Compact robotic handling the packaging of mushy peas

1st April 2013

At the Derbyshire, UK, factory of Lockwoods, a manufacturer of frozen mushy peas with an annual throughput of 4000tonnes, Motoman robots have taken over packing of bags into cartons in one of two cells serving the palletising area, which itself was robotised in 1998.

The majority of the heavier bags of peas, weighing either 1kg or 907grams (2lbs), are processed through the robotic side to save the two operators in the adjacent cell the arduous task of stacking them into boxes by hand.

A feature of the automation project at the Ambergate factory, is the small area into which the twin-robot packing cell has been put. Within an area of less than 9sqm, a Motoman SK16 six-axis robot fitted with a collator attachment picks up five 1kg or six 907gram bags at a time from the end of an input conveyor and places them into a cardboard carton with capacity for 10 or 12 bags respectively. A smaller SK6 six-axis robot within the same floor area erects cartons and places them beside the SK16 for filling.

This project follows the implementation on-site of a Motoman SP100 dedicated 4-axis palletising robot. Serving two pallet stations, it picks two cartons at a time off the conveyors from the packing cells, building the pallet loads by stacking

10 cartons per layer, eight high. A special gripper system was supplied with twin forks and an overhead clamp at one end for handling the cartons; while at the other end, two bespoke clamps are used to pick up freezer spacers from a pile and place them between the layers of cartons. After each fully built pallet has been taken away by forklift truck to the blast freezer, the robot has a yet another duty. Using the same gripper as for carton handling, a new pallet is picked up from a stack within the cell and placed in position ready for loading.

Now that the uncooked mushy pea packing area has been successfully automated as far as is feasible, the intention is to investigate how robots can assist product handling in the adjacent cooked range process line. 

Motoman Robotics Europe AB is based in Kalmar, Sweden.





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