CKF Systems utilised ABB high speed robots to help a customer pick and pack snack product...
One of the UK’s largest food manufacturers found its decade-old picking line had begun to experience reliability issues caused by various hardware and software problems.
After one software issue that cost the company a substantial sum due to lost production, the decision was made in late 2017 to replace the line with a new and upgraded alternative
The previously installed robotic picking line relied on older versions of ABB’s FlexPicker, the IRB340.
CKF were commissioned to install a robotic picking system featuring ABB FlexPicker IRB360 robots and PickMaster vision.
With production going into tens of thousands per day, the client was keen to minimise the time needed to get the new system installed and operational. For this reason, CKF had just 15 days to install, test and commission the complete system prior to the picking process resuming.
This posed a tough challenge for CKF’s team. “Obviously, you always want to try to get as much time as possible for projects like these, especially where you’ve got a fragile product, which presents a high risk of breakage,” explains Elliott Grice, project engineer for CKF Systems.
“The fact that we had planned everything in advance and devoted extra resources to the install, helped ensure that the system was able to be installed, tested and made operational in time.”
CKF Systems installed four picking cells using ABB IRB 360 FlexPicker robots with new controllers and ABB’s PickMaster 3 vision system. Together, this equipment ensures the product is carefully and accurately picked and arranged into stacks, ready for packing and dispatch to the nation’s supermarket shelves.
Since it started operating in 2019, the new system has delivered accurate, high-speed performance.
Robots handle up to 400 picks per minute, enabling the customer to produce a throughput of 250,000 per day
With two IRB 360 FlexPicker robots on either side of the conveyor, the product is sucked into vacuum pods on the end of each robot arm, which retain them until a stack of four has been achieved. The position of each product is detected by the PickMaster software, which accurately identifies their location on the conveyor belt.
When a stack has been collected, the robots deposit them on to separate conveyors that run to the packing line. From here they are combined into a stack of eight before being manually packed into plastic trays which are then sealed and sent for dispatch.
To help minimise the risk of breakage and consequent wastage during the picking process, CKF Systems carefully fine-tuned the timing of the suction tool to ensure cycle time was as short as possible for the FlexPicker’s vacuum pods. The PickMaster vision system is also programmed to reject any product that does not meet the correct size and shape specification, or which are overlapping and may not be cooked properly.
Running 24 hours Sunday to Friday, the FlexPicker robots handle up to 400 picks per minute, enabling the customer to produce a throughput of 250,000 per day.
The client said that without using robots, it would be have been impossible to keep production going on the scale achieved.