The company bought the machines after facing an increase in orders to supply sugar, vanilla, chocolate coated, soft and crispy waffles from customers including Aldi, Lidl, Carrefour, Jumbo and other European supermarkets.
Now packs 450 waffles a minute
The M-2iA robots can pack over 150 more waffles per minute than human hands at the company’s waffle plant in Herentals, Belgium.
Geert Smolders, assistant manager, Biscuiterie Thijs, told BakeryandSnacks, with the FANUC robotic line, it has gone from packing 300 waffles a minute to 450.
“As a parallel-link robot, the ceiling-mounted M-2iA robot is both compact and dexterous. With a wrist rotation of 3,500 degrees per second, it can pick from a conveyor at extremely fast rates,” he said.
The Belgium waffles are rounded in shape with a delicate jagged edge so when they left the refrigeration unit they had a tendency to stick to one another and break.
“We have overcome this challenge with the machine’s iRVision and visual line tracking for a smoother pick and place process.”
Two-track conveyor belt
Presented randomly on a two-track conveyor belt, the robot’s vision system visually detects the exact contours of each waffle. So, each robot receives an equal load and knows which waffle to go for and where to place it on the packing line.
There is also an overhead camera which feeds information to each robot via the controller, the conveyor belt is illuminated from underneath to enhance visual product inspection.
A camera connected to the machine can transmit the volume and position of the waffles on the conveyor and divide them among the six robots.
John Greymans, is the owner of the Dutch company that commissioned and installed the line.
“We created a customised software technology whereby the robots communicate fully with the packaging line. Opting for a duo pick - whereby each robot grips two waffles - saves valuable time and enhances the transfer speed,” he added.