Twinings introduced the flow wrapped bags to extend the freshness of its tea products and contacted Sewtec to install three robotic machines at its Andover factory that would pack the bags into boxes of 40, 80, 160 and 240.
The system is set up to pack single/single stacked wraps into eight boxes simultaneously or twin/twin stacked wraps into four boxes simultaneously, at a rate of up to 120 flow wraps per minute.
It firstly picks packs from compartment racetracks, spaces and pitches them according to the required loading format and then places them into boxes.
A spokesperson for the company said the vacuum pick and place tooling used by the system had to be specially designed because the lightweight and loosely wrapped packs required gentle but firm handling.
One of the stand-out features of the system is a buffer storage facility that is able to store ten minutes worth of production. This kicks in if there are stoppages further down the packing line, so that product is diverted away from the robotic top loader and directed to a store. Once the blockage has been fixed, packs are then automatically reintroduced into the packing line.
Sewtec said that when designing the system for Twinings one of the key challenges was a lack of space. The company therefore devised and installed a series of alpine conveyors, which link the carton erectors and top loaders at an angle so as to make it easy to walk between the machines.
UK-based Sewtec specialises in conveyor systems and automated machinery for the food, personal products and tobacco industries.