Brazilian meat producer moves to highly flexible product picking with ABB robots

Summary

Challenge: 
A Brazilian meat producer wanted to develop an automated high-speed line for producing and handling smaller, lighter meat products as well as heavier items to achieve improved productivity and the flexibility to handle production changes   

Solution: 
The proposed line included high flexibility, high payload ABB IRB 390 FlexPacker® robots to pick both light and heavy products, as well as two ABB IRB 660s to palletize cases that leave the line for packaging. 

A Brazilian systems integrator is working with ABB to help food and beverage companies in the country realize the many benefits of using robotic automation to improve their production processes.  

Torfresma specialises in production solutions for Brazil’s meat industry, supplying process and end-of line-machinery for customers in the pork, beef, and poultry sectors. 

With an ambition to widen its offering to Brazilian customers, Torfresma was looking for a company that could provide a wide range of robotics products as well as a high degree of technical support and engineering expertise. Torfresma became an ABB channel partner in 2014 and now integrates around 40 robots a year. 

One of Torfresma’s current projects is for a sausage manufacturer. The application involves the creation of a high-speed line for producing and handling smaller products as well as heavier products. Previously, handling all the products on the line required a lot of manpower for the short cycle production, which also made it difficult to achieve the flexibility needed to handle production changes.  

The customer was already open to using automation and was attracted to the additional adaptability it could give compared to relying solely on a manually based process.  

The need to handle products of varying sizes, weights and picking speeds governed the choice of robot that Torfresma recommended to the customer. The smaller products would need to be picked at a very rapid rate, so a reliable robot was needed that could both work at high speeds with lower payloads and also handle the highest payload in the line. Torfresma had already used the ABB IRB 360 FlexPicker and knew the product very well.  The decision to move to the IRB 390 FlexPacker® was a further proof of trust in ABB and its products.  

Launched in 2020, the IRB 390 FlexPacker® is a highly flexible and adaptable Delta robot, available in either 4-axis or 5-axis versions, offering a maximum 15kg payload combined with a large working range. The robot is the latest in ABB’s range of Delta fast picking robots, which also includes the proven IRB 360 FlexPicker® which has offered industry leading performance, reliability and accuracy in picking and packing applications for over 20 years.   

The 5-axis version of the FlexPacker features a ‘tilting’ axis that enhances its flexibility by enabling products to be oriented both horizontally and vertically, making secondary packaging faster and more efficient. Compared to the ABB FlexPicker, the FlexPacker offers a 35 percent increase in speed and a 45 percent larger working volume.  

With six IRB 390 robots supplied to the customer that will be installed in two production lines, the project marks the biggest order received to date for the FlexPacker. The project proposal also included two ABB IRB 660s to palletise cases that leave the line for packaging. 

Proving the solution 

As Torfresma had not worked with FlexPacker before, it asked ABB to help validate the cycle time and payload for the worst case. ABB used its RobotStudio robot simulation software to prove that two lines of robots would meet the technical requirements.  

The strong relationship between ABB and Torfesma was also instrumental in convincing the customer to replace its existing robot supplier with ABB. Torfresma demonstrated to the customer that they could use ABB robots instead and showed that ABB could provide the products and support they needed at a competitive price.  

Torfresma’s engineering team showed that the trust and confidence they had in ABB and the experience of working with the company previously would ensure they could develop a more reliable and flexible solution using ABB’s robots. 

Claudimar Bortolin, CEO of Torfresma says:
“We get a lot of value from being an ABB partner as we know ABB will support us with new technologies when we need anything new on our solutions. They are also reliable, and we have great trust in ABB.” 

In Brazil, Torfresma is seeing more companies, including smaller companies, looking to automate with robots, where previously they may have thought that robots were a very complex and expensive solution.  

“Brazil currently has a robot density of around 17 robots per 10,000 workers in 2020,” says Adrian Covi, business line manager for Consumer Segments of ABB Robotics in Brazil. “But if you look at five years ago, it was just 10 robots per 10,000 workers, so we can see the country is improving, especially in the consumer segments.”  

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