Automation Analysis – Depositing with Robots and Cobots for the Food & Baking Industry

It’s no question that depositing is a common application for food automation, so we dove deep into this topic to help you learn all about it! We asked a few questions to Rob Antonides, the President of Apex Motion Control, so we could answer some of your most important questions.

  1. What do you see as the top trends in depositing today, in food manufacturing markets?
    “One of the top trends I’ve seen is targeted depositing. It allows for conveyor configuration and container flexibility. Food manufacturers have also found use for specific deposit designs to set their brand apart, from small dollops to zig zag deposits. In terms of technology, servo-driven technology has been around for quite some time, but we are seeing it replace traditional air driven piston depositing due to increased speed and accuracy.”
  2. What are the latest robotics innovations in depositing?
    “Mobile depositing, which is also called ‘non-configured depositing’. Traditionally, depositors would be stationary at the conveyor, and they would only deposit onto a specific area of a product in a tray or a container that’s configured on a conveyor. With mobile depositing solutions such as a cobot, the containers do not need to be specifically configured on a conveyor because the robotic arm senses the container, moves towards it, and deposits while the container is moving down the conveyor.”
  3. What robotics equipment does Apex Motion Control Offer to help food manufacturers with depositing?
    “Well, our Baker-Bot cobot is not really a depositing system when you think of traditional depositors, such as piston or servo depositors, but the Baker-Bot when fitted with a pump and attachments, will deposit all types of flowable liquids. With the inclusion of a heated pump or tempering station, it can also deposit flowable products that are temperature sensitive, such as warm chocolate fudge icing onto mini bundt cakes or drizzled glaze over cinnamon buns. This flexibility allows the Baker-Bot to be useful for a wide range of applications.”
  4. Can you give me an example of a food processor where Apex Motion Control has successfully applied their automation products and services to help with depositing?
    “One customer required numerous targeted depositing applications for ready meals like marinara sauce & alfredo sauce for different pastas, and BBQ sauce & mashed potatoes for a grilled chicken meal. This was accomplished by configuring a Baker-Bot with a piston pump and a standard depositing nozzle over a HFFS (Horizontal Form Fill and Seal line). You can actually see a video of this depositing system in action through our YouTube channel.”
  5. What are some challenges and opportunities for robotics with depositing applications?
    “Depositing can be difficult for products/applications that have large inclusions, are temperature sensitive, or are situated in environments that require full washdowns of robotic equipment. On the flipside, the opportunities for depositing are endless. As long as the product flows, we can deposit it. One of the biggest opportunities though is in wholesale bakery manufacturing for cake decorating, where icing can be deposited onto cakes with intricate designs. With collaborative robots like the Baker-Bot, users can decorate cakes with rosettes, roses, drizzling, writing, and any other designs that they can draw onto a tablet. The process of using the cobot is extremely simple as well. The user-friendly interface is designed so that anyone can use the Baker-Bot, even if you’ve never had robotics experience. If you can use a smartphone, you’ll easily be able to use a Baker-Bot too.”