Case Studies Of Industrial Robots

Robots in action can be found everywhere. Robot Manufacturers give examples of robot applications in different industries.

FANUC Robotics Europe, Luxembourg - IFR-Partner

Robots boost cheese productivity

"There are many positives about the systems we have installed but what we like about the robots is that we seem to keep learning about different functions and ways they can be used effectively. We were especially impressed by the speed of one robot, where other suppliers offered us two robots for the same amount of work. When we were looking to invest in robots we were shown a demonstration of the FANUC robot at DERO BV's premises. We were impressed by the speed and this helped to convince us that robots were the way ahead."

Speeding up production is not something commonly associated with cheese manufacture - its very nature is that it should take time to mature for ultimate flavor. However, when production output is 350,000 tons per year, maximizing the efficiency of packaging becomes a core issue. This is the case for Friesland Foods Cheese, one of Holland's longest established producers of cheese. KH de Jong, part of Friesland Foods Cheese, and one of four Friesland packaging facilities in Holland, use FANUC Robotics robots on three packaging lines. Over 350 tons of Edam, a traditional ball shape cheese produced in three sizes of 1.9 Kg, 1.7 KG or 0.9 KG, is packaged per week.

Delivered to the facility on trays carried in transportation racks, the cheeses are allowed to mature before the packaging process begins. Each tray has capacity for 35 cheeses and ten trays are carried in each rack. When cheeses have reached the specified maturing stage the rack is delivered to a buffer area at the start of the packaging line. The buffer area has capacity for five full and five empty racks and automatically shuttles them into the de-palletising area. A FANUC Robotics R-2000iB takes one full tray from the rack and places it onto a fixture where it then uses seven vacuum cups to locate a complete line of cheeses. The cheeses are then accurately placed onto a conveyor with individual locations for each cheese. Empty trays are then returned to the rack and the process begins again.

FANUC Robotics R-2000iB uses seven vacuum cups to locate a complete line of cheesesFANUC Robotics R-2000iB places cheeses accurately onto a conveyor

Christiaan Hallers, Project Manager, KH de Jong, explains. "The first stage ensures the racks are always positioned correctly for de-palletising prior to being coated in the paraffin wax machine. This process relies on several intelligent features of the FANUC Robotics controller to ensure effective operation. Collision detection is very important when removing the tray from the rack. As the racks are used to transport the cheeses from factory to factory they can get damaged and we need to detect any indication of a stuck tray. "Bernard Bakker, head of the Technical Department explains: "The torque of the robot's motors is continually monitored and any increase above expected torque within a program is sensed and the robot stops instantly." Other features include being able to sense that all cheeses have been picked up with the vacuum grippers - if a cheese is left on the tray the robot is aware and returns the tray to the rack slowly to avoid dropping the cheese. Also as the cheeses are not a uniform 'ball shape' the robot is able to perform a 'human like' wrist roll motion over the cheese to ensure a good contact is made with the vacuum gripper. This roll motion also ensures cheeses do not stick to the tray."

Sensors on the conveyor provide a count to the robot to indicate the next available position to deposit the seven cheeses - this ensures the conveyor is kept full. The conveyor transfers the cheese to a paraffin wax coating machine that produces the familiar Edam colored protective coat. After coating and in most cases wrapping in cellophane and labeling, the conveyor delivers the cheese to a FANUC Robotics M-710iC robot which has a specially engineered gripper with six individual pneumatically operated 'finger type' grippers. Picking up three cheeses and rotating 180º to pick up another three the robot then places the six cheeses into a freshly erected box. Rotating through 180º ensures that the labels are always positioned towards the outside of the box to avoid damage from contacting the top edge of the cartons internal separator.

FANUC Robotics M-710iC robot picks cheesesFANUC Robotics M-410i palletising robot

Full boxes are released from the loading area and proceed to a FANUC Robotics M-410i palletising robot at the end of the line. Christiaan, continues, "Using the M-710iC robot for the process of placing the cheeses in the box has helped greatly - in particular the robot is able to change its own gripper which weighs 40Kgs. This was previously a two person job and took a lot more time." The line has made a significant impact on productivity at KH de Jong and labor cost has been driven down. Christiaan explains, "We operate two shifts and labor cost savings equate to 500 hours per week, in addition productivity has increased by at least 10%. The system has provided us with a maximum capacity of 3,600 cheeses per hour per line. Handling the trays was a potential injury risk area as the metal trays can get damaged and arrive with sharp edges. Also quality has improved and, as the cheese is no longer handled manually, hygiene is maintained."

The implementation of robots into the KH de Jong facility has been well received by the workforce. Management ensured that employees were involved and kept aware of the importance of remaining competitive by improving quality, productivity and reducing costs. Overall the robots are well liked by employees who no longer have to carry out what they thought was an annoying packaging task. Christiaan concludes, "There are many positives about the systems we have installed but what we like about the robots is that we seem to keep learning about different functions and ways they can be used effectively. Following a demonstration we were especially impressed by the speed of one robot, where other suppliers offered us two robots for the same amount of work."

 

AT A GLANCE

  • KH de Jong packages over 350 tons of Edam cheese per week
  • FANUC Robotics robots used on packaging lines to handle cheese
  • Handling requires intelligence to overcome inconsistency of
    product shape and also occasional sticking tray problems
  • FANUC Robotics intelligent controller used to control system
    and ensure inconsistencies are detected and overcome
  • Quality of product has improved and hygiene is
    maintained as cheese is no longer handled manually
  • Employee involvement at all stages of robot implementation
    has maintained their interest and support
  • Labor cost savings equate to 500 hours per week
    and productivity has increased by 10%
  • Robots have provided a maximum capacity of
    3,600 cheeses per hour per line

 

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