New England farmed oysters are becoming a major market for fisherman who are dealing with the loss of species in local waters. In fact, New England waters are the perfect environment for the growing and harvesting of farmed oysters.
A prominent aquaculture farm contacted Wrabacon Inc. to design and build 3 special conveyors to transport 80 pound wire mesh crates from a dock, up an incline, to an existing pier and then up a second incline where they will be manually removed, palletized and moved via fork truck to the refrigerated warehouse.
The conveyor from the pier to the dock was manufactured with a special pivot point on the upper end to allow the conveyor to pivot up and down with the dock with the rise and fall of the tides. Included in the design and manufacture of the conveyor are covers over the conveyor along with a 24 inch walk way parallel to the conveyor. The conveyor measured 50 feet long by 30 inches wide with a special stainless steel attachment chain with 2 inch tall lugs attached every 48 inches.
The second and third conveyors are designed to transport the crates to the palletizing area. Both conveyors are built in heavy duty aluminum and measured 21 feet and 25 feet, respectively.
All three conveyors had their own stainless steel cabinet with variable speed drives.
An artisan regional cheese manufacturer faced a challenge. Their production line was completely manual and very slow. The problem was that the operators had to manually denest and place clam shell trays on a conveyor. Then they manually place finished cheese balls in the clam shell. Once this was completed, the operator would manually close the calm shell. They turned to Wrabacon to manufacture a packaging line that would transform their production line from a completely manual system to a semi-automatic packaging line.
The new system designed by Wrabacon consisted of a tray denester, a conveyor to transport trays to the operators, and an automatic lid closer. All equipment was built in stainless steel to meet the high demands and sanitation needs the food industry requires.
The Wrabacon Solution:
Custom designed and manufactured a tray denester that denests plastic clamshells onto a moving conveyor at the rate of up to 30 per minute.
The system works with two tray sizes: 4” x 8.75” and 5.38” x 5.38” Each are denested with the long edge leading on the conveyor.
The trays are denested onto a conveyor where they will be manually filled by the operators.
After filling, they travel downstream to a lid closer that automatically folds and closes the lids prior to transferring to downstream equipment.
Operators manually load the trays into an adjustable 45 degree twin hopper with the open side of the tray facing down. Pneumatic cups extend up to the trays, pull one from each stack, pivot down over the conveyor and then release the two trays. The trays travel on the conveyor with the wide edge leading. After placing the tray, the process repeats—picking and then placing the two trays onto the conveyor.
The denester utilizes a photo sensor to trigger the cycle. The sensor is mounted on the conveyor and when clear, the denester drops the trays onto the belt. The conveyor has variable speeds, so the denester rate is controlled by the speed of the conveyor. After denesting, the clamshells are manually filled with product.
Clamshell Closer Operation
After filling, the clamshells travel downstream to the closer with the lid open. A rail guide and partially closes the lid as it transfers to the conveyor. Once the lid is partially closed, a set of powered rollers snap the lid around the perimeter of the clamshell. Wrabacon designed the closer with power rollers since applying pressure to the top center of the lid might not seal the container properly.
The powered rollers are above the clamshell while a set of free spinning rollers are on the underside of the clamshell. By sitting over the two edges of the clamshell, the guides and rollers contact the edges of the container and ensure a proper closure. After closing, the clamshells transfer to downstream equipment for further processing. The closer is adjustable for the two tray sizes and can be easily adjusted via hand cranks and physical stops.
As part of this proposal, Wrabacon supplied (1) twin, adjustable hopper, tray denester with support frame, (2) 32” long denester hoppers that holds approx. 100 trays each, (1) main packing conveyor, (1) split belt clamshell closer and (1) control system.
While designing a custom conveyor system Wrabacon was challenged to provide a reject system to reject under/overweight product from a high speed processing system. The product passed the check weigher at 220 FPM.
Our team of designers went to work and after testing several solutions the decision was to design and manufacture a stainless steel over-head servo controlled over-head reject system. Because the product was wet and the system was to be installed in an area where wash down would take place the reject system was designed entirely with wet duty and wash down components.
