Robotic packing and palletising systems manufacturer Brillopak has announced it will showcase its UniPAKer robotic crate packing platform at this year’s Robotics and Automation exhibition, taking place at the Coventry Building Society Arena on 02-03 November.
Brillopak’s packing platform has been designed to protect food manufacturers against rising energy costs and the current labour shortage while boosting sustainability credentials.
With the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) reporting an estimated 500,000 vacancies in the food and drink sector, automating repetitive and physically demanding end-of-line tasks, such as picking, packing and palletising, can help food producers to safeguard their business during the current labour crisis, according to Brillopak.
The manufacturer recently upgraded its single head-dual pick robotic crate packing cell, the UniPAKer, which was devised to strike an optimum balance of fast acceleration and gentle pick and placement. The company said this makes it ideal for automatically crate loading perishable products, including meat, fish, ready meals and fresh produce.
“The benefits of replacing manual workers with robots are widely known – increased efficiency, consistent output and a rise in productivity, to name a few,” said David Jahn, director of Brillopak.
“But with manufacturing in general and the food sector in particular in the grip of a severe labour shortage that has been exacerbated by Covid and Brexit, more producers than ever before are turning to automated solutions such as the UniPAKer to fulfil orders and maintain throughput.
“We are excited to demonstrate the benefits of our redesigned system – which now boasts a 10% reduced footprint – to visitors to Robotics and Automation; especially those who are struggling to fill vacancies.”
The UniPAKer can pick and move up to 120 chilled or fresh product packs per minute, dependent on machine model. Two selection dips or two family-sized convenience meals can be packed on a small footprint single cell UniPAKer at 70 packs a minute.
Brillopak said the system ensures consistent lifting capacity when picking, and gently placing packs of various weights, sizes and packaging types into retail crates.
Furthermore, the next-generation UniPAKer reportedly offers a 45% reduction in compressed air consumption, also helping food producers to lower energy bills – vital, said the company, due to energy costs forecast to rise by as much as 30% in 2022 and compressed air typically accounting for up to 40% of a manufacturing facility’s total energy bill, with leak rates exceeding 50% on some systems.
Other energy-saving improvements include: the universal deployment of servo motors (replacing pneumatics) that only require power when operational; reducing the weight of the end-effectors and other moving parts to decrease power requirement; and employing energy-efficient three-phase conveyor motors.
“Our focus on sustainability has reduced the UniPAKer’s power consumption by 10% compared to previous models in the series,” added Jahn. “Not only that, but it has also improved its performance, as the lighter, smaller end-effectors result in a faster pick speed while retaining presentation.”
Additionally, the upgraded UniPAKer’s handling helps to address one of the biggest avoidable waste hotspots in food production and distribution – split top-seal packaging and torn film lids.
“On high-speed side or drop loading automated production lines, one broken seal has the potential to tip and cross-contaminate an entire tray,” said Jahn. “Aiming to address this, the UniPAKer’s gentle handling makes it ideal for materials traditionally prone to piercing, including thin films, pillow bags, resealable packs and newer, more sustainable packaging substrates, helping to reduce food waste during the packaging stage.”
As UK food producers navigate through the post-Covid landscape amid rising energy bills, the climate crisis, and the current labour shortage, Brillopak said its robotic crate loading solution is uniquely placed to mitigate against all three issues.
“We look forward to explaining to visitors at Robotics and Automation how the UniPAKer can increase food producers’ resilience in the face of today’s unprecedented manufacturing challenges,” said Jahn.
Brillopak (Stand 704) will be at Robotics and Automation 2021 on 02-03 November at the Coventry Building Society Arena. For more details, go to www.roboticsandautomation.co.uk