Cheese Rotation and Rejection Machine

Project summary:

This cheese manufacturer was looking to robotically automate one of their cheese positioning and rejection lines.

The Challenge

Employing enough workers to operate a fast-paced, food handling line is a daunting task. On top of that, the food has to be handled sanitarily to meet USDA, WDA and FDA food safety standards. 

The line has to quickly identify the quality status of the incoming blocks of cheese, and robotically move and position the good blocks of cheese onto a separate outfeed conveyor.

All of this had to be done at a rate of 150 cheese blocks per minute, and the robot’s EOAT had to be designed in such a way as not to leave any marks on the cheese.

The Solution

MWES designed and built an automation system that utilizes both infeed and outfeed conveyors to convey blocks of cheese.  

Two FANUC M430iA/4FH robots with vacuum cup EOATs are utilized in moving the cheese between the conveyors.

The cheese blocks convey in via the infeed conveyor, and an iRVision 2D Tracking camera identifies the cheese blocks that are acceptable for packaging.

The accepted cheese blocks are picked by one of the robots and moved to an outfeed conveyor. 

The rejected blocks of cheese would continue their conveyance into a rejection bin.

The machine’s operation starts by creating individual buffers of cheese of around 20-30 parts for each robot.  The buffer monitors the individual cheese and allows the machine to place the cheese before it is determined to be acceptable, based on a set of criteria. 

The cheese that is identified as acceptable is picked up by one of the two robots, turned 90 degrees, and placed onto a web that has the printed packaging laid over the outgoing conveyor line. 

The robots coordinate in such a way that a block of cheese, when rotated and placed, has an accuracy of 1/8 inch.

The robots use a vision camera to determine the position of the cheese on the incoming conveyor belt.  The system registers the incoming cheese block position and its angle using vision.  It then registers the print position on the incoming web of packaging material.  

This is done to determine the placement of the cheese on the web based on the print registration.  The system communicates with and monitors the wrapping equipment to maintain a consistent production rate to reduce downtime.

Impact to the Customer

The machine that MWES provided this firm has greatly improved throughput of 150 blocks of cheese per minute.

It is also flexible enough that the system can be configured to handle over 30 different cheese block dimensions, and new ones can be added via the HMI for continued operational flexibility.

Midwest Engineered Systems has a wide range of experience of building food handling systems.

If you’re looking to improve your material handling throughput, we have the knowledge and experience to make the project a success.

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