Case Study: Robot De-palletising – Custom Foam Pad Vacuum Gripper

Edwin Verhoeff, Pneumatic Products vacuum specialist, was recently called on to provide a solution for an aging, high maintenance and unreliable robotic vacuum head on a de-palletiser line.


The customer required a reliable and efficient replacement robot vacuum head to move shrink wrapped 6 pack beverage cans from pallets to a belt conveyor and to grip and move ‘Chep’ timber pallets.

The existing vacuum cup-based head was high maintenance and dropping packs was a common problem leading to production downtime.  The presence of soft drink sugar residue on the packs was also an issue to overcome.


After visiting the customer to understand the issues and requirements in person, Edwin and the Pneumatics Products vacuum specialty team worked on a comprehensive solution for the customer’s needs. 

Trials were performed and once a solution had been found, Pneumatics Products worked with the original robot integrator to establish a suitable spec for the Joulin vacuum gripper head. 

The custom Joulin foam vacuum pad gripper was designed and manufactured by Joulin and subsequently supplied to the integrator to install.  Commissioning was conducted and additional options were added to make the gripper even more resilient with the use of Joulin’s new Easyfoam (magnetically attached foam) and a PIAB-Kenos KRV reverse flow valve.  These two options allow for a robotically controlled cleaning regime to remove sugar residue from the gripper after each production run.

Result: A now reliable system and a plan for more…

The robot has proved to perform extremely well, no longer dropping packs, and is therefore a reliable system for our customer. 

The system works so well that the customer is considering a second replacement Joulin foam gripper head for the adjacent palletising robot.

Project specifications

  • De-palletising shrink wrapped 6 pack beverage cans and timber pallet handling.
  • Replacement of unreliable vacuum cup-based robot head.
  • Collaboration between End Customer, Robot integrator and Pneumatic Products.
  • High specification Joulin foam vacuum pad gripper designed, built and installed.
  • Special requirements to deal with soft drink residue on packs.
  • Custom 3 zone foam pad check valve gripper with various pack present and layer detection sensors as well as I/O controls suitable for integration directly with the existing robots control system.

Are you experiencing issues with your robotic de-palletising/palletising gripper head?  Are you considering installing a de-palletising/palletising robot and need a vacuum end effector?  If so, please call Pneumatic Products and we will work with you on a suitable head for your needs, be it a standard design or custom. Contact Edwin Verhoeff, our Industrial Vacuum Specialist.