Due to the limited space where the reject system would be installed the over-head system was designed with paddles to sweep the product. This design choice saved space by eliminating side pneumatic cylinders which are typically used in reject systems. As product passes over the check weigher a signal is sent to the reject system should an overweight or under weight product be detected. Once the product enters the reject system a paddle that is attached to a rotating chain sweeps the product into a reject bin.
Our diverse experience in the industrial automation industry has prepared our team to identify and overcome a variety of challenges presented by our clients’ products, facilities and processes. Recently a national wet wipe manufacturer tasked us to develop an advanced handling system to integrate into their existing facility. This was an entirely new manufacturing line, custom designed to increase production to meet new orders and keep up with demand.
The first challenge the product posed was the nature of the product itself. Due to the wet, damp characteristics of the wet wipes prior to packaging, the entire handling system was designed and built with stainless steel conveyor components. The second challenge was accumulating wet wipes from the converter.
To ensure the handling system operated seamlessly, we teamed-up with a conveyor chain manufacturer to design custom chain that would allow accumulation of a wet product, or in this case, the wet wipes. This process took place in the low-pressure accumulation area noted in the system plans. At Wrabacon we welcome these challenges to keep our knowledge and skills ahead of the rest.
The Handling System and How It Works
Basic System Process
The basic process for the handling system is as follows. The wet wipes are produced from a converter and transported to an accumulation system which then feeds two existing high speed over wrapper packaging machines. If wipes are not sent to the over wrappers they are sent to a machine that places them into plastic containers. If the wipes are over wrapped the packages are sent via the 3-1 merge to either a hand pack line or a cartoner machine.
Detailed System Process
Stacks of wet wipes transfer through a check weigher in a single file. This effectively measures the weight of the product and indicates that each container has the correct moisture content. Product is then transferred onto a short reject conveyor equipped with an overhead sweep mechanism. This sweep mechanism is used to reject stacks of wipes from the line that could disrupt downstream elements of the handling system. The wet wipes are rejected based on a signal from the checkweigher.
After passing through the reject conveyor, the stacks enter a 5-lane tunnel style diverter. In normal operation, the stacks of wipes travel straight through the diverter, enter a merge system around a ninety-degree turn and onto the final diverter. During normal operation the stacks enter the final diverter and are equally distributed to the four downstream lanes. Based on a downstream signal, if a wrapper is not online, the diverter diverts the stacks evenly to the remaining wrappers. If accumulation is required, the first diverter diverts the wipes evenly to five low back pressure accumulation conveyors where the stacks accumulate.
Each conveyor is approximately 18’ long and holds 30 stacks of wipes (based on a 7” long product). After the accumulation section, the gate and release merge system releases lanes of the accumulated stacks to merge them back into one lane for the final divert when the need for accumulation goes away. The gate and release merge systems are located at the end of the low back pressure accumulation conveyor. The stacks merge to the center of the merge conveyor using two vertical side belts that help keep the stacks together. Both diverters are “tunnel” style and utilize servo motors for positioning.
After the second diverter, we designed and built a series of conveyors that take the stacks of wet wipes to the wrappers. Lane one feeds the closest wrapper, lanes 3 and 5 are the future wrapper lines. Lanes one and two travel around a ninety degree turn and then through to the corresponding wrappers. After the wrappers, the two lines merge into one and enter one of two downstream lines (ergo line or tray line). The tray line will consist of a dual pack off conveyor and a tray conveyor. The merge will be constructed wide enough to handle the future line three. Line four travels straight down to a thermoform line where the stacks are manually loaded into the thermoformer.
Handling System Specs
To improve the production system, Wrabacon designed and build the following product handling system components:
(1) Overhead sweep reject system
(1) 1:5 servo controlled diverter
(5) low back pressure accumulation conveyors
(1) gate and release 5:1 merge
(1) ninety-degree conveyor
(1) Line 1 conveyors including a ninety-degree wrapper infeed conveyor, a wrapper discharge conveyor
(1) Line 2 conveyors. 3:1 Merge to hand pack off
Production Rate: 225 wet wipes per minute. Product Size: 7 long x 4.25 wide.
