In search of developments in automation during my first day at Emballage, I watched agog the video on the Inser Robotica stand, where Pedro Martinez, commercial manager for Inser Robotica in France, talked me through what robots can do.
“They take up a smaller footprint and have greater flexibility and adaptability than alternative systems,” he explained as he pointed to the video and a robot moving to pick up a blank cardboard packaging outer, placing it in situ before stretching to pick up an accumulation of bottled products and setting them into the centre of the outer. The awaiting automated tool beneath the robot then formed the outer around the bottles ready for the same robot to pick up the completed shelf-ready pack, take it to its place on a conveyor ready for final shrink wrapping or whichever other operation was next.
The sequence can be different and the objects picked up vary, which is the inherent flexibility of a robotic-based system. When the product specifications or outer packaging dimensions change, the robot can be reprogrammed to accommodate the new standard.
“A robot is like a person and can operate like a human, giving simplicity and a far smaller footprint in plant,” said Martinez. “We build a system around a standard robot – for example, from Kawasaki – and create the solution for works for each client’s application.”
More novel solutions, reduced footprints and automation prevailed on many other stands including the Trapo stand, where the distributor was demonstrating the new spiral conveyor from Carryline in Sweden. Taking up minimum space, the Carryline spiral conveyor is available in belt widths of just 83mm p to 220mm, and can effectively move product up several metres within less than a meter of floor space at maximum speed of 45 metres per minute depending on the product, weight, infeed and outfeed etc.
“Compared to an elevator, which must detect and position each product before lifting it, the Carryline spiral conveyor offers continuous movement within the line on the same conveyor,” said Aad van Eenennaam, who confirmed this also helped save energy.
Norbert Hate, general manager of Mettler Toledo France, pointed out that its new vision system offerings, the result of Mettler Toledo’s purchase of CI-Vision a couple of years ago, can help reduce factory footprint. The FBI (fill bottle inspection)measures fill levels, cap integrity and the top of bottle quality in the one machine, while for the CV3770 brings vision inspection of labels and barcodes together with checkweighing of beverage bottles plus an automatic sub-standard product rejection mechanism all at high throughputs.
Seems like the processes of the future will continue to be more automated, faster and even smaller.
Claire Rowan is group technical editor, magazines, FoodBev Media. This is a personal blog and views expressed are her own.
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