Stacked to Compete

How a cloud-based software upgrade boosted cobot palletizing performance


Manual palletizing is one of the most labor-intensive jobs on the warehouse or manufacturing floor, making it a prime target for automation dollars. As a result, palletizing is one of the fastest-growing applications for collaborative robots, or cobots. Today, companies of all sizes are deploying cobot-based palletizers to address labor shortages, improve ergonomics and boost palletizing performance.

Nortura has three UR cobot palletizers installed by robotics integrator Rocketfarm.

But what about early cobot adopters? Are they destined to be left behind by competitors that invest in the “latest and greatest” cobot palletizing technologies? Not at all. In fact, as Norwegian company Nortura discovered, simply retrofitting new software can turn legacy cobot palletizers into leading-edge systems.

Cobot experience

Nortura’s journey with cobot palletizers began back in 2015 when the company installed a cobot palletizer developed by Norwegian robotics integrator Rocketfarm AS – becoming Rocketfarm’s first customer in the process.

“We thought palletizing would be a simple task and gave Nortura a really good quote,” says Halvor Gregusson, founder of Rocketfarm and project manager for the Nortura installation. “Once we got into the development, we learned that palletizing is by no standards an easy task.”

Typical robot palletizers require a large, fixed cell with safety caging that takes up extensive floor space. Nortura wanted to be able to palletize continuously without stopping the production line, but needed the flexibility of using the space for other processes when there were no pallets in place.

Pally software features digital twin functionality that allows palletizing setups to be tested and verified within 60 min. before installation, which slashes engineering costs and deployment downtime.

With a limited budget, Nortura also needed a cost-effective 6-axis robot that had the required range and payload capacity to stack boxes of different sizes and weights at different heights on a pallet. The robot also needed to be flexible and easy to program to work with the vision system and reliable enough to run with minimal supervision.

To solve these challenges while remaining within the required footprint, Rocketfarm customized a vision system to work with Universal Robots’ UR10 cobot. The system’s IFM O2D222 vision camera is mounted in the ceiling above the cobot. The cobot itself is mounted below on a narrow stand and equipped with a Unigripper SMS 80-200 vacuum gripper.

When in standby mode, the cobot’s footprint is a mere 0.5 sq. m. Its working area is a painted space on the floor, which marks where operators place an empty pallet.

“We used maybe 10 to 20 percent of the space that a traditional robot would have required,” explains Lars Bårdgard Åstveit, developer at Rocketfarm. “When there’s no pallet there, the space is free – it’s as if the palletizing system doesn’t exist.”

When a free pallet is placed on the floor, the vision system automatically detects it as well as boxes moving on the conveyor belt and automatically begins palletizing. “No one has to tell the cobot, ‘there’s a box here now, go palletize it.’ The system just sees it and starts palletizing,” Åstveit adds.

The 6-axis UR10 cobot’s program can be easily customized to stack different-sized boxes in the pattern that the customer requires, such as turning boxes so that the box labels are visible on all sides of the pallet. The cobot can stack an average of 20 pallets or 1,700 boxes per day.

Firm foundations

Rocketfarm’s quote for the project was “definitely not very profitable,” according to Gregusson. But it laid the foundation for both future business and future technology development.

Pally software enables advanced setups, such as palletizing boxes received from a moving conveyor belt. This capability was showcased at Automate 2023 with UR+ partner Columbia/Okura’s miniPAL, a mobile palletizing solution powered by the UR10e cobot arm

After just one year of experiencing the ergonomic, production and economic benefits of its cobot palletizer, Nortura invested in two additional cobot palletizers of the same type in order to automate more palletizing operations.

That first deployment also laid the foundation for Rocketfarm’s user-friendly Pally software, which has since been used across hundreds of cobot palletizing applications.

Pally is specialized software for cobot palletizing that is designed to fit a variety of palletizing projects, enabling higher pallet loads and improving palletizing cycle times. The software is UR+ certified, too, which means it’s compatible with UR cobots and is part of the UR+ ecosystem of third-party hardware and software solutions that include everything from end effectors and vision systems to specialist application software.

Pallet Builder is a no-nonsense, three-step software solution for creating palletizing stacking patterns. The process begins with the input of product information.

Pally has received some upgrades and additions since it first launched. The latest version includes digital twin functionality, the first of its kind for palletizing with UR cobots. And the software is now part of Rocketfarm’s new cloud solution called

So, when Nortura reached out to Rocketfarm to see if it was possible to update its cobot palletizers to meet increased demand, Rocketfarm was more than happy to offer an upgrade.

Added intelligence

The upgrade – which took around eight hours for each cobot – began with the installation of the latest version of UR’s Polyscope operating system. Next, the Pally software was installed. The original vision system was no longer required, so that was removed. And a decision was made to use a different gripper.

Using Rocketfarm’s Pally Pallet Builder, which laid the groundwork for, Nortura quickly created new patterns with interlocking layers to replace the shim paper routines of the old patterns, decreasing palletizing costs.

Pallet Builder is an intuitive, web-based robot programming tool that allows users to create pallet patterns in 3-D. The software automatically translates these patterns into code used to control the cobot and end effector, so as users create pallet patterns, they are also “programming” the cobot.

Nortura had been palletizing using custom coding, so this functionality would slash deployment – and redeployment – times. But it was the digital twin functionality that enabled the system’s increased performance to be proven before it was installed.’s digital twin capabilities allow integrators and manufacturers to verify whether a UR cobot palletizing setup will work for their application. Users complete a simple three-step wizard and within an hour, receive a digital twin simulation of their products being palletized from Rocketfarm’s engineering team. delivers a complete project analysis along with performance and installation data. This eliminates a lot of engineering time and enables more accurate ROI projections for cobot palletizing projects. The software also provides the ability to export live palletizing data so operators can keep an eye on the process, make sure the cobots are running smoothly and optimize their production line.

How did it turn out for Nortura, the early adopter of cobot palletizing technology? Could the company tune its legacy cobots’ performance to extract even better palletizing output?

Performance enhancements

The Pally software upgrade led to a 30 percent higher palletizing output and improved palletizing flexibility. In addition, Nortura’s engineers and operators can now easily operate the cobot on their own, including changing palletizing patterns, reducing reliance on third-party experts and helping to futureproof their cobot palletizer against changes in production.

Users at all skill levels can easily create stacking patterns using the Pally software’s intuitive 3-D graphics.

“We are investigating how to increase production output without making large investments,” says Inghild Lysne Sanden, factory manager at Nortura. “With this retrofit, we managed to increase the performance and give our cobot palletizers, which provided their return on investment many years ago, a new and better life for many more years.”

The benefits for Nortura are clear, but there’s a wider lesson for the manufacturing community here: It’s not always necessary to shell out tens of thousands for new equipment, especially on those occasions when you can provide next-generation performance on legacy equipment with just a simple software installation.


Rocketfarm AS

Universal Robots

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