A reputable online wine re-seller turned to Wrabacon Inc., to provide an automated denester to denest formed fiber tray protectors into a cardboard box shipping container. Prior to the automation, operators would denest the tray protector into the shipping container by hand. This was a slow and tedious operation and was the bottleneck in the bottle picking system.
Wrabacon was asked to design and manufacturer a conveyor system that would deliver shipping containers to an automatic denester. The system was designed to place a protective tray into the bottom of the cardboard shipper. Once placed, the shipping container was sent to the picking line for manual placement of bottles. Once the shipping container was full the container was transferred to second denester in which a top protective tray was placed.
This system included numerous conveyor lines and denesters. In all, production increased twofold along with eliminating several ergonomic issues.
Our Industrial Denesting Systems
If denesting is the game then Wrabacon, Inc. is the one to contact for your denesting needs. Wrabacon designs and manufactures denesting equipment for all types of products. Should it be cups, buckets, trays, formed fiber products or any other special product, Wrabacon is the one to turn to.
How Do Denesting Systems Work?
Denesting equipment eliminates the manual repetitive motion associated with denesting products from stacks by manual operators. Efficiencies in production lines increase two to threefold when using automatic denesting equipment. Automatic denesting machinery eliminates waste associated with manual denesting along with miss placed product on the production line, and eliminates slowdowns on the filling line.
Wrabacon Inc., designs and manufactures denesting equipment in stainless steel to meet the demands of the food industries stringent requirements for sanitation and cleanliness. Many designs incorporate the following: easy operation, multiple product magazines, in line conveyors to transfer product to the filling line, and castors for ease of movement from one line to another.
Denesting for Food, Drink, and Much More
Denesting systems designed and built by Wrabacon are used in far more than just the food and beverage industry. Whenever a product needs to be moved, positioned, or manipulated as part of a production line – denesting systems can help. See our customer list to see where else denesting systems can be used.
Wrabacon’s Pizza Shell Handling System: Mergers, Diverters, Conveyors, and a WHOLE lot of Pizza.
Whether you’re ordering or making it fresh – pizza night is a pretty painless process in most households.
Think about it this way: Americans eat about 100 acres of Pizza a day and purchase approximately 3 billion pizzas a year. When you break it down, each man, woman, and child in America eats – on average – 46 slices of pizza a year (Source: Packaged Facts, New York). When you consider the numbers behind all of that pizza, the amount of work that goes into a single pie can really add up. No matter how you slice it, the businesses producing the pizza have their job cut out for them.
This reality created a bit of a “Pizza Problem” for one of New England’s favorite regional convenience store chains. Fortunately, creative automation from Wrabacon was able to provide a convenient solution that increased productivity and efficiency.
Solving “the Pizza Problem”
What our customer needed was a pizza shell handling system that could quickly and efficiently transfer pizza shells from a topping line, to a tunnel freezer, and into a shrink-wrapping machine. On top of this, since the machine would be working with food – it all had to be made of washable and USDA approved materials.
First, Pizza shells exit the topping line in single file. To maximize the efficiency of the tunnel freezer – our creative automation team implemented a 1-3 servo controlled diverter, seamlessly splitting a single row of pizzas into 3. Once aligned, a gate is released and the shells are transferred into the freezer tunnel.
After the pizzas are frozen, they need to be returned to a single row before passing through the shrink-wrapping machine. At this juncture, the Wrabacon solution was a 3-1 merger that consolidates the 3 frozen rows. By gating pizzas exiting the freezer and then releasing them back into a single file using a series of guides, our solution was capable of more effectively processing the frozen product through the shrink-wrapping machine. This enabled our customer to realize an incredibly consistent and reliable throughput rate of 25 shells per minute. With each pizza wrapped, it is then transferred downstream to a hand pack-off area where the shells are placed in shipping cartons and delivered to stores throughout the area.
