A small-farm solution for harsh midwest weather.
As a Process Packager, Chris Schmidt of Schmidt Farms, Auburn, Michigan, www.schmidtfarmsofauburn.com is a hands on owner operator. His business has grown as did the need to increase production. The packaging process is simple; Fill the bag, close the bag, and stack the bag on a pallet, though the last step was a killer.
- Unheated barn / Michigan winters
- Limited space, power & budget
- Limited experience with robots
Chris tackled the above challenges by finding a company with experience. After thorough study and discussion, American-Newlong was able to recommend and supply the Fuji Robotic palletizer package described here.
Chris Schmidt stated 9 months after startup, "The packaging line I bought from American-Newlong wasn’t cheap and it was a hard check for a small processor like me to write but I think it was a tremendous value. With the benefit of hind site, I’d do it exactly the same way again. It’s important for people to know that not all robotic palletizing systems need to be on a large scale. Small and simple works and is affordable too”.
Unheated Barn! What to do?
As a standard, the robot is designed to run between 33-104 degrees F. However, the winters in Michigan can get much colder so we added a cold temperature package (ok down to 23 F) that consisted of a thermally controlled heater in the robot control panel (to keep condensation out) and ran a specially designed low voltage self regulating heating cable system using conductive polymer technology. This system is well tested, reliable, and safe. The heat line followed the cable harness from the control panel to the robot body, and out to the end of arm tooling. The point is to prevent airline freeze during the bitter cold months of winter in an unheated barn. Another important element was continuous flexibility. The robot arm is always moving and the heat cable must withstand the repeated motions for many years to come.
Noteworthy mention: Unfortunately, most barns and buildings were constructed many years ago when processing and packaging were mostly done by hand, requiring little space. American-Newlong is allowing these small processors to automate their bag handling in limited space without additional building construction by offering our Fuji robotic palletizing system solutions.
We first met Chris one cold evening in March, 2008 at his farm in Auburn, MI. With tape measure in hand, we discussed the specifics of his layout and his needs to keep clear of the rough seed delivery spot. The space was very tight indeed. The hopper, manual bag hanger, conveyor, and sewing machine were existing. Once the bag is filled and closed, Chris would manually stack the pallet in the traffic area.
After discussing the general flow of the barn (product flow, fork truck access, and rough seed parking), we collectively decided to convey the sewn bags to the left of the page and use a “bag kicker” to knock the bags down after the conditioner and convey the bags inline to the robot to be palletized.
Electrical – Chris knew he had power restrictions as do many rural farms in the Midwest. Chris purchased a new phase converter (1ph to 3ph) and a transformer to convert the output from a DELTA to a Y configuration. Y connected sources can deliver the same amount of power with less live current than DELTA connected sources. In layman terms, the robot prefers the Y connection source over the DELTA. The robot power consumption (2 KVA) is “very” low due to the mechanical design of the robot itself. In fact, a simple hair dryer can consume more electricity than the robot palletizing 10 bags per minute.
Air – Since the robot uses servo motors for motion, the only air requirements are for the end of arm tooling. There is an independent air regulator / pressure sensor / shutoff valve mechanism with a 30’ airline that connects to the robot base. The required pressure is regulated down to 72 PSI so supplying 80 PSI or more is recommended. Air volume use will be ~ 4 CFM. It is best to provide clean dry air for normal operation.
Chris forecast future business and decided the time was right to buy. He decided to go with American-Newlong’s recommendation and buy 3 supporting product conveyors consisting of a 21’ long bagging conveyor with a bag kicker, a 74” incline conveyor with an overhead drum roller (for flattening the bag top), and a 60” bag conveyor with adjustable bag center guides for precise bag delivery to the robot.
To Sum Things Up
Chris Schmidt stated after startup (8/1/08); “Things went very well during startup. Your engineer was great to work with and very knowledgeable”. A robot palletizing system can be a huge asset to an operation but it can also be a major headache if integrated poorly. The system is only as good as the integration, onsite training, and after market support. There may be, and probably are unique challenges with your operation. Our approach is simple; We apply common sense principals and tried and true methods to get the results you expect.
This success story sponsored by: American-Newlong, Inc.
American-Newlong, Inc. is a leading manufacturer of automated, open-mouth bag packaging and closing systems and equipment and is a distributor of Fuji Ace robotic palletizers. American-Newlong’s line of equipment includes sewing machines, twist tying machines, tape tying machines, heat sealers, semi- automated to fully automated packaging systems that weigh, pack, close, check weigh, distribute and palletize. The company’s Indiana headquarters offers full parts and service support for all products, with multiple dealers and distributors. “Turn key" systems and custom design systems available for specific applications.
For more information contact American-Newlong, Inc., 5310 South Harding Street Indianapolis, IN 46217. Phone: 317-787-9421. Fax: 317-786-5225. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.