LAC Conveyors & Automation have released to market a robotic pick and place packaging cell aimed at the fresh food industry. The cell has the flexibility to handle a complete range of film lidded trays and punnet materials. The latest cell is designed to deliver a packing rate of 120 punnets per minute and is configured to handle 500g punnet sizes of fruit (184x117x85mm) into supermarket cardboard trays (600x400x100mm).
Food industry challenges
The food industry is facing an ever-increasing challenge of obtaining skilled, seasonal labour. This is causing companies to look at the possibility of implementing automated solutions to address the issue along with associated spiralling wage costs.
LAC is well placed to help design, build and install automated solutions due to their extensive experience within the food industry. With three distinct divisions (food, manufacturing and automation) information and expertise are shared to ensure that the best possible resolutions are achieved.
Taking advantage of developments in robotic pick and place food packaging
The most recent cell has been designed around the Stäubli SCARA TS60 robot. In this case, three robots have been utilised to achieve a pick and pack rate of 120 punnets per minute. The rationale for choosing the TS60 robot is that minimal maintenance is required, and it also delivers excellent strength, speed and superior precision. The task of the Stäubli SCARA robots is to pick the punnets off the conveyor belt and place them at high-speed but without risk of damage in the cardboard crates.
Instrumental to the success of the latest application was how LAC engineers were able to develop a novel way of using the robots to slide the punnets under the strengthening web of the cardboard trays. This sliding technique and sequencing of the robotic pick and place operation allow the production line to run at optimal speeds.
By investing in a new high-speed robotic pick and place cell, the client is now enjoying a 25% increase in productivity, coupled with a reduction in line staffing requirements which are down by a quarter. These twin benefits are delivering a rapid return on investment, whilst addressing recruitment and health and safety issues including a significant reduction in repetitive manual handling tasks.
Process of the robotic pick and place system to the client
The robotic pick and place system was developed at LAC’s own factory in Nottingham, along with input and output stainless steel modular belt conveyors and a gated access modular belt conveyor.
After site installation, trial runs of the unit and staff training were conducted to ensure correct operation, set-up, and day to day maintenance of the robots could be efficiently and safely conducted. The installation did not impact on the running of the business and the line now fits in with production requirements.
The pick and place unit has proven to be easy to operate, with most issues being dealt with by the site engineer. Support is readily available from LAC should it be required, either remotely, or on-site.
LAC has an enviable reputation of being able to develop solutions that are both cost-effective and fit for purpose. Working across the food industry, manufacturing and automation sectors, LAC have built a team of over 100 highly skilled design engineers and welder/fabricators who are based at their 55 thousand square feet production premises in Nottingham.