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Robotic Carton Loading and Case Packing Line

With over 80 years of experience in making ice cream, TipTop is one of New Zealand’s favourite and most award-winning ice cream brands. The company has stayed tied to their roots, creating a range of flavours made using fresh New Zealand milk and cream, which are now sold at over 400 locations around the country.

The challenge proposed to us by TipTop was the need to design, manufacture, and deliver four machines customised to suit TipTop’s requirements. The brief was to erect, load, and close four carton sizes: feed these into a case packer with the ability to pack the cartons into five shipper SKU’s; with all of this being done at 300 ice creams per minute. In addition, everything needed to fit into a small footprint. The delicate nature of the chocolate skin on the bars meant we had to be as gentle as possible.

The system solution for Tip Top consisted of four stand-alone machines connected by a series of conveyors to create the full system.

  1. E101-Twin Head Erector 
  2. K102-Top Load Cartoner
  3. C104-Three Flap Closer 
  4. D103-Wraparound Casepacker 

These solutions draw on methods proven over our 40 years in the business of providing automation solutions
, and an in-depth understanding of the plant parameters, units per day and consumables.

 E101-Twin Head Erector 

The machine is capable of erecting a wide range of carton sizes and styles, display, three flap or open top. In carton board (fibre) or fluted cardboard. The erector is capable of producing up to 75 cartons per minute. 

Flat carton blanks are loaded into the two magazines, the blanks are plucked, glue is applied and then formed through a dedicated toolset by a matching punch. A dedicated change of parts per carton removes the chances of an incorrect set-up by operators during a size change.

K102-Top Load Cartoner

The solution now utilises Codian robot hardware and Gocator 3D vision systems – and contains four, four-axis delta robots controlled by Beckhoff IPC and servo control technology. Typically, we use a 2D system for applications like this, but we found the 3D system gave us better results across the range of ice creams. High-speed 3D product scanning and the RML software platform allow upwards of 300 ice creams to be scanned, tracked, picked, and then placed into cartons.

There is a 6-axis robot positioned at each end of the system, one to deliver empty cartons in, and one to merge filled cartons so that they can exit the machine, making this a 30-axis machine. The ice creams must be only held in the machine very briefly, as they degrade quickly if they are not packed and sent to the blast freezers within a set time. Logic has been written into the systems code to ensure we balance out the delivery of cartons from the loader through to the case packer and into the freezers, to ensure that product quality is maintained.

C104-Three Flap Closer 

The function of this machine is to glue close Three Flap Style cartons at a rate of up to 75 cartons per minute. The closer is capable of closing cartons with a wide range of lengths, widths and heights in either carton or fibre board.

Filled cartons are conveyed into the machine, and a gating system singulates the cartons and conveys them through a first glue and compression section to close the two outer flaps. The cartons are then rotated and conveyed through a second glue and compression section to close the remaining flap.

This model was customised to suit a very narrow footprint window. This machine was also fitted with coding for BB and batch information.

D103-Wraparound Casepacker 

The D103 is one of our most supplied products. The RML  Wraparound Casepacker is hugely flexible in the types of products it can pack and the size range of the cases it can process.

The machine for Tip Top packed five-sized shippers, all with different-sized final pack sizes and patterns. Cartons are conveyed into the machine, stood up using a star wheel and moved to a collation station. A caseload of products (single or two layers) is collated before being swept by an RML Robot into the waiting case. The cases are glued closed before exiting the machine. This machine was customised to include an internal case elevator. This module conveyed the cases vertically and exited them onto an overhead conveyor where they were transported out of the room for palletising. This machine was also fitted with coding for BB and batch information.

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