Having identified the huge potential market that exists, more and more robot manufacturers are developing equipment that specifically targets the food and drink sector. Most recently, Mitsubishi Electric Europe (MEE), Industrial Automation ̶ UK Branch invited industry representatives and journalists to its Hatfield headquarters to witness the launch of its latest range ̶ the MELFA F-Series robots.
The day, however, wasn't just about the robots, it included several other presentations that covered everything from the use of vision systems and simulation software to optimise equipment layout, to the latest gripper technology for use in the food sector.
Flexible, fast, functional and food safe
The F-Series robots are designed to be flexible, fast, functional ̶ and food safe. As such, they are expected to open up many new fields of usage. They are designed to meet IP67, enabling easy cleaning of the arm, while food safe HG1 food-grade grease is used for lubrication. They come in two formats: vertical six-axis robots (RV) and four-axis selective compliant articulated/assembly robot arm (SCARA) format.
According to MEE's UK product manager for robotics, Barry Weller, the F-Series was developed in response to demand from customers in the food and beverage sector for robots that were easy to clean and reliable, yet offering a fast cycle time.
Based on a novel new mechanical design, F-Series robots are intended to reach a far greater working area than many other robots. They can even reach round and behind their own base. They can work in confined spaces and can be floor-, wall-, or ceiling- mounted and are able to maintain fast cycle times and high positioning accuracy, for improved productivity. The cycle time for a 305mm movement is 0.29 seconds.
Their cabling is fully enclosed right to the end of spindle for total protection and safety. The cabling includes pneumatic tubing and input/output for hand control, as well as CAT5 Ethernet cabling allowing for easy installation of vision systems or other Ethernet devices, such as sensors, cameras, and additional axis controllers.
F-Series controllers can be used as standalone devices or embedded into the Mitsubishi Electric iQ programmable logic controller rack. Supporting up to three robots on one rack allows the system to share data, thus enabling features such as automatic collision avoidance and cooperative control.
Commissioning is via a standard PC and is said to be quick and easy using the RT ToolBox2 software supplied with the F-Series.
This programming software's graphical interface displays imported 3D computer aided design files, program variables and robot simulations in a format that is clear and easy to read.