Machine manufacturers will show solutions for the ever-complex market demands that result from a wider variety of foodstuffs and individual packing formats under the theme flexibility at Anuga FoodTec 2021.
From the supply and grouping of the products, to the filling, sealing and labelling of cartons, through to the palletising – the food producers can only attain maximum performance and the highest process stability through the complete digitalisation of the machines and robot functions. The modern packing machines that are on display at the fairgrounds in Cologne, master the widest variety of primary and secondary packing tasks.
From 23 to 26 March 2021, Anuga FoodTec, the international supplier trade fair for the food and beverage industry, will present solutions for all production steps and stages – from the harvest to the end product on the retail shelves or in the food service sector.
Convenience food carefully packed
Short set-up times, simple product and format changes as well as concepts with the aid of which whole lines for convenience food can if necessary be newly combined or extended are in demand. In food retail, in particular soups, ready-made meals, sausage products and baby food are of great significance in this market segment. As are jams, smoothies and puréed fruit snacks. The centrepiece of the lines on display at Anuga FoodTec in the Filling & Packing section are integrated scales, slicers and compact tray sealers or thermoformers, which are suitable for a wide spectrum of products. They are aligned to process shells, trays and many other formats. Equipped with innovative gassing technologies, they can carefully pack sensitive foodstuffs or those that are filled while hot under a modified atmosphere (MAP).
Automation of small batch sizes
But regardless of which foodstuff is being handled: Hightech is required for the fully-automated portioning and insertion into the packing. Producers, who have to accommodate high performance in limited space or who require more flexibility in the product handling, will not get around specialised pick-and-place robots. The modern buckling arm, Scara and Delta kinematics that will be presented at Anuga FoodTec 2021 are capable of packing products at a high speed. The robots can however not only retrieve the sausages or fish fingers from the conveyor belt and place them in trays. Parallel to this they also carry out quality control tasks that were until now reserved for the end-of-line systems. For instance they sort out damaged products without manual intervention. At the same time, they provide feedback to downstream sealing machines or labelling machines so that they can react directly to the identified deviations.
Hand in hand with the robot
The aim of the constructors is to extend the field of application of the robots in the food industry through to that of a true cobot. This term refers to collaborative lightweight robots that serve to help the employees with the palletisation and packing processes of small batch sizes. A typical task for instance is placing a pouch of juice in the chain of a cartoner. Via sensor technology they register the movement of the people in their environment and are thus sufficiently secured to assist with the work without injuring anyone. Doing away with constructional protective devices such as light grids, cages or barriers saves costs and ensures smoother work processes between the workers and robots. This results in medium-sized food producers also being able to implement a cobot in places where automation using a traditional robot is not economically viable for them.
Grippers out of the 3D printer
The grippers serve as the interface between robots and foodstuffs. It is in the nature of things that there cannot be a one-for-all solution here. The shape, alignment, the weight and the dimensions of the foodstuff to be handled influence the construction. For instance, if sensitive fruits are not to be squashed when gripped, vacuum technology and soft suction pieces come into play. Against the backdrop of these challenges, 3D printed tools offer totally new design freedom. Numerous packing machine builders and suppliers of robot technology will be focusing on this theme at Anuga FoodTec 2021. The advantage of additive manufacturing for the construction lies in the almost unlimited design possibilities. A further aspect: Robot tools made of high-performance plastics, which are approved for contact with foodstuffs, require no lubricants and are thus practically maintenance-free.