Pass the vol-au-vents!

18 August 2020

When Sfoglia Torino, an Italian manufacturer of pastries, identified a need to speed up production on the line making vol-au-vent cases, it began discussions with a local systems integrator to help it find a suitable solution.

The bakery was looking for a robotic solution to speed up the packaging of three different sizes of vol-au-vents direct from a conveyor into thermoformed blister packs. One challenge associated with handling the pastry was how to pick up such a delicate product – which also has many variations in its finished shape – especially with such high volumes passing through at high speed every hour. 

As the vol-au-vent cases leave the ovens, they are transported on a wire mesh conveyor into a cooling chamber before going on to be packaged for dispatch. To ensure accurate product positioning in preparation for the robotic lifting and packaging stages, the systems integrator first needed to ensure that a recognition and alignment process was in place from the point at which the products entered the ovens. Once this was successfully addressed, the focus turned to the design of the packaging procedures as the products emerged from the other end of the baking and cooling line.

The packaging station downstream of the cooling section is essentially a cabin housing the conveyor and four Kawasaki YF-03N delta robots, each equipped with vacuum gripping devices that are able to lift the individual vol-au-vent cases three at a time with precision and speed. A vision system monitors the positioning of the products to allow for pickup and placement into the adjacent blister packs. The system has proved to be a significant enhancement to productivity for the bakery. 

Ian Hensman, UK sales manager at Kawasaki Robotics, said: “The handling of foodstuffs has long been a key application area for Kawasaki robots, and working with delicate and irregular shaped items like these pastry cases is always challenging. Our systems integration partner worked with us to design a system for Sfoglia Torino that delivers exactly what it asked for – a substantial speeding up of its production process”.  

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