AIA: Santa's Robotic Helpers Sort Sweets
Founded in 1906, Spangler Manufacturing Co. (Bryan, OH) employs more than 600 people in the United States and Mexico making an assortment of lollipops, circus peanuts and other goodies. Among the company's leading products are candy canes-the ones you hang on your Christmas tree-of which they make approximately 2.5 million, every day!
Spangler makes its candy canes from a sugar and corn syrup mixture that is cooked at 286 F and pulled by a giant taffy puller, which makes the candy white. After the canes have been colored, sized, twisted, wrapped, crooked and cooled, they are inspected and packed in slotted boxes that protect them until they are ready to be hung from the tree.
In the past, inspecting and packing was done entirely by hand. Spangler would employ "cells" of packers consisting of 12 to 14 workers-three cells per shift, two shifts per day, or around 80 people in all. These workers, all seated around a conveyor carrying the finished canes, would pick up the empty boxes, fill them with canes, and then place them on a second conveyor, to be carried to a wrapping station.
Today, these tedious chores are done by a battery of 32 robots from Adept Technology Inc. (Livermore, CA), mostly machine-vision equipped AdeptOne SCARA robots. As finished canes come down the line, a human operator does a quick inspection, after which the canes enter a robot cell where they are automatically inspected for length and correct curvature as they travel down a conveyor.
The robots are equipped with end effectors that pick up three canes at a time. Rejects continue down the conveyor to a receptacle at the end of the line where they are melted down and added to a fresh batch of sugar and corn syrup.
"Adept continues to provide us with solutions that offer more precision, flexibility and controls," says Spangler manufacturing engineer David Bauer. "The new AdeptWindows-based systems have made an extremely difficult and time-consuming task simple enough for our nontechnical staff to implement, saving time and money, and providing us with far more options to meet our business goals."
Now if they can just figure out how to create a robot that will shovel snow and feed the reindeer!
For more on automated packaging and material handling, call 925-245-3400, visit www.adept.com or eInquiry 1.