Test Tube Tray Flipper - Custom Conveyor Solution - AEC in Charlotte NC

Tray Flipper Solution With Over/Under Conveyor

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Industry: Pharmaceutical Distribution Center in Sumter, South Carolina

Challenge: Flipping EPS trays upright for holding test tubes

Solution: An over/under conveyor system with a simple guide to flip trays

Product: Tray Inverter by SpanTech

A medical technology company in Sumter, South Carolina, which AEC partners with to provide unique automation solutions, is doing some pretty amazing work. Focusing on patient and healthcare worker safety and innovative medical research, they have clinical laboratories dedicated to enhancing the diagnosis of infectious diseases and cancer, improving medication management, promoting infection prevention, diabetes management, and furthering advancements in equipment for surgical and interventional procedures.

In short, they’re a big company with unmeasurable moving parts. And Darin Boik, of AEC, was brought in to devise a custom solution for flipping test tube trays.

Upside Down Trays Produce A Flipping Problem

As part of an automated system within the web of activity going on under such a big roof, our pharma friend was having a problem with the placement of some EPS (expanded polystyrene) test tube trays.

These trays arrive in cartons packed upside down. Packed that way because the tops of the trays are filled with holes to hold test tubes. The bottoms, however, are flat, smooth and perfect for the robotic arm to produce the suction needed to pick the trays up and place them on the conveyor for the assembly process.

This part of the process works perfectly. The problem, however, was how to get the trays flipped/inverted for the rest of the automated process of loading them.

Custom Designed Tray Flipper Solution

Our friends set up a creative – but inconsistent – method for flipping the trays using rails and air nozzles. While it technically worked, it was not fast or reliable and in an automated system, every part has to do its job consistently or the entire system breaks down and time – as well as money – is lost.

Enter Boik and his 20-plus years of experience in material handling. “I had no doubt we would find an innovative, reliable answer for this problem.”

Darin Boik presented the perfect solution: an over/under conveyor system with a simple guide at the end of the top conveyor. This guide allows the trays to flip over leaving them right side up on the bottom conveyor.

“Over/under conveyors are commonly used to handle a variety of products,” said Boik. “The solution is applied to 2 different tray types feeding 3 lines, marrying the tubes with the trays, and sending them on to packing.”

Optimized Results:

Our pharmaceutical partners are very pleased with this simple and reliable solution for flipping trays. It increased speed and consistency on the assembly line – and continues to smoothly and consistently manage the process.


About the author

Darin Boik has been a material handling expert with Advanced Equipment Company (AEC) since 2004. With over two decades of combined experience in the industry, he uses his electrical engineering background with his extensive knowledge of system applications to bring creative solutions to challenging problems. Contact Darin with any questions and connect with Darin on LinkedIn.