Confectionery & Snacks

Modular TLM system enables full automation on a compact length

The compact system at Pixie Ice Cream packs ice cream lollies into cartons – either as single-variety or into mixed packs.

In online operation, which is directly linked to production, the pick & place robots process up to 400 products per minute.

Ten infeed belts bring the ice cream lollies to the pick & place robots in offline operation.

The packaging design of the cartons was optimised for the process flow in close collaboration between Pixie and Schubert.

WIP containers, which are fed directly from the magazine, are used for interim storage of the ice cream specialities.

In order to simplify the format changeover, Schubert uses flexible tools that can automatically adapt to all the cartons used

Requirements

Wide variety of formats with limited hall space

Schubert automates extensive ice cream packaging

Australian ice cream manufacturer Pixie Ice Cream is entering the international market with the flexible concept of the TLM machines.

The switch to automated packaging for Pixie Ice Cream brought with it various requirements for the new packaging machine intended for this purpose. It would have to be able to package frozen ice cream packed into flowpacks in both single-variety and mixed assortments. The entire system had to be extremely compact in order not to exceed the limited hall space. Additionally, the ice cream manufacturer required a large variety of formats: The milk and fruit ice-cream varieties in standard and mini formats had to be packed both into cartons of various sizes and into plastic WIP containers (Work in Progress).

Even at an early stage of development, Schubert identified yet another challenge in collaboration with the ice cream producer. The cartons used previously were very high and allowed very little clearance for the products. However, since the ice cream lolly is not always in the same place in the flowpack, the robot cannot grip the product uniformly and the empty ends of the flowpack protrude to varying degrees. When placing them into the carton over the high edge, these “fins” can quickly stick to the carton wall.

Solution

How does the solution meet the requirement?

A combination of modular Schubert technologies leads to success

With seven TLM sub-machines, Schubert combined the picker line and packing line into a compact system. Thanks to flexible position adjustment of the pick & place robots, automatic changeover from direct connection to production, to the packaging of mixed assortments is possible.

For customised solutions such as this one, Schubert draws on its decades of experience as an innovative, market-leading manufacturer of packaging machines. This requires close collaboration with the customer – even over long distances. With Pixie Ice Cream this collaboration worked out very well from the word go. A solution for the last challenge could therefore be found together: the height of the cartons.

Schubert’s specialists optimised the packaging design in consultation with the customer to ensure a reliable packaging process. For this purpose, the carton remains open at the front during packing. The front of the carton tilts slightly forwards, which increases the opening for the product to be inserted. Additionally, the individual flowpacks are positioned at an angle when they are inserted. Only after the carton has been filled is it sealed with an attached cover and a three-sided closure. Moreover, the new carton variants were selected to ensure that all formats are sufficiently pressure-resistant for storage and transport.

At a glance

  • 7 sub-machines for picker line and packing line
  • Automatic switching between online and offline operation
  • Customised carton design

Added value

“The company’s innovative strength, leading technologies and the modular, flexible concept of the TLM machines suit our ideas perfectly.”

Technical Details

Compact system with great variance

By using the counterflow principle and the Schubert Transmodul transport robot, the TLM system – consisting of seven sub-machines – compactly combines the picker line and packing line over a length of only 13.8 m. With the Transmodul, cartons and plastic boxes are cycled from one station to the next within the system. All secondary packaging is fed into the system via magazine, including the stackable WIP containers.

When the machine is operating online, the ice cream lollies are automatically fed from production and the flow-wrapping machine via a product belt into the machine. Offline, the products are fed via ten infeed belts, each with buffering capacity. At the end of each pair of belts, one pick & place robot is positioned with individual tools for picking up the product. In this mode, up to eight different products can be packaged with two different packaging configurations – with up to 30 products per corrugated or solid board carton.

During the automatic changeover from online to offline, the pick & place robots are moved to their respective positions. All infeed belts are equipped with incident light scanners that identify the position of the products on the belt. In online mode, up to 400 products per minute or up to 66 cartons can be packed, with format changeover between up to eight different carton sizes (corrugated or solid board) and WIP containers.

The format changeover of the system is also automated to the greatest possible extent by the use of flexible tools.

Overall performance
  • Online: 400 products per minute
  • Combination of picker line and packing line
  • 7 sub-machines
  • 10 feeder belts in offline operation
  • 13 secondary packaging formats
  • Format changeover in about 25 minutes

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