Baking & Snack - August 2018 - 117
Advances in robotic technology provide
bakers with consistent, efficient
alternatives at the back of the line.
by Nico Roesler
People are, by nature, hard to predict. Day to day, a person's performance changes based on personal attitudes or professional
stresses. Robots, on the other hand, are as steady as the ticking
of a clock. Not only that, but they will also handle small, delicate
products the same way, each and every time. People, no matter
their level of muscle memory, do not.
For those reasons, the baking industry has seen a large push
toward automation in packaging. Whether it's a robot working
with employees or a stand-alone pick-and-place operation, the
machines gently handle miniature products before and after primary packaging. They can increase throughputs, reduce bottlenecks and generally ease the burden on employees who otherwise would have to do a very repetitive job.
Miniature matched to machine
In baking and snack plants, miniature products can slash capacity if manual packers cannot keep up with the maximum
throughput farther up the line. So, to compensate, companies reduce their pieces per hour to match packaging speeds, whether
manual or automated.
"The human arm can only operate at a specific rate for a specific length of time," said Mike Rebollo, Southwest regional sales
manager, BluePrint Automation (BPA). "Recent advancements
in end-of-arm tooling are enabling food-handling robots to pick
and place more products than ever."
Manual rates can vary, where robotics run unremittingly. BPA's
delta robotic arms can make more than 100 picks per minute
when handling miniature products over a short distance. Its robotics' rates vary based on product weight, rotations required and
distance traveled, but the accuracy and precision of the system is
hard to match. "It is not unusual to see a system maintaining a few
millimeter tolerance over many years," Mr. Rebollo said. "This becomes more important when handling small products."
Every millimeter matters when feeding unprotected products
into packaging machinery. Bill Kehrli, vice-president of sales and
Pick-and-place robotic systems can increase throughput and reduce bottlenecks in packaging.
www.bakingandsnack.com / August 2018 Baking & Snack 117