The Wrabacon Difference
Approaching any foodservice application can be a tricky prospect for some automation providers. For Wrabacon, it’s something we regularly contend with, but ensuring that each piece of the system meets USDA requirements is only the beginning. From diverters and mergers to conveyors and controls used throughout the system, each element is carefully considered and implemented to make a difference for the operation at hand and thespace it has to work with.
Ultimately, by optimizing our customer’s automation system, Wrabacon was able to help our customer increase throughput by at least 300% while making production smoother, more consistent, and more energy efficient.
For this project, Wrabacon provided:
(1)System control & communication design/installation
No matter what industry you’re in – if you ever deal with automation, you understand that it has a lot of moving parts (and that’s not exactly a pun). The moving parts you find in an automation system run the gamut from feeders and conveyors, to diverters, stackers, and everything in-between. But what really matters are the “parts” that influence an automation system without ever actually being a part in it – like the space it exists in and the characteristics of the product it’s built to accommodate. For our team at Wrabacon, this is what makes the difference between simple automation and creative automation.
Consider for example the challenge posed by one customer in the glass converting industry.
With a fragile product in 4 different sizes, a small amount of space to work with and strict timing parameters to accommodate – creative automation is exactly what they needed.
Transfer four different size glass sheets from an existing screen printing machine to an existing oven infeed, allowing inks to cure on the glass sheeting.
What is a transfer system? A transfer system is a safe, reliable, efficient system that transfers products from one step in the process to the next with little to no human interaction.
The client produces screen prints on 4 different sizes of glass sheeting. The entire process took place in a 16 x 15-foot production area.
Before creative automation, the process was slow, unpredictable, and antiquated. It required 2 employees to maintain glass alignment on the system and the need to maintain the proper gap between the sheets prior to the transfer of the sheets into the curing oven. It also relied on outdated parts, software, and controls that prevented the business from scaling with demand.
Wrabacon’s task was to introduce a more modern, efficient, and effective system that improves efficiency and control, while operating within the existing room layout, with less manpower.
How the Glass Transfer System Works
Step 1: The glass sheets exit the screen printing machine single file and transfer onto a 90-degree rotating conveyor.
Step 2: The sheets transfer downstream on conveyor 2 to the pop up transfer zone.
Step 3: The glass sheets enter the pop up zone which is made up of conveyors 3, 4 and 5. There are two pop up sections, one for each glass sheet. The first sheet travels over the first pop up zone to the second zone. When sensed, the pop up extends upward, lifting the sheet off the rollers.
Step 4: The next sheet enters the first pop up zone and when sensed, is lifted off the rollers.
Step 5: When both sheets are positioned, the conveyor belts start and transfer the sheets side by side onto conveyor 6. This conveyor brings the sheets to the oven infeed where they are transferred for downstream processing. The area where the transfer occurs has an approximate temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 6: We connected conveyor 6 to the existing oven variable speed drive. Using a 0 – 10 VDC signal, conveyor 6 follows the linear belt speed of the oven to allow for the proper gap between the trailing edge of the first sheet of glass and the leading edge of the second sheet of glass.
The resulting system for our client was a completely custom solution, that allows the customer to complete one full sheet in 18 seconds. This has allowed the customer to drastically increase their output, provide more accurate lead-times, and grow at a faster rate.
Have questions about how creative automation can make a difference for your business or industry? Wrabacon is the authority.
The Problem: Denest, label and lid 3 pail sizes while improving throughput and minimizing footprint.
When a major American manufacturer of sealants and adhesives decided to invest in new automation equipment, Wrabacon Inc. was asked to create a proposal for the company’s pail denesters, lid denesters, lid presses, and pail turners.
What is Denesting? For the uninitiated, a pail (or lid) denester automates the pulling-apart of buckets or pails so that they can then be automatically placed into a system where they are filled, labeled, and sealed shut. Prior to installing a custom solution by Wrabacon, the facility’s only automation took place when pails were actually filled, and it could only be done as fast as an employee could manually move each bucket to and from the filling area. Denesting the pails, lidding them, and labeling them was all done by hand – which posed problems for ergonomics, production rate, and efficiency. By introducing a more automated solution, our customer could finally realize the fast, predictable, and effective throughput that would allow them to grow.
