Columbia/Okura launches new collaborative robot palletizer

Aug. 1, 2023
The miniPAL+ offers improved speed and payload compared to its predecessor.

By Bruce Geiselman

Columbia/Okura has launched sales of its new miniPAL+ integrated palletizing system that uses Universal Robots’ new UR20 collaborative robot.

The miniPAL+ offers increased payload capacity, longer reach and faster palletizing abilities than the company’s current miniPAL, which uses a smaller UR10e cobot. Columbia/Okura, which displayed the original miniPAL system at Universal Robots’ booth at Automate 2023, discussed the new system at the May trade show and took preproduction orders. Columbia/Okura plans to begin shipping the new system later this year.

The UR20 robot arm on the miniPAL+ can handle a maximum lifting capacity of 44.1 pounds, as compared to  22 pounds, with the UR 10e robot arm on the original miniPAL. The miniPAL is capable of 5 to 8 picks of cases per minute depending on the robot arm pattern, according to Columbia/Okura. The new system will be faster, but the company did not provide estimates.

“We’re going to equip the solution [miniPAL+] with hard guarding [fencing] and radar,” said Parker Morris-Pinson, an inside sales representative with the Vancouver, Wash.-based Columbia/Okura. “That’s a big difference from the previous version, where it was guardless and relied on safety scanners.”

The miniPAL+ will incorporate safety scanners in addition to the radar, and they will trigger the UR20 robot arm to slow to collaborative speeds when someone enters the fenced-in area. Morris-Pinson said the additional precautions are necessary because of the increased payload and robot speed.

Use of fencing allows the miniPAL+ configuration to remain compact. Its footprint will be about 10.5 feet by 12.5 feet when working with a two-pallet configuration, according to a company spokeswoman.

The plug-and-play, 110-volt, self-contained palletizing system is capable of palletizing cases, trays, spot-packs and other packages. The UR20 robot arm on the miniPAL+ has a reach of 5.7 feet, according to Universal. The miniPAL and miniPAL+ can be set up in less than a full day.

Also at UR’s booth, software provider Rocketfarm launched, the first digital twin software developed for palletizing with UR cobots, and it was demonstrated with Columbia/Okura’s miniPAL. The cloud-based software allows integrators to quickly verify customer projects onsite. It also lets users create accurate “digital robots” that are based on the exact same hardware and software used by the physical robots. It allows companies like Columbia/Okura to validate the feasibility of a project before customers invest in the equipment.

Columbia/Okura’s new miniPAL+ and the original miniPAL come with Rocketfarm’s palletizing software, called Pally URCap, which allows easy programming of the palletizing robot.

“It makes it very easy for people to design their patterns through their PC,” said Natalie Parsons, marketing manager at Columbia/Okura. “They build it on their PC; they save it to a USB; they go plug it into the teach pendant, and the patterns are ready to be built. It's very, very seamless, very easy and very user friendly.”

“Pally would almost be akin to the brain of the miniPAL,” Morris-Pinson said.

Bruce Geiselman, senior staff reporter

[email protected]


Columbia/Okura LLC, Vancouver, Wash., 877-204 7444,

About the Author

Bruce Geiselman | Senior Staff Reporter

Senior Staff Reporter Bruce Geiselman covers extrusion, blow molding, additive manufacturing, automation and end markets including automotive and packaging. He also writes features, including In Other Words and Problem Solved, for Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing, Plastics Recycling and The Journal of Blow Molding. He has extensive experience in daily and magazine journalism.