Despite the ultra-high hygiene standards in place within high-care food processing areas, recent large scale outbreaks of the COVID-19 virus within meat processing facilities has shone a spotlight on the need to protect operators through the introduction of increased levels of automation.
The traditional perceived barriers to automation in these areas, often cited as ready availability of low labour cost and the flexibility of humans, are no longer valid as manual labour resource is becoming harder to find and retain. Add to this the effects that COVID-19 is having on the health, safety and availability of workers, and it is easy to see why robots and automation will now play an increasingly important role in food processing within the UK.
Taking positive steps to address these issues, Stäubli has been working closely with system integrator CME Limited, providing the TS2-80 HE and TS2-100 HE robot arms that are at the heart of the company’s HFPC120 fully automated meat processing system. This fully automated cell has been designed and manufactured, using EHEDG (European Hygienic Engineering and Design Group) guidelines, to suit the specific requirements of the primary meat processing sector. Applications for this system will include orientating and placing food products such as chicken portions, steaks, burgers, or pancakes, baps and other bakery and confectionary products into primary packaging, with ultra-short cycle times and high repeatability.
Stäubli’s HE robotic arms have become recognised as the market leader within the food sector thanks to their fully hygienic design, superior technical performance and their ability to eliminate bacterial contamination risks. Design features of this range are numerous and include: all connections are kept outside of the production area, the robots have internal cabling and tubing, pressurisation within the arm is used to prevent micro-organism ingress and chemical resistance pH4.5 to 8.5, allowing rigorous cleaning with industry approved detergents.
With horizontal reach options covering 460mm, 620mm, 800mm and 1,000mm, these IP65 protection class robots are amongst the fastest in their class. CME specifically selected SCARA type robots for this system primarily due to the fact that their configuration means that, unlike Delta Type Robots, they are mounted to the side of the line and not permanently overhead. This significantly reduces the potential for dust or debris accumulating above the line and subsequently contaminating the product below.
The combination of CME’s modular design approach and the flexibility and performance of the Stäubli HE Robots allows the HFPC120 cell to be customised in a way that exactly matches the requirements of a customer’s food processing line.