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Key Technology introduces new systems for robotic pick-and-place packaging

Duravant-owned Key Technology, a global player in advanced automation systems for food processing, has unveiled its new vibratory conveying system for robotic pick-and-place packaging. Each series of integrated conveyors can metre, separate, singulate and align products, depending on the application, providing “the optimal” product separation, speed and orientation for ideal presentation to the robotic system for pick-up. By minimising hand packing, these new systems can help increase production efficiency, reduce labour and improve sanitation. Jack Lee, president of food sorting and handling solutions at Duravant, said: “As a food processor grows, they come to a point when hand packing has to be minimised or is no longer feasible. Manually packaging, especially 24/7 with several workers at a time, is expensive, inconsistent and can be unsanitary, plus these jobs are physically gruelling with high turnover.” He continued: “It’s a huge pain point for many of our customers – automation makes sense. The challenge is that lining up products for presentation to a pick-and-place robot requires a degree of precision that’s unusual in conveying. Drawing on our team’s deep expertise, we work closely with each processor to design the perfect solution for their specific application.” Key Technology designs, builds and tests each integrated conveying system to identify the optimal speed, stroke, lane widths and step sizes to consistently present the processor’s products to the robot’s end-of-arm tooling. The systems are suitable for primary or secondary packaging and can handle frozen foods such as potato products, meat, poultry and seafood as well as dry products like cookies, confectionery and snacks. The integrated conveying system often begins with an optional shaker or belt conveyor to metre product, if needed. Then, a separating shaker evenly spreads the product, followed by a singulating shaker that directs the product into single-file lanes. The next shaker aligns the product in the correct direction, if required, and achieves the optimal speed to feed one or more pick-and-place robots, which are installed on one or both sides of the conveyor. Products that are not picked up by the robots can either be collected in a hopper or recirculated to the beginning of this system. The vibratory conveyors are designed for sanitation with stainless-steel bed surfaces, open designs and oil-free drives. When a processor automates primary packaging, sanitation is enhanced by eliminating the manual handling of unpackaged products in the packing process while reducing the chance of accidental foreign material contamination by a worker.

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