The food industry is one of the biggest growth markets of the automation sector. Regardless of whether manufacturing of food, primary or secondary packaging, automation is the trend. At AUTOMATICA from June 3 to 6, exhibitors are going to present the latest developments and pioneering solutions for efficient and controlled, safe production methods for food.
A look at the numerously implemented projects shows how far automation has progressed in the food sector. Robots milk cows, slice cheese, sort bakery goods, pack lettuce, palletize beverages – to put it short, there is hardly any process that can be imagined without them. Regardless of whether bakery goods, pasta, confectionery, meat, fish, dairy products, frozen food, fruit and vegetables, whether filling, dosing, cutting, labeling or during picking, packing and palletizing, automated solutions ensure output and savings.
The innovative force and dynamics of the industry are surprising in this respect. The comparison of state-of-the-art systems, which have already been in operation for several years, with that of current high-performance lines, as they can be seen at AUTOMATICA, make it clear: significant improvements have been achieved in all relevant criteria such as cycle times, availability and energy efficiency thanks to development work. Delta robot kinematics and ultrafast pickers score with more than 200 picks per minute. Modern production lines achieve output that was considered inconceivable only a few years ago.
100,000 units per hour
In the Dutch Bavaria brewery, a combined system of 10 Motoman robots handles picking, packing and palletizing of approx. 100,000 beer cans in one hour. Dirk Franken, Managing Director of the system integrator Robertpack stated about this: «At this output, the system has to handle approx. 80 different variants – all of them with retrofitting expenses of almost zero. Such solutions can only be achieved with consistent use of robots.»
Modern food lines are catching up in performance with those of the beverage industry, proved by a packaging system from ASA GmbH for hot dog buns. There are almost exactly 100,000 units per hour there too, which are packed via four production lines, all equipped with Fanuc robots. ASA Managing Director Mario Krämer is filled with enthusiasm about the performance of the newest robot generations: «The robot manufacturers did their homework. Robot solutions available today handle many requirements of the food industry.»
Manfred Hübschmann, Managing Director of Stäubli Robotics, can underscore that: «Only thanks to pioneering developments in robotics has automation of food applications employing the strictest hygiene standards become possible at all. The introduction of the completely encapsulated Stäubli six-axis robot in HE design was a genuine milestone here. These machines cope optimally with the prescribed cleaning processes in the food industry, while conventional robots would fail immediately during cleaning with strong water jets. We are going to exhibit additional innovations for the food sector at AUTOMATICA.»
The right robot for every application
Most robot manufacturers can look back on many years of experience in the food sector and have scara, articulated arm and special robot kinematics in their product range, which do justice to specific industry requirements. The largest range of machines offers is for the wide-ranging spectrum of secondary packaging and uses, in which robots do not come directly into contact with food.
«Kuka Roboter has also been successful in the area of end-of-line palletizing for quite some time and is one of the key players in the market with a large product range for palletization applications,» according to Joachim Melis, Market Division Manager for Consumer Goods at Kuka Roboter GmbH. «However, because the need for flexible, robot-supported automation is also increasingly continually in other food applications, Kuka has added staff in this area and plans to cultivate the market strategically. The goal is to automate applications in the areas of cartonizing, loading and unloading of packaging machines as well as primary packaging using Kuka robots in addition to conventional palletization.»
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