Jantz Canada was approached by The Meat Factory to design and build a custom insertion machine for absorbent pads for meat trays. These are the pads used to absorb the unwanted liquid from the meat.
The new automated solution was intended to replace the current manual operation which took a minimum of one dedicated employee.
After viewing the customer’s needs and production facility it was decided that the optimal solution would be an automated pick and place robot.
This project came with many design challenges:
- The finished machine was required to deliver the pads at a rate of (300?) per minute
- The machine had to meet NEMA 4 specifications. This meant that it had to provide a degree of protection to personnel against incidental contact with the enclosed equipment and had to provide a degree of protection against falling dirt, windblown dust, splashing water, and hose-directed water.
- It had to be designed with sanitary concerns in mind. Since the machine was in a meat processing environment ease of cleaning and minimizing possible bacteria traps was essential.
- There was minimal space available so the footprint of the overall machine needed to be kept as small as possible.
- The finished machine would be a confined space so deliver the pads from a magazine, placing them on the trays and then indexing them would be a challenge.
- The system supplying the vacuum to pick up the pads needed to be sanitary so as not to contaminate the pads.
- The system had to have a user friendly HMI to allow for ease of use for the line operators.
- The system needed to communicate with other machinery in the facility in order to match existing cycle times
To meet the speed requirements we designed the pick and place with a three station magazine to hold the pads. The pads came from the manufacturer in bulk boxes. In the only manual part of the operation the pads would be removed from the boxes and hand loaded into the magazines. From there the entire process would be automated.
The machine was designed with a cantilevered robotic arm with three vacuum generators to coincide with each of the magazines. The cycle began with the robotic arm picking one pad from each of the magazines and then placing them on a platen. The platen which was mounted on a linear rail would then deliver the three pads to a 90 degree transfer linear rail. A second set of vacuum generators would then pick up the pads and place them in the corresponding meat trays.
One of the challenges encountered during the build of this machine was with the vacuum heads themselves. The nature of every vacuum arrangement is to draw any available contaminants through the system. Due to the harsh wet wash down environment and the nature of the pads themselves the standard system provided inconsistent results. Since it was critical to the success of this project to not miss any pads during the initial picking process we looked at and tested potential alternate solutions. We achieved success with a venturi style vacuum head that used positive air pressure to generate the vacuum. The positive pressure made the entire system self cleaning and generated the consistant results that we were looking for.
The finished machine not only reduced the customers manual labour substantially but provided a predictable sanitary environment in which manual handling of the pads was virtually eliminated.
Jantz Canada centrally located in Southern Ontario Canada is your solution provider for sanitary packaging machinery, conveyors, robotic palletizers and structural work.