pharmacy and supermarket shelves are continuously displaying new products and special series to win the favour of discerning customers. At the same time, stocks of finished products in manufacturers’ warehouses should not be too large, which suggests that production batch sizes need to be reduced. Whereas the focus used to be on high-performance mono-lines that could fill and pack only a standard product range, the focus today is on flexibility. Each cosmetic product, and its’ differing packaging format, requires its’ own set of format parts within the machine that form part of the overall filling and packing process. Up until now, existing packaging machines were rarely designed for this, however, which inevitably leads to very long format changeovers.

Thanks to the implementation of a “bin-picking” function, the visionary system allows the unsorted components to be fed in format-free.

It pays to be fast

To enable quick market launches, Schubert-Cosmetics has joined forces with a German natural cosmetics manufacturer to develop and build an agile, visionary line with a high level of efficiency – based on Schubert system components to ensure a consistent process along each step. Individual packaging components, such as bottles, caps and pumps, are fed format-free via a belt into a compact TLM machine. The new Schubert in-house 3D camera system identifies the unsorted and sometimes overlapping objects three-dimensionally. A pick & place robot accurately picks these components up (“bin picking”) and places them on the intelligent Transmodul transport robot, which carries the components to the filling station. After loading, a check is carried out to ensure that all the bottles are the correct weight. The containers are then closed, labelled and printed. The newly developed labelling unit, which is fully integrated into the packaging machine, can either apply a label to the front and back, or a 360° label. The outer carton is erected and loaded with the products in a single working step. Without a single external interface, the finished pallet of packed products is ready for dispatch at the end of the highly efficient line.

Each time the robot is engaged, the new 3D camera system identifies the fed-in components three-dimensionally and calculates the position and orientation of the next product to be picked up.

3D-printed format changeover parts minimise delivery time

Impressively, a complete format changeover can be carried out on this full line in under twelve minutes. Almost every format changeover part comes from the 3D printer and can be supplied within two weeks. In the not too distant future, it will even be possible to print them on site. With this new Schubert packaging line, cosmetics manufacturers can respond to current trends with high-level agility. Fast market launches can be carried out simply and efficiently on a single machine.

The closing station size parts are 3D-printed and can be interchanged quickly and easily to suit the shape of the cap being applied.