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Robots lift pastry sales

14 July 2020

Sfoglia Torino is an Italian manufacturer of pastries that is known for the quality of its products, and its vol-au-vent cases are especially popular, with millions being made at its plant. When the company identified a need to speed up production on the line making its vol-au-vent cases, it began discussions with system integrators and automation experts Tiesse, based in Visano, just south of Lake Garda.

The bakery wanted a robotic solution to speed up the packaging of three different sizes of vol-au-vents (38mm, 50mm and 60mm) direct from a conveyor into thermoformed blister packs. Noting that ‘Vol-au-vent’ translates to ‘Windblown’ to describe the constitution of the pastry, an early challenge identified was how to pick up (from the top) such a delicate product, and one which has so 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 assure accurate product positioning in preparation for the robotic lifting and packaging stages to follow, the Tiesse team firstly needed to ensure that a recognition and alignment process was in place from the point at which the products entered the ovens in the first place. With this 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 some interesting vacuum gripping devices that lift the individual vol-au-vent cases three at a time with precision and speed. A vision system provided by regular Tiesse partners TS Vision monitors the positioning for pickup and placement into the adjacent blister packs, and the complete system has proved to be a significant enhancement to Sfoglia Torino’s productivity. Kawasaki Robotics’ UK Sales Manager Ian Hensman observed, “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. But our long-standing partners at Tiesse have worked with us and designed a system for Sfoglia Torino that delivers exactly what they asked for: a substantial speeding up of its production process”.

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