A Chinese manufacturer of ready-mixes for the preparation of a national dish set out to automate the final packaging of the bags, thereby increasing productivity and reducing the physical strain on workers. By installing 16 Stäubli SCARAs, the company easily achieved its objectives.
Chongqing Qiaotou Food is one of the best-known manufacturers of ready-to-use hot pot mixtures in China. Currently 16 Stäubli TS60 four-axis robots pack soft bags for the Chinese national dish into boxes. Automating the packaging process has enabled the food manufacturer to improve productivity and relieve its employees of repetitive work.
What fondue is to the Swiss, “hot pot” is to the Chinese. The hot pot vessel, placed at the table, is used to heat up a soup base enriched with a variety of ingredients such as vegetables, meat, fish and spices. The popularity of this dish is growing, thanks to the availability of ready-to-use ingredient mixtures in various flavors and seasonings. One of the major manufacturers is Chongqing Qiaotou Food Co (Qiaotou for short). Because the company produces the ingredient bags in high volumes, end-of-line packaging was an obvious candidate for increased productivity.
The automation experts at Chengdu Jingwei, who are highly experienced in engineering and producing automatic packaging machines for soft bags, were asked to design and install a system built around Stäubli’s four-axis TS60 SCARA robots.
The packaging line for the hot pot bags has no fewer than 16 Stäubli TS60s. The soft bags arrive on a conveyor belt and the four-axis machine picks them up four at a time with vacuum grippers and places them in a box. This is repeated eight times, as each box contains 32 bags. The cycle time of a single robot is approximately 2.7 seconds. Production speed is currently a continuous 90 packs per minute. This means production capacity can be significantly increased in order to easily manage a further increase in demand.
At first glance, it may be surprising that workforce reduction was not among the main goals of automation in this case. Qiaotou mainly wanted to reduce the physical strain on its employees. This goal was achieved – and at the same time, efficiency in final packaging was increased.
The end user is completely satisfied with the new packaging lines and cells as well as the selection of the robots. The installation went smoothly, and the equipment is running trouble-free.
Further benefits of the new solution come from the superior design of the SCARA kinematics: Compared to delta kinematics, SCARA robots allow greater packing depth and a higher degree of flexibility. In addition, the TS60 achieves higher speeds and thus higher productivity with the same load. It takes up less space and has outstanding stability of movement on all axes.