Robotic flexibility without jeopardising line efficiency

British manufacturer Ilapak is experiencing increasing demand for flow wrappers integrated with robotic feeding systems as bakeries push for greater flexibility from their packaging plant.

“In the past year or so, we have supplied at least ten flow wrapping lines incorporating robotic handling for products such as cakes, chocolate bars and pastries,” confirms Massimo Furlato, project engineering manager with Ilapak.

“These operations want the flexibility to run various product types and sizes and to pack them in different configurations but they don’t want the headache of having to source and integrate the robot and the flow wrapper. Our complete lines combine inherently flexible robotic handling with our versatile Carrera flow wrapping platform in a single source solution, so there is no compromise on overall line efficiency.”

Working with a third party robotics supplier, Ilapak project manages these turnkey installations, taking complete responsibility for the seamless operation of the line and relieving customers of having to source individual pieces of equipment and coordinate with different suppliers.

The industry’s first IP65 rated fully modular flow wrapper, the Carrera 6000, is often at the heart of these lines. On this flexible machine, size changeovers are executed in a matter of minutes, thanks to interchangeable product guides, a removable stacking device and an interchangeable sealing head. It is capable of packing bakery items in various configurations, from individually wrapped biscuits and cakes to twin-packs in which the products are in a single stack and packs of four items in two stacks or six items in three stacks. The wrapper incorporates in-built quality control for detecting and rejecting broken products prior to wrapping, a ‘no product no bag’ function and automatic reel splicing for continuous operation.

The Carrera is usually fed by a four-axis pick and place robot with vacuum end-effector for gentle handling of soft bakery items. Guided by vision, this picks product from the belt and transfers it into the flow wrapper in-feed. If required for multipack applications, Ilapak can also integrate a collation system. Speeds of up to 100 pieces per minute on multipack applications and 300 pieces per minute on individually wrapped items are well within the capabilities of this integrated solution.