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Adept ClamPAC robotic systems installed at produce farm

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Four Adept ClamPAC robotic systems were installed at Earthbound Farm to case pack new environment-friendly clamshell packages.

Earthbound Farm is a leading grower, packer and shipper of organic produce in the US.

ClamPAC is a total robotic solution, a hygienic packaging automation cell that integrates Adept's high speed USDA-accepted Quattro robot with a motion controller, vision processor, software and touch screen on a modular frame complete with conveyor systems to handle incoming products and empty cases and discharge filled cases.

Will Daniels, SVP of Operations and Organic Integrity explains that the robotic systems have been installed to meet the challenges of labour availability, especially unskilled labour on the plant floor. ClamPAC automates the manual process, eliminating a highly repetitive manual task with high injury rates so that the existing labour force could be transitioned into skilled work.

Earthbound explored several suppliers offering robotic systems and found Adept as the only provider with a product that could withstand their rigorous sanitation routine. According to Joe Torquato, Director of Engineering, the new robotic packaging systems improve the consistency of throughput, which helps position the company for continued growth.

He points out several advantages of the ClamPAC system including gentle and accurate technology, reduced product damage, enhanced presentation of the clamshells in the case, improved work environment and labour cost savings.

Adept designed the ClamPAC robotic systems to provide the dexterity and flexibility of manual packaging with the consistency and throughput of traditional packaging machinery. ClamPAC reduces delivery, integration and overall deployment times as well as the total cost of ownership by bundling numerous building blocks such as vision, easily navigated operator interfaces and a thoughtfully designed frame into an integrated unit.

Torquato observes that most food processors prefer to work with a single-source supplier for the entire process. Adept took on that accountability by handling everything including Earthbound’s empty boxes, learned all their SKUs and became very intimate with their process.

Additionally, Adept set up the systems to handle the clamshells and each case packing configuration, integrating their own systems with Earthbound’s plant control network to enable remote control of the operation and gather data for reporting purposes.

The four Adept ClamPAC systems at Earthbound Farm case pack 5oz clamshells filled with a variety of washed lettuces. Six and eight-count cases are packed with each Adept ClamPAC picking up two clamshells per cycle. Torquato explains that ClamPAC tracks the box coming into the system and actually begins to fill it while it's still in motion, helping the system to achieve its very high speeds while maintaining very gentle handling.

ClamPAC incorporates Adept's popular Quattro s650H parallel robot featuring a patented four-arm design that offers a large work area and maximum acceleration for smooth motion and high throughput.

Each ClamPAC system comes with SoftPIC grippers or graspers that Adept custom-designs and moulds specifically for each product. Made of soft silicone that conforms to the shape of the product, SoftPIC grippers provide a direct vacuum path to the product, which enables the systems to handle Earthbound Farm's clamshells gently and reliably at high speeds. For lines that accommodate product changeovers, the grippers can be easily swapped out in less than two minutes.

Torquato notes that the robotic case packing systems consistently handle the clamshells more gently than the manual process. Earthbound’s new patented clamshells feature a lid that's sonically welded to the tub. The Adept system is gentle enough to lift the clamshell by its lid and not break the easy-open perforation.

The ClamPAC systems nest the flanges of the clamshells during case packing, helping to keep the clamshells in a better position so they are less prone to damage during transportation.

Daniels adds that Adept's robotic packaging systems support an efficient sanitation process, leading to a clean, safe product.

According to Torquato, Adept has delivered on all the requirements specified by Earthbound including guaranteed uptime, integrated turnkey system with easy start-up, user-friendly controls and speedy operation.

In addition to the four ClamPAC systems currently installed on the 5oz clamshell lines, Earthbound has purchased four more ClamPAC systems, which will be installed on lines packing 1lb 11oz clamshells.

Adept robotic systems are currently available in Australia and New Zealand from Walls Machinery .

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