Baking & Snack -june 2022 - 94

ROBOTICS IN PACKAGING
Top: End effectors
pick packaged
baked goods and
place them into
cartons.
BluePrint Automation
Bottom: New
robotic tools
gently place snack
cakes precisely
into plastic trays
on high-speed
production lines.
Apex Automation
like croissants and rolls require customized end effector
solutions due to their variable sizing and high degree of
crumbs or oil that can lead to maintenance requirements
that a plant may not have capacity to deal with. "
Conventional wisdom may indicate it's easier to pick
and place packaged products than unwrapped or " bare "
ones. However, Mr. Hoskins said, this is not always true.
" There are many challenging applications specific to
handling trays, cartons or cases, and we always fall back
to our testing process to mitigate risk in those applications, "
he said. " When handling bare products, the biggest
difference usually is in the sanitary design of the
overall system. "
Mr. Pang stated that trays, cartons and cases can limit
a robot's range of motion.
" Some end effectors require clearance to release their
grip on the product, which may be restricted within a
packing container, " he observed. " If a particular pack
pattern is needed, that will change the range of motion.
That determines the grip required, which then dictates
the type of tool needed. "
Alex Kuperman, CEO of ABI Ltd., recommended
a thorough analysis to determine the best robot and
EOAT for handling baked goods at high throughput
rates. Sometimes, that can be a challenge.
" We frequently deal with products that are hot, sticky
or delicate, and they require a thoughtful approach, " he
said. " How do we uphold product integrity while maintaining
a proper grip on it to execute an action at the
correct speed? "
Primary and secondary packaging also impact the
type of EOAT.
" Usually when unpackaged products are handled, the
end effector tends to be a soft grip with multiple fingerlike
grips that pick up the product in the same way a
human would pick it up, " said Jamie Bobyk, marketing
manager, Apex Motion Control. " Another example
of primary packaging is removing baked muffins from
muffin tins with an end effector equipped with tiny
needles that are gently inserted into the muffin, and the
muffins are then lifted from the pan and placed into
clamshells and released into the individual pockets of
the clamshell. "
He said a single head equipped with multiple aircontrolled
suction cups will then lift packaged bread or
clamshells with muffins from a conveyor and place them
into preformed boxes.
Mr. Buckley said some end effectors require customization
to properly package certain items.
" If loading a plastic tray, the position where the products
are to be placed may be a tight-fitting pocket within
the tray, so the end effector needs to be designed to keep
the product very stable for proper positioning or to allow
the tool to fit down inside the pocket if products are
to be stacked inside the pockets, " he explained. " With
carton or case loading, generally the fit of the product is
a bit looser and doesn't require as much customization. "
In the future, Mr. Watson said, look for further advances
in technology, ranging from safer collaborative
robots (cobots) to greater smart systems that learn while
they work. It's a far cry from when he first started working
with robotics some 30 years ago, he explained.
" Just think of AI technology and adaptive robotics
working right alongside humans without cages and
other protective measures around them, " he said. " We're
going to see more of that in the coming years as they
become more readily available. That's going to open an
entirely new opportunity for automation for generations
to come. "
94 Baking & Snack June 2022 / www.bakingbusiness.com
*
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Baking & Snack -june 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Baking & Snack -june 2022

Baking & Snack -june 2022 - Intro
Baking & Snack -june 2022 - 1
Baking & Snack -june 2022 - 2
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