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RNA has been tasked with automating a production line for disposable plastic spoons by a specialist supplier of plastic injection-moulded components for the food industry.

For this project, a foldable spoon needed to be placed into a cap – the cap is supplied to a manufacturer of milk-based fast foods.

A disposable plastic spoon is very difficult to orient due to the design of the moulding – especially at 120 parts per minute.

The solution chosen was a Microflex equipped with an RNA step feeder, a bulk storage hopper and an ABB IRB360 robot.

Microflex has been developed by SVIA and is marketed by RNA in the UK and Ireland.

The spoons are automatically fed from the hopper, into the step feeder and then onto a conveyor belt.

A brush positioned above the out-feed conveyor separates the spoons under the SVIA Pick Vision camera system.

The Pick Vision software pinpoints the exact location of the spoons and sends the information to the robot.

The robot utilises conveyor-tracking software, in other words, the components can be picked without stopping the conveyor belt.

In order for the assembly to work correctly the spoons need to be fed with the oval side facing down.

Components lying on the wrong side in the Microflex are therefore automatically recycled into the step feeder via camera recognition.

The robot is fitted with a special gripping unit, which picks the spoon and places into the waiting cap positioned on the existing production line.

The spoon-handling system has been running since the beginning of 2009 and the customer is investing in further systems to cut operating costs and improve production.

The Microflex replaces manual handling by operators, and is designed to supply assembly machines, sorting equipment and other machinery that require short cycle times with multiple component handling.

As a standard in the RNVIA range delivery is also short, therefore reducing lead times and improving payback periods on the investment.

RNA and SVIA can offer alternative standard systems, each of which is developed to match almost any specifications as an off-the-shelf package.

Another main advantage of the system is the simplicity to teach in new components.

Teaching the system a new component takes just a few minutes.

The teach-in is menu-guided from Windows PC software and requires no pre-requisites.

The Microflex is said to be robust, compact and prepared for four- or six-axis robots, Scara robots and suspended picker robots.

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