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Sewtec Automation has devised and installed a bespoke robotic top-load system for the packing of flow-wrapped teabags at Twinings’ Andover factory.

Three specially designed Sewtec LX5249-2 robotic machines are packing boxes of 40, 80, 160 and 240 teabags with minimum changeover requirements.

In addition, an integrated buffer storage system is able to store up to 10 minutes’ worth of production and reintroduce the packs during normal production, in order to maximise throughput while maintaining overall line efficiency and product quality.

The Sewtec system was created to meet Twinings’ requirements for a fast and efficient means of packing its new flow-wrapped packs of teabags.

As well as maintaining the freshness of the tea, the biodegradable film used minimises the environmental impact of the packaging.

Four IMA teabag machines linked to four PFM flow wrappers transfer pillow packs into the Sewtec-designed conveyor and gating system, which channels the packs to the three robotic box loaders.

At the same time, top-load boxes are automatically erected, conveyed and fed into compartment racetracks within the box loaders.

The Sewtec-designed pick-and-place robot features twin-axis servo-motion control for consistent and reliable operation.

The vacuum pick-and-place tooling has been specially designed for this application to ensure the gentle but firm handling of the lightweight, loosely wrapped packs.

The packs are picked from compartment racetracks, spaced and pitched according to the required loading format and placed into the boxes.

The system is configured to pack single/single-stacked wraps into eight boxes simultaneously or twin/twin-stacked wraps into four boxes simultaneously, with minimal changeover time at a rate of up to 120 flow wraps per minute.

Changeovers between the different sizes can be carried out at the touch of a button, with just the guides for the different carton sizes needing to be changed.

This solution also features an integral buffer storage system.

If, for any reason, there are stoppages further down the packing line, the machines are able to divert product away from the robotic top loader into an integrated store.

Each pack is individually handled and placed into storage from racetrack compartments, eliminating any queuing or bunching of items in order to maintain product quality.

Up to 10 minutes of storage is available and packs are then automatically reintroduced into the packing line during normal production.

A significant challenge of the installation was the limited amount of space available in the factory for all the new equipment.

Sewtec devised and installed a series of alpine conveyors to link the carton erectors and top loaders in order to provide easy access around all the machines.

Sewtec Automation

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