Michael Taylor, operations director, says: "The nature of reel ovens is that the shelves continually move, making it impossible for a single operator to unload a full tray of baked products and replace the same shelf with dough. In practice, many shelves are left to rotate without anything being loaded on to them while the operator aims to keep them filled."
After consultation with the Centre for Food Robotics and Automation, the firm chose a Fanuc Robotics M-710iA robot with a specially engineered gripper that can handle two trays positioned one above the other. This allows loaded trays to be collected or deposited to shelves when receiving a signal from the robot control system.
The robot aligns the gripper with a full tray of dough products and, after gripping the end of the tray, retracts it from the trolley into the gripper framework. It moves the gripper to the reel oven, which moves trays on a continually operating vertical loop. The robot waits at the loading area until a sensor indicates that a tray is aligned, and while simultaneously moving at a pre-programmed speed, clamps and withdraws a tray of baked products and then pushes a tray of dough on to the oven shelf.
The transfer process takes just two seconds, which means that shelves are always full of dough, which improves capacity and saves energy.
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