Brillopak, a leading UK end-of-line retail crate loading specialist, has launched its new TrayPAKer, a high-speed robot-based packaging solution that also offers multi-material handling capabilities, making it ready for any material trend – now and in the future. The new TrayPAKer – the result of three years of extensive research and development – solves many of the food industry’s most pressing concerns.
First it helps companies keep pace with the rapidity of modern supermarket supply chains. Second, its flexibility, speed and throughput deliver higher performance than the increasingly scarce manual labour it is designed to replace. Third, its modular design and small footprint makes it adaptable to even the most restrictive real-estate. And finally, it can readily adapt and transition from plastic to cardboard punnet packaging.
“The primary driver behind the machine’s development was from our customers in fresh produce,” explains David Jahn, sales director at Brillopak. “We were regularly being told ‘I need a solution to overcome the struggle of constantly trying to find new operators’. Automation was always going to be the answer, but it needs to deliver far more than just the ability to replace line-side personnel.”
“In this market efficiency is everything,” he adds. “The prices are set by the supermarkets, so our customers have to find economies in all the steps prior to final delivery. This machine is more than capable of meeting current demands and deploys a technological solution that will enable users to support what they don’t know will happen tomorrow!”
Pick-and-place perfection The 150 punnets-per-minute machine combines specialist robotics and vision systems with patented servo-driven end effectors and then deploys them in a pick-and-place operation that seamlessly addresses many of the challenges companies face when automating this traditionally manual process.
Simplicity of product movement ensures free flowing and consistent packing process. In operation a dedicated accumulation conveyor manages the build-up of punnets before feeding them into the pick-up area. In the pick-up area one delta robot picks and places the packs onto conveyor in a layer pattern, which is then indexed, oriented and gently compressed to the dimensions of the crate or container. A second delta robot with a different end effector then picks up the whole layer and lowers into the crate or container.
This whole-layer approach addresses misalignment issues created by single-punnet pick and place and delivers a neater shelf-ready appearance. Different packaging materials are handled equally well on the same machine using easy-to-deploy and tailored pre- programmed packaging recipes in combination with package-specific end effectors. In this way, packs with new, environmentally sound packaging, which can be a tight fit in a container, can still be handled consistently.
“It is vital that we look to the future when designing our packaging systems,” explains Peter Newman, Technical Director at Brillopak. “We recognise that automation can be a big step for some companies, so we must leverage our extensive research and development capabilities and domain expertise to design machines that will keep delivering market- leading performance well into the future.
“One of the big drivers is sustainability,” he adds, “so as well as dealing with the pliability of the thin plastic punnets, customers have asked us to cater for cardboard variants too, both of which they want packed at speed and in neatly presented shelf-ready configurations. “Dealing with any of these features in isolation is hard enough,” Newman continues, “but when you’re challenged with addressing all of them, simultaneously, it becomes much more… interesting. Fortunately, we have some superb engineers here and we were more than up to the task.”