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Giving an old line a new lease of life

16 July 2017

A new control system was at the heart of a recent project undertaken by Western Mechanical Handling UK (WMH) for Samworth Brothers, which has resulted in a redundant line being saved from the scrap heap, re-furbished and re-purposed. 

The line was originally designed for the production pies and flans with a pastry base but had stood idle for several years as production requirements at the facility changed. WMH was approached to re-develop the line and bring it back into use to provide the factory with the production facilities that it needed to help meet its current production requirements, producing cheese cakes. WMH specialises in the design manufacture and installation of production process automation solutions for the food industry

The project required the line to be stripped back to its basic component parts before being built back up, integrating new denesters and depositors to cope with the new products. Servo drives also needed to be added along with a complete new control system to bring all the elements together into a seamless inline system.   

Operation and control of the updated line is now handled via a touch screen HMI. The menus and functionality have been designed in conjunction with the operators to give them access to all the functionality needed to run the line efficiently. Simplification of fault finding was achieved by moving all the safety inputs into local enclosures which also reduced the amount of machine wiring needed.

The line has been configured to handle three sizes of cheesecake each requiring different change parts and tooling.  The control system monitors the change-parts and tooling throughout the line to prevent operation with incorrect or misaligned parts.

The new line
The line integrates a two-stage detester for plastic pots and cardboard bases and a granular dosing unit for the crumb base.  It also integrates two depositors for the cheese cake topping.  A closed loop feedback system was used and deposit weights are continuously fed back to the depositors which will automatically adjust for weight discrepancies, helping to reduce product give-away for overweight and rejected underweight products.

To create a pattern on the top of the product WMH developed a ‘Swirly-Whirly’ arrangement to spin the products through 360° which has the effect of swirling droplets of fruit compote into an attractive pattern on the cheesecakes. 

Offloading of product from the line via a WMH pick and place unit is profile controlled to ensure product does not slop during acceleration or deceleration. This helps to improve the quality and look of the finished product.

The line has been fully integrated with the downstream production processes for speed matching to maintain optimum product flow and improve product quality. Weight and batch data from the production line is collected and exported to the factory.

Commenting on the project, Chris Terry at Samworth Brothers, said: “WMH has provided us with a simple clean approach to producing our products.  The design and automation team removed much of the complicated equipment and outdated safety circuit system resulting in a control panel a fifth of the original size.”  

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