Filled pralines are the speciality of Polish confectioner Mieszko. To take on the challenge of automating both the pre-sorting and packaging processes, the company decided to rely on Schubert’s experience. The experts designed a unique vibration unit for the delicate products: it gently places the hemispherical cherry pralines on their flat underside before the delicacies are assembled and packaged into a wide variety of assortments in the TLM praline packaging line.
Based on a tradition of more than 150 years, Polish confectioner Mieszko develops fine praline creations. Delicately melting dark chocolate, fresh fruit, crunchy nuts and aromatic spices such as vanilla or chilli promise a culinary journey to exotic places all over the world. The delicacies are produced in two manufacturing facilities in Ratibor near Katowice.
Gentle product handling and flexible automation
Cherrissimo pralines are an especially popular Mieszko treat: coated in chocolate and wrapped in colourful foil, the hemispherical cherry pralines with an alcoholic filling are offered in formats ranging from small gift packages to a large assortment of pralines. In order to meet the increasing demand, Mieszko planned to further automate the packaging process. The packaging of these delicate products calls for both extremely gentle product handling and a wide range of formats. To meet these requirements, Schubert’s specialists developed a highly flexible TLM praline packaging line with an innovative upstream vibration unit. It automatically pre-sorts the hemispherical pralines by gently placing them on their flat underside. This means that the treats can then be picked up correctly oriented by the pick & place robots and placed in plastic trays.
Diverse packaging formats
The fully loaded trays are placed in double-walled boxes or folding cartons. In order to keep the folding boxes open when inserting the trays, Schubert designed a special spreading tool. Moreover, unwrapped products can also be packaged in the system. Tomasz Stiebler, Project Manager at Mieszko, is highly satisfied with the result: “The system’s amazing flexibility is ideal for us. We can process more than 20 different packaging combinations. I’m also enthusiastic about the tool-free conversion between formats.” Schubert already enables the robot tools to be exchanged quickly and easily as standard without the need for additional tools.
Correctly pre-positioned pralines thanks to a vibration unit
The new TLM praline packaging line from Schubert consists of six sub-machines. In the first one, the plastic trays are inserted into the chain. This is followed by three TLM sub-machines with integrated F4 robots, which are supplied product on three separate infeeds. At each feeder, three belts connected in series ensure the correct position of the various types of pralines. Michael Voelskow, responsible Sales Account Manager at Schubert, explains the function: “The first infeed conveyor delivers the wrapped chocolates unsorted in bulk. When transferring to a second conveyor, the products are no longer positioned above each other but next to each other in a single layer. The third conveyor, which follows on immediately, moves two steps forward and one step backward in an abrupt motion.” This motion is so perfectly balanced that any Pralines that are lying on their round side are corrected onto their flat underside, whilst those products that are already correctly orientated, remain as such.
When correctly positioned, the pralines pass across a spreading belt for separation. A reflected-light scanner detects the position of the products. The image recognition system from Schubert was specially developed for packaging tasks involving large product ranges. This not only allows the position of the products to be calculated, but also the quality to be assessed: only perfect pralines are picked up by the pick & place robots and placed into the plastic trays provided. In order to reliably package delicate products, the F4 robots in the Schubert system have individually designed tools. Soft, half-shell-shaped grippers, which are exactly adapted to the shape of the hemispherical Mieszko delicacies and work with vacuum, ensure the gentle transfer of the pralines from the belt to the plastic trays. F2 filling robots then place the filled trays into pre-erected double-walled boxes and, depending on the format, place padding paper on them to protect the products. Alternatively, folding boxes can be used, which are kept open when the plastic trays are inserted by an individually designed spreading tool. Additionally, unwrapped products can also be packaged in the system by pushing them from the tray onto the infeed belts without using the vibration unit. “Tool free” changeovers between the various packaging configurations take place within 15 to 20 minutes.
Set for the future
In the future, it will also be possible to realise other packaging variants, such as trays for very small batches that are inserted into the chain by hand. With the new Schubert praline packaging line, Mieszko has greatly expanded the complex packaging process for Cherrissimo pralines and is now in a position to significantly increase its production.
Facts and figures
– 3 infeed belts with vibration units for orientating the wrapped products
– 6 sub-machines
– 500 pralines per minute
– Unwrapped and foil-wrapped pralines
– Spreading tool for folding boxes
– More than 20 formats
– Tool-free format changeover in 15 to 20 minutes