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Robotic palletizer brings in the dough

With installation of an automated palletizing solution on its second production line, preformed pizza dough crust maker, or “base” maker, Charnwood Foods, Leicester, U.K., is palletizing up to 320 cases/hr around the clock.

Pw 6642 Charnwoods1

Charnwood is a member of the RHM Group and provides its pizza dough product for restaurant chains across the U.K. and Europe. The main contractor for the automated palletizing solution, Crown Conveyors (www.crownconveyors.com), chose a Motoman (www.motoman.com) SP100X four-axis palletizing robot with a Unigripper vacuum-suction gripper for the application.

The new manufacturing line was installed to cope with an increasing demand for pizza; Charnwood is currently one of the leading manufacturers of frozen pizza dough bases in the U.K., with an annual production of 63 million bases. The bases are produced from raw ingredients and are stacked, wrapped, and boxed prior to palletizing. Twelve case sizes accommodate pizza bases of different diameters.

Pallet layout programs provided by Motoman reside within the controller. The robot picks up the correct number of cartons—normally three—from the end of the production line and stacks them onto a pallet. Case weight is 35 to 43 lb. The line processes 40 cases/pallet, eight pallets/hr.

Within the robot cell is a turntable pallet-wrapping station that secures the load prior to collection by forklift truck from a parallel conveyor.

David Harrison, engineering manager at Charnwood Foods, says the Motoman robot is proving reliable in operation and is very flexible. Motoman quotes 52,000-plus hours, or six years, mean time between failure.

From the beginning, Charnwood planned on using a robot for palletizing on its second line, as it would be an arduous and repetitive task for an operator to perform. Indeed, robotic palletizing has been used on its first production line for the last eight years, Harrison relates.

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