Stäubli Robotics, a global leader in industrial automation, is expanding the possibilities for automation in food and other industries with high production, strict hygiene requirements, and demanding humid environments.
More than 7,000 sandwiches an hour is the kind of throughput achieved by Grote Company, a Stäubli customer that manufactures food slicing and assembling equipment, using the robotic sandwich assembly line it developed in-house. The system’s main ingredient is a Stäubli TX2-60 HE (Humid Environment) six-axis robot.
Guided by a 3D vision system, the TX2-60 HE “lids” the sandwich, deftly picking up the two halves from a conveyor using a specialized gripper, putting them together, then aligning the complete sandwich precisely on the conveyor for accurate slicing. Up to 60 sandwiches per minute can be produced in this way, with twin lines available to double production up to 120 sandwiches per minute.
The Stäubli TX2-60 HE robot is designed to operate with optimum reliability as well as safety. Hygienic design features include:
- It is designed specifically for use in wet environments and full washdown applications;
- Smooth, rounded and tilted surfaces to eliminate liquid retention;
- No external cables – all connections go through the base;
- Fully enclosed and pressurized structure to prevent microorganism penetration and avoid condensation;
- Protected against low-pressure jets of water (IP65) and immersion (IP67);
- Fully compatible with NSF H1 food-grade oil;
- Stainless steel crucial components and specific coating for durability in extreme conditions.
Bob Grote, CEO of Grote Company, emphasized the importance of hygienic design, which was a requirement. “The entire cell is regularly sanitized with hot water and chemical cleaning agents,” he explained. This routine would push a conventional robot beyond its limits, but the Stäubli TX2-60 HE is built to withstand rigorous cleaning processes required by applications that are subject to the strictest hygiene standards – such as those involving contact with unwrapped food products.
“The recently developed TS2 and TX2 in their HE versions are the result of the long experience of Stäubli Robotics in the food processing industry. Our unique hygienic design, developed for our six-axis range and now four-axis range, is the fruit of regular exchanges with the players in this very specific market. Stäubli is proud of this exclusive offering, which sets the standards for an industry that is showing increasing needs for automation,” said Sebastien Schmitt, robotics division manager, Stäubli North America.
Grote’s robotic sandwich assembly line can be integrated into existing production systems or operated as a standalone cell. Either way, the user benefits from a high degree of automation with high flexibility. The robot can take on other tasks and produce various types of sandwiches with a quick program and gripper change. Grote remarked on its potential, saying “We are convinced that robotics will play a major role in automated food production in the future. We see ourselves as pioneers in this regard, and we intend to apply this principle in other areas, for example in the topping and handling of frozen pizzas.”