What Was the Need?
A system that could quickly and efficiently automate a pail filling line, while accommodating 3 pail sizes with their own fill rates, label and lid sizes.
It Counts to Be Creative
After reviewing several other vendors for this equipment, the client chose Wrabacon’s proposed solution, not because our machine was fancier, but because it was tailor-made to meet their specific goals: a small foot print, and a high ROI. This was done by carefully considering their space and application.
To meet our client’s need, our creative automation experts went to work to carefully study the application, the environment, and the product at hand.
At Wrabacon, this stage in the process is critical. Not only does it give our engineers the opportunity to fully understand our client’s facility and process – but it enables our team to create a truly custom automation solution that accounts for the many possible variables at play with each application or environment.
The Solution: Wrabacon’s Denester
Reliable Throughput, Minimal Footprint
For our customer, the goal was to handle 3 separate container sizes, while ensuring both a small footprint and a high degree of reliability. Does that mean 1 complex system for all 3 sizes to save space? Or a hybrid solution that’s slightly larger, but less intricate and more reliable? It’s questions like these that our team tackles for every custom system.
Every creative automation project is a balancing act. Too much adjustability and size differential can cause problems with throughput and reliability. Too little, and the space required for each system component can become unwieldy.
Our team worked to strike the ideal balance. By carefully considering the customer’s facility and process, we made the determination that a single machine for all 3 pail sizes just wouldn’t meet their needs without sacrificing performance, reliability, and ROI.
Instead, our system uses one denester for bailed buckets in the two largest sizes, with a separate denester for non-bailed ½ gallon buckets. After the pails are denested, they then progress to a labeling area, a filling area (pre-existing), and a lidding area. Finally, each pail exits the system after being guided down an incline conveyor and manually removed.
Throughout the process, our design remains focused on carefully guiding each pail to its destination quickly and efficiently – with numerous stops and guides to ensure reliability and control.
Orient, Adjust, and Label Pails in 3 Different Sizes
After pails are de-nested on their respective machines, they enter the labeling area where a pneumatic gate stops each pail before a set of side-belts rotate the pail to a preset position for labeling. After labels are placed, the system will release the pail from its position and lower a pair of stop gates to let the pail continue downstream to be transferred onto the client’s filling conveyor.
Lid Denesting and Rolling
Two Systems, Multiple Sizes, Greater Efficiency
For this system, the two larger containers share a lid denester and placer while the smaller pails utilize their own lid denester and placer. With hoppers that can be loaded at any time, the operation of this system halts each pail with a stopping gate so that lids can be released from above and dropped loosely onto the container. Next, they move downstream where each lid is rolled onto the container with a series of tapered rollers. The size difference between pails dictates the only change in functionality between large lid denesters and small lid denesters – which allows the smaller denester to handle two containers at once, with a dual vertical hopper.
Space Saving Reliability at a Competitive Price
Ultimately, our entire system was designed to be a simple and efficient automation solution to separate buckets and lids, while also handling alignment for labeling and lidding. In the beginning, all denesting, labeling, and lidding was done by hand. Today, the company experiences much greater productivity and efficiency – allowing them to accurately forecast throughput and productivity while more efficiently (and competitively) providing product to customers around the world.
At Wrabacon, we deal with automation systems every day. Some of the most common components we deal with are pick and place systems. With that in mind, the number of variations available with a modern pick and place system can make the process a bit daunting. For that reason, we’ve come up with a few guidelines on how to more effectively identify your needs. Read on to learn more!
For businesses around the world, the pick and place system is undoubtedly the heart of just about every assembly process. Many times, it is also the most important equipment decision a manufacturer or business can make. Especially for electronics applications involving SMT production lines, a pick and place system plays an incredibly important roll and will ultimately have an effect on not just the quality of the end product, but the efficiency of the entire production line.
