Wrap, load the robotic way

January 29, 2014

7 Min Read
Wrap, load the robotic way

Years ago in the heart of Las Vegas, a young chef began his culinary career cooking in hotel kitchens. Somewhere between the bright lights of the strip and flipping eggs on the graveyard shift, he decided on a career change that would better suit his culinary education. So, he cashed in his chips for a small muffin shop, where he began creating healthy-style baked goods for athletic clubs around town. Business was good, and soon customers called to request personal shipments of the chef's specialty health bar made of oats, raisins and honey. What followed was success greater than he could have imagined.

Jay Littman, head chef of Chef Jay's Food Products, recently upgraded from his muffin shop to a modern, 50,000-sq-ft facility. In this new location, Littman and his staff manufacture Tri-O-PlexTM super-protein bars, a variation of his original health bar. Unlike many of the other health bars on the market, Tri-O-Plex bars are more than a trumped-up candy bar loaded with sugar, claims the company. The bars are high in protein and fiber and are made with real whole-grain foods. The company now produces 13 different flavors for health-conscious consumers, the body-building community and international suppliers.

Growing production demands and a facility expansion led the company to implement more-efficient packaging machinery to replace its manual processes. Littman chose to partner with Doboy, Inc., a Bosch Packaging Technology co. (www.doboy.com) for his production needs based on a longtime relationship with Jim Neville, president of Nevco, Ltd. (714/535-0334) , a sales agency for Doboy packaging machines. Doboy has been manufacturing and selling packaging machines since 1946. "The company's quality of equipment and commitment to service was the reason for my investment," Littman says. "Doboy really stands by its name. Any time I have a problem, they are there to fix it." Littman adds that the final selling point was seeing the company's equipment demonstrated at a packaging-equipment road show it hosted. "Doboy could address all of my packaging concerns. They had everything I needed, from the horizontal wrapper, the carton former and the carton closer to the robotic handling to place the soft, pliable bar into the wrapper, as well as to load the bar into the carton once it is wrapped. Since I was working with one supplier for all of my packaging equipment, my time was spent more efficiently dealing with all of the other aspects of getting a new facility up and running. Doboy even helped me to communicate more effectively with the supplier of the processing machines to make sure that handing of the bars from the extruder onto the conveyor of the robot is seamless."

Once the bars are extruded, they are conveyed to Doboy's robotic Delfi feed placer. Doboy engineers configured the Delfi feed placer with three robotic arms and an advanced vision-tracking capability to pick and place the bars efficiently. Currently, the protein bars are picked and placed at 200 bars/min, although the Delfi reac hes speeds of up to 400 bars/min, which allows for the growth potential that Littman has planned for the business' future.

The protein bars come to the Delfi feed placer in a dense, random order and orientation, and the advanced vision system eliminates the need to space the rows of product as required by most traditional systems, which often require more floorspace. Designed for delicate product handling, the Delfi's vacuum-cup end effectors consistently pick up and place the protein bars directly into the moving lug chain of the wrapper, utilizing the advanced tracking system. Quite an accomplishment, Littman reports, regarding the capability of the robot and consistency of the bars. "Given the bars' stickiness, I am pleased with the accuracy of the product handling, plus the ease of changing between products and the minimal amount of cleaning necessary to maintain the equipment," he says.

From the Delfi robot, the bars are fed to a Doboy Linium 301 horizontal flowwrapper. "The flexibility of the Linium 301 wrapper and the Delfi feed placer provides the type of automation we needed," says Littman. Doboy's Linium 301 wrapper is a rotary-head, horizontal wrapper that offers the option of manual, semi-automatic or fully automatic feeding. The Linium 301's servo-driven infeed conveyor interfaces with the Delfi feed placer to provide variable speed based on product flow, and provides proper placement with incredible accuracy. The equipment also can accommodate multiple products that include 13 flavors of bars and two bar sizes—one standard size and one that is 50-percent smaller. "Definitely designed into the machinery to provide ease of operation, the changeover of both the Delfi feed placer and the Linium 301 is straightforward. It truly meets our needs for flexibility," says Littman.

Wrapped bars are conveyed to a top-loading Doboy Model 7520 carton/tray former that utilizes dual-forming heads. The unit forms two cartons at one time, while its independent shuttle motion ensures accurate glue placement. An automatic carton-demand photoeye monitors the backlog of formed cartons to provide the precise carton flow necessary, based on upstream demands. With the current production line, the cartons flow in one direction. As the product line grows, the option to form two cartons that could travel in opposite directions would permit service to two separate production lines.

The formed cartons travel to a Doboy Presto top loader, where they are filled with rows and layers of wrapped bars. The Presto top loader also uses vacuum-cup end effectors that pick up and place up to 400 bars/min. Advanced tracking software is capable of picking the wrapped product out of a moving collation chain and top-loading it into a moving carton. The tracking software knows the exact location of the bars and the carton throughout the pick-and-place process, so only one collation chain is required. Utilizing one collation chain also offers a smaller-footprint robot. The Presto top loader is only four-ft wide by four-ft long. "The end effector's design is unique in that it can pick up almost any kind of product and place it precisely without marring it," says Jonathon Titterton, product line manager for Doboy. "It can group products and squeeze the rows together to optimally load cartons.

To conclude the process, the filled cartons enter a Doboy 840e Tri-Seal carton closer at speeds of up to 30 cartons/min. The Doboy 840e accepts random carton flow and accurately stages the cartons prior to the glue-application process. To ensure an accurate glue pattern, a Bravura hot-melt unit from Nordson Corp. (www.nordson.com) has been integrated. The pneumatic operation uses pump-up-style vertical compression and features safety interlocks for operator protection. The 840e Tri-Seal carton closer offers quick changeover, repeatability through four preset recipes and a smaller footprint than most closers on the market.

Chef Jay's has grown into a leading supplier of high-quality bars since its origin as a little muffin shop. The Tri-O-Plex bars are now shipped to major nutrition suppliers around the nation and parts of Canada, Australia and Europe. Health-minded consumers and body builders looking for a tasty, whole-grain food may sink their teeth into Chef Jay's super protein bars. Besides being low in calories and carbohydrates, the bars are also high in fiber and protein.

The Doboy automated system has provided Littman's company with extended flexibility for multiple applications, reports a pleased Littman. "The Doboy equipment is so versatile, that we are not limited to packaging only this kind of bar, or any bar for that matter," he says. Littman adds that, in the future, he hopes to expand his line to a number of new products. Chef Jay's has already extended its brand name to include Peanut Butter RageTM protein bars and Chef Jay'sTM high-protein soup in a self-heating can. Production is already in the works for a new protein cookie.

Opportunity looks bright for Chef Jay's Food Products. In part, thanks to Doboy's packaging system, the company can now package up to 240 bars/min, more than double the output of what used to require a number of workers to manually complete. "We like the flexibility of the new Doboy line and its ability to accommodate different product shapes and sizes," Littman concludes. "This flexibility will allow us to add new product lines in the future, and we anticipate Doboy will be there with us every step of the way."

More information is available:

Doboy Inc., a Bosch Packaging Technology co., 715/246-6511. www.doboy.com

. Nevco, Ltd., 714/535-0334.

Nordson Corp., 770/497-3700. www.nordson.com.

Sign up for the Packaging Digest News & Insights newsletter.

You May Also Like