Robots - Ultimate Automation

adept robotPicture a vast factory containing rows of flowrappers with long extended infeeds. Dozens of robots, controlled by vision systems, flying around at frightening speed, arranging and building neatly stacked piles into the moving infeed of the large heavy-duty flowrappers. Each flowrapper controlling its own gang of robots as it spits out an endless stream of multi-pack snacks. Grabbed yet again by a robotised cartoner that erects, fills, closes and seals each box of a hundred multi-packs before ejecting it onto it's final conveyor. It passes through into another part of the factory, outside of the clean-room conditions, where it's automatically stacked with others onto pallets and secured by a rotating pallet wrapping machine. The full pallets are loaded into lorries, backed up against loading bays, by people driving fork-lift trucks - finally some human input!

One of the flowrappers is almost out of film - but simply slows a little and automatically changes to a second reel, splicing the near empty reel and new one together. It waits while the splice passes through the machine then speeds back up to full speed and automatically rejects the pack containing the splice as it passes over the same reject station used by the check-weigher. The warning beacon indicates we are down to a single reel, a network connection tells a supervisor in his distant office. Before that reel runs low a human eventually appears and replenishes the spare reel holder, automatically cancelling the beacon and informing the distant supervisor.

It's then that you realise this vast facility with its mass of machines, conveyors, pipework, hoppers and steel-work is almost empty of people - you have to look hard to see any humans. And this is just the multi-pack line - the huge room before this one contains over fifty vertical flowrappers and multi-head weighers fed via vibratory conveyors from the huge ovens. This really is how those multi-packs of crisps that fill the supermarket shelves are produced - we know because we were part of the team that built it.

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