When identifying the right pick and place system, first it’s important to know your requirements. Ask yourself, how many total placements will you need the pick and place system to make in one cycle? For example, if your specific pick and place system is for PCB’s, you’ll need to know four important pieces of information.
Consider your needs now
First, it’s important to know how many total placements you will ultimately need on each PCB. Second, it’s important to know your specific component packages in order to identify the best feeder size and delivery method. Will tape work best? Or do your applications call for a tube and matrix tray? This is a very important step that will ultimately influence the reliability and efficiency of your system.
Third: You’ll need to identify the best feeder size and delivery method, you’ll want to know the total number of unique components that will be on the printed circuit board. This dictates how many feeder slots are required for your specific system. Finally, you must know your smallest, largest, and fine pitch requirements.
Consider your needs for the future
It’s not just important to consider your production needs now, it’s important to also consider your needs for the future as well. Given that your pick and place system is a central part of your automation system, having to make adjustments to meet future demands will not only hinder your productivity, but force you to make potentially costly adjustments as well. By taking advantage of modular automation system components, you can easily adjust your system to meet your demands now while seamlessly accommodating for your needs in the future as well.
Identify your production requirements
In order to build a system that effortlessly meets your production needs, you first need to know what your production needs actually are. Your production requirements per hour, day, week, and year will have a drastic impact on the makeup of your pick and place system and your required machine speed.
The Bottom Line
Any automation system needs to keep the future in mind while remaining cost effective and powerful for today’s needs. By making a couple smart choices now, you can potentially eliminate the need to make a very expensive choice in the future. In the end, this can be said for just about any automation system. While SMT placement works as a very good example for how useful a pick and place system can be, pick and place systems have important applications in businesses and industries of just about every variety.
Here at Wrabacon, we have a knack for creative automation. Why? Because it makes a difference. Ever since the Roman period, automation has been used to make all kinds of tasks easier. After all, you’ve probably heard the saying, “Work smarter, not harder” haven’t you? That saying could very well be at the heart of automation. Since then, the science has become a central part of the industrial and manufacturing worlds. But before we can get into the incredible possibilities of modern pick and place systems and what makes them successful, it might help to take a look back at where it all began.
Consider for a moment the industrial revolution. One of the most important industries during this time, the textile industry, experienced unprecedented growth that changed the world in a number of ways – all due to automation equipment like the spinning jenny and the Spinning Mule. These inventions, while primitive by today’s standards, were used to spin cotton and other fibers into yarn. You might be wondering, “What does that have to do with a pick and place system?” But consider it this way: In terms of innovation, this was the cutting edge. A machine was being used to produce a new product. To, “place” one component into another. In the very same way, modern pick and place systems are used to more effectively produce all kinds of products, from food to electronics. While 19th century automation systems were “placing” one product into another to create yarn, modern pick and place systems go so far as placing surface mount devices onto printed circuit board. They might be different products, but the same principle is at play.
So what made textile automation successful so many years ago, and what makes a successful pick and place system possible today? First, it has to be efficient. Looking back, coming up with a groundbreaking automation system during the industrial revolution might seem relatively simple by today’s standards. However, automation systems for manufacturing electronic components, for example, are a bit more complex. Efficiency relies on every aspect of the production line working together to be faster, more reliable, and more productive. In order for that to happen, you must understand your feeder requirement and your speed and capacity requirements. On top of that, it’s important to remember that a pick and place system shouldn’t be designed for just the present. It should be designed for the future as well. This is one major difference between the earliest automation equipment and the advanced systems used today.
On another level, a successful pick and place system also needs to be versatile. While this might have been impossible for early automation systems, any advanced pick and place system will be able to accommodate for changes in production, product, component size, and more. This might involve modular design to introduce new automation components, such as tray feeders, stackers, and vision systems. When it comes down to it, just about anything is possible these days.
For more on pick and place systems, take a look at the pick and place systems page on our main site. Or just give us a call!