The technology is built around an RF13 13kg payload, six axis robot controlled via the Mitsubishi Electric MELSEC iQ platform.
'Cakes are notoriously difficult to cut'
The robot integration is the latest model in Newtech’s robot range of machines for cake portioning within the bakery industry.
Steve Rawlinson, managing director, Newtech, told BakeryandSnacks, the in-line format machine has a compact, multi-product platform and the high-speed ultrasonic blade offers precision, clean cutting as standard, even on the most detailed of cake products.
According to Rawlinson, cakes are notoriously difficult to cut reliably and machines tend to be time consuming to set up for different cake sizes, depths and portion numbers, whilst traditional cutting technologies can result in uneven, messy cuts and unacceptable levels of damaged product.
He said the Mitsubishi Electric ultrasonic cutting machine cuts cakes to the highest levels of precision, working flexibly for different portion sizes and quantities, and eliminating problems of damaged product.
“Working with Mitsubishi Electric for the robot integration made the whole process easy,” he added.
“The high capability robot, combined with a full automation product offering, all with the same software package, made it simple to integrate the robot into the machine. This enabled us to take advantage of ultrasonics for precise, neat, damage-free cake cutting.”
RF 13, one of the fastest robots in its class
One of the fastest robots in its class, the RF13 is highly dextrous, capable of reaching all the way behind itself and close to its base, giving a highly flexible and compact working area.
As well as the standard size bakery trays, the machine is capable of cutting products in smaller foil trays. For this mode, the foils are placed in a row of three on a nested product board.
The same clamp arrangement is used for accurate positioning. The robot automatically selects a smaller blade – purposely profiled to fit within the shape of the foil tray – via an automatic head change unit.
Another benefit of the RF13 articulated robot in this application was its smooth sleek design, said Rawlinson: “It is a very clean robot, with smooth faces and very few gaps where waste product can accumulate - that’s a real benefit in a food processing and manufacturing environment.”
MELSEC iQ platform incorporates Q series PLC control and an integrated robot controller within the same rack. This removes the need for a network connection to a traditional external robot controller, which means that communication exchange between the PLC CPU and the robot controller is handled across the rack, increasing speed, data throughput and reducing robot setup times.
A CC-Link network is used to connect other machine control components such as a Mitsubishi Electric inverter drive and a Mitsubishi Electric WS safety controller.
A Mitsubishi Electric GOT2000 HMI provides a user interface where operators can select different cake recipes and set parameters such as product height, portion size, total number of portions and trim size.
Standard size bakery industry aluminium trays
The GOT HMI also acts as a teach pendant for the robot via screen templates within the HMI.
Speaking about the machine, Martin Lewis-Stevenson, business development manager, Mitsubishi Electric, said during operation, a through-conveyor indexes the product in and out of the machine, from left to right.
The product is fed into the machine in standard size bakery industry aluminium trays – with the machine accommodating bakery tray sizes of 30”x18” or 30”x16” (approx. 76cm x 46cm or 76cm x 41cm).
A series of inductive sensors identify the tray size and ensure it is in the right position in the machine cell, here the tray is fixed and held in a precise position by a series of clamps. The positioning is important to ensure the ultrasonic blade does not contact the tray edges.
Once the tray is in position, the robot actuates the ultrasonic blade to portion the product based on the parameters entered on the HMI. During the cutting process, another tray can be loaded onto the conveyor, and once the cutting cycle is complete the next tray is indexed into the cell.
An additional feature of the machine is a cleaning tank to wash the ultrasonic blade. During the cleaning cycle, the robot takes the relevant blade to the cleaning tank, and a series of water jets spray both sides of the blade. The blade is then dried as the robot passes it through an air blast.