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Retail pressure spurs confectioners and bakers to invest in robots, says Tek Pak

By Jane Byrne , 04-Feb-2011

Downward price pressure from the leading retailers is spurring investment by bakery and confectionery manufacturers in robotic packaging systems, said Tek Pak as it releases a new pick and place system designed to give throughput a veritable shot in the arm.

Ireland based robotics manufacturer Tek Pak said that its newly configured robot cell for delicate product handling was designed for a bakery and confectionery brand owner who had determined that robotic loading would give it the high speeds required for a new product launch.

“The processor in question needed a significant gain in efficiencies at the packing end in order to guarantee a profit while meeting retailers demand on lower pricing,” said Imelda Kehoe, quality manager at the Co. Wexford located technology supplier.

She said that the Packman Vision cell brings fully integrated logic, motion and vision control for delicate product handling.

“The fact that the cell is constructed out of stainless steel and not the industry standard of carbon fibre makes it ideal for those industries and also enables washdown to ensure manufacturers meet strict hygiene standards,” said Kehoe.

Successful trials were conducted in house, continued the quality manager, on products as diverse as poppadoms and meringues. The testing on the Packman Vision system also showed that it can be used effectively with cereal and chocolate bars, wrapped or unwrapped, she added.

While ultimately developed for high speed and high volume operations, Kehoe told BakeryandSnacks.com that the pick and place system could potentially bring a return of investment (ROI) of only a year for smaller sized bakers and confectioners due to the massively increased throughput and lower packaging costs.

She said that the system can handle multiple tray size variations and differs from existing technology that is forced to stop to allow pick and place of products:

The Tek Pak system can place moving objects from one moving position onto another such as a conveyor belt by using data from cameras to compensate for natural track variations. And it has an accuracy level in terms of pick and place of 0.1mm,” explained Kehoe, who added that this is an essential component of the higher throughput gains for manufacturers switching to the cell technology.

It also sends management information to client networks and is enabled for remote maintenance. There is additional vision verification after the pick and place motion, said the quality manager, to ensure all cartons or trays are complete and any anomalies are detected and rejected.

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