Based in Torrington, CT, systems integrator Plastimation has been designing and building robotic automation systems for more than a decade. The company’s portfolio ranges from simple projects, such as a machine-tending application in which a cobot unloads stacks of plastic lids from a molding machine, to complex ones, such as an automated line in which four robots assemble and test a medical device.

Plastimation also offers its own line of flexible robotic feeding systems. The company’s flex feeder employs two conveyors at right angles to each other. An operator loads parts into a hopper. An inclined conveyor with a cleated belt transfers parts from the hopper into a chute, which scatters them onto a backlit conveyor. There, a vision-guided robot picks parts one at a time. Parts that are not picked fall into a second chute, which deposits them back into the hopper.

The conveyors are every bit as important to the performance of the system as the robot and the vision system. That’s why Plastimation chose GUF-P 2000 low-profile belt conveyors from mk North America Inc. Just 50 millimeters tall, the conveyor is available in widths of 50 to 300 millimeters (in 50-millimeter increments) or 300 to 800 millimeters (in 100-millimeter increments). Length can range from 310 to 10,000 millimeters. Conveyor speed can be constant or variable and tops out at 500 feet per minute. The conveyor can carry a maximum load of 300 pounds.

A variety of belts are available, including smooth, tacky, textured, anti-static, food grade and cleated. Accessories include side rails and supports.

For the flex feeder project, Plastimation chose a cleated belt for the hopper and a white, translucent belt for the back-lit conveyor, which is illuminated with an LED light panel. (For dark colored parts, the back-lit conveyor is replaced by a light blue belt.)

Since the conveyors are built from T-slotted aluminum extrusions, it was easy to integrate them into the rest of the machine, which is also constructed of T-slotted aluminum extrusions from mk.

The load-bearing portions of the machine’s support frame were constructed using mk’s 80-millimeter-square heavy profiles, whereas the guarding portions of the frame use 40-millimeter-square profiles. The guarding panels are clear polycarbonate, which included cut-outs for the chutes to pass through. Several swinging doors are also included in the design. The entire machine is mounted on heavy-duty, high-performance casters, so it can be moved to other locations in an assembly plant.

For more information on flexible feeders and automated assembly systems, call Plastimation at 860-806-4311 or visit

For more information on conveyors, call mk North America at 860-769-5500 or visit