Gantry robots, a type of Cartesian robot, are used across thousands of industries across North America for a variety of tasks including welding and machining, injection modeling, and material handling. At warehouse distribution centers, gantry robots help process 600,000 cases of product per week for grocery stores across the US. These palletizing Gantry robots (palletizers) analyze, grab, and stack the product efficiently on pallets to be wrapped.

Each palletizer can process 500-600 pallets/hour. If a palletizer goes down. the distribution center must pull manual workers from different areas of the plant to fulfill the orders. The financial stress is likely equivalent to $7,200,000 per failure.

When a gearbox fails, the gearbox tears apart and brings the vertical arm with it. The robot does not recognize this failure and continues without the proper parts, damaging the head- the most expensive part of the machine. This leads to $10k-20k in damages to parts, plus labor, plus 12+ hours of downtime. Especially during this crisis, when packages full of groceries are essential to get out the door in a timely manner, companies cannot afford palletizer failures.



Determining the root cause of the gearbox failures on the palletizer is challenging. The gearbox has sporadic movements that make traditional monitoring (especially route) less useful in pinpointing specific faults. Since the movements are intermittent and in three axes, traditional monitoring (especially route) is less useful for pinpointing specific faults.

In addition, the customization of this machine for palletizing makes it difficult to troubleshoot using existing tribal knowledge since knowledge of failure modes is limited.There has previously been no way to correlate product weight, pneumatic flow, machine speed, vibration, and temperature. Other vibration monitoring techniques have failed at providing actionable data, due to the intermittent nature of this machine.


Each axis rides on two linear rails that have linear bearings, which are not currently monitored. Looseness here causes the axis to displace further than expected, often leading the head to crash into the conveyor.


If incorrect flow is sent to the gripper, the palletizer improperly picks up the case, and product becomes damaged. These failures create the need to lower the speed of the system, which drastically cuts output. 


To perform maintenance, the entire gearbox must be removed and disassembled to purge and replace oil. Often, catastrophic gearbox failures occur due to metal shavings in the oil, which cause severe wear on the pinion gear.


The palletizer runs at a consistent speed under ideal conditions, however, if there are inconsistences that occur in the process, that speed must be changed to compensate. Regardless of weight, all gearboxes work at the same torque/speed at which they are set for operation and may be experiencing increased load while picking up heavier objects.


KCF Technologies’ IoT Hub uniquely addresses the needs of a palletizer. It includes a multi-sensor solution with wired sensors on the key vulnerable mechanical points, and transfers data wirelessly to a KCF Base Station.  The data acquisition is triggered through connection to the robot controls on the palletizer, so that measurements are synchronized with known operation cycles, giving the ability to determine intervals of lubrication needed, track wear on the gearbox, and correlate pneumatic flow with vertical lift. Consistent measurements are obtained which enable far more accurate monitoring, diagnosis, and action.  This includes validating that current maintenance is performed correctly.

When correctly implemented, IoT Hub enables the operator and maintenance team to detect developing problems and take planned and structured action to mitigate developing conditions.  Proactive scheduled maintenance and repair is much safer and more effective.  Over time, KCF Technologies will work with the operators and maintenance teams to identify sources of degradation and help reduce damage and extend component life.   This state-of-the-art monitoring solution will also enable fact-based system improvement development and validation of system and operational changes.


The Hub sensors are located precisely on the system components that are identified as most problematic. KCF Sentry analysts begin with the standard vulnerabilities and work with the operations and maintenance team to tailor it to the individual application.


KCF personnel work with the operations team to suggest changes that reduce the damage and risk factor.  These can include changes to the start-stop controls, speeds, and other factors.  Over time, the real-time monitoring data can be programmed to feed information directly to the system controls, enable automatic system improvement.


The Hub can be used to take measurements at certain points during the process cycle using triggering. By collecting pneumatic flow data, it could be correlated with speed and vibration to determine intermittent and catastrophic failures and help plan maintenance actions.



All machines and processes change over time and are subject to variability in maintenance, wear, and operational variability.  The Sentry team from KCF works with the operations and maintenance team to adapt the solution, constantly learning of new vulnerabilities and changing the data acquisition and sensor configuration to enable continuous improvement.


Based on new information, KCF Sentry analysts can perform training to the maintenance team and provide guidance regarding best practices for operation and maintenance to extend system life.

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