Quest Industrial strives to provide the total automated robotic system that is designed for wash-down applications. By providing unique robotic and automation solutions that are able to withstand the actual process solutions as well as the wash-down chemicals and procedures within a direct food handling plant all while holding up the large temperature swings, Quest has been able to become the nation’s largest direct cheese handling robotic integrator. Quest’s engineers have made huge strides in innovating robotic end of arm tooling and they now offer several types of food safe toolings. The vast experience working with the WDA, 3-A, and USDA has led us to develop tooling that is not only food safe, but is very reliable and easy to clean. One EOAT product line Quest offers, uses vacuum to pick the product with the use of NO external vacuum sources, generators, or vacuum pumps. This means no holes or tubes to clean, saving your plant time and money.
Furthermore, Quest understands that customers have expectations. Owners of plants want more production, hygienic design but efficient, a reduction in cleaning time, a full understanding of the robot as well as a reduction in customer extraneous complaints. One of Quest’s customers stated, “We needed a system that will not only perform the tasks we are asking of it, but also do so with greater ease. All of this while meeting our food safety initiatives. With ever increasing need to produce more while reducing costs, quality issues, and while increasing food safety, our automation must not only be cleanable and hygienic, but reliable and faster.” As stated previously, Quest offers the total system design capable of being in a wash-down environment. Quest Industrial provides unique robotic and automation solutions that are tailored to each situation all while upholding sanitary standards while withstanding the actual process solutions and the wash-down chemicals and procedures within a food plant while holding up in the large temperature swings is critical to how well the equipment will perform during cleanup day after day.
When discussing hygienic considerations for your robotic automated application is it crucial to keep in mind that each task the system is asked to perform, influences and changes the hygienic considerations. Typical hygienic considerations would be: Direct food contact surfaces, such as EOAT. Has it been designed to meet sanitary standards? Hygienic designs impact payload as well as robot and automation equipment efficiencies. The customer must understand that robotic movements influence hygienic engineering. Lastly, was the clean-ability of the tooling considered? Diving deeper into design considerations, please consider sanitary standards for hygienic design, remember that EOAT is the number one factor – no matter how it is connected. Also consider, how the EOAT is powered and its path from its start to its destination. Additionally, are there any tubes, wires, or holders that affect the drip draw drain? Last, please consider wash-down considerations for tooling and its connectivity.
Ever wonder how an integrator chooses the correct robotic arm for the application? There are many factors, but a few for the hygienic applications are as follows. Typically tooling that will meet sanitary standards will weigh more and in turn affect robotic movements. With the robot position being critical to keeping a sanitary design, this too alters the size, reach and/or capacity. Due to heavier tooling, a bigger robot will be required, along with the consideration of how the robot moves to achieve drip, draw and drain.
It can be problematic to just cover your robot and forget about it. Robots were not initially designed with food and dairy in mind. Yes, a cover can work, if installed correctly, however, consider what can be done to a robot to make it into a hygienic application. Cleanable robots with food safe features are a good start, but the whole arm needs to be addressed. With the use of coatings and methods such as our Qleen Qoat, and our food safe methods we have been able to turn industrial robots into food safe pieces of automation. In seven years of following our customers and testing both independently these approaches have produced no signs of bacteria or growth of such.
When developing a cell layout there are many design considerations. Designing a sanitary tool and sizing is just a start to everything that needs to be considered. Other things to study would be what the robot interacts with and if it needs to be of a hygienic design. In what areas will the robot be in what position? Safeguards need to be implemented to ensure that hygienic design does not compromise operator safety. With the robot position being critical to keeping a sanitary design, this too affects the size of the cell by being impacted by reach, speeds and/or weight capacity. Vision drive applications improve quality, perform checks and assure continued quality procedure adhesion.
The safety of the operators and maintenance technicians is incredibly important. There are secondary safeguards we use to keep everyone safe, but how can programming, safeties, and DCS help protect against unsafe movements? Robots, unlike fixed automation, can be altered with programming affecting the mechanical designs surround the system. Safeguards need to be implemented to ensure that the integrity of the hygienic design is maintained. With the robot position being critical to keeping the sanitary design, it is important to lock out movements that are compromising to the integrity of the design, such as DCS by FANUC robotics.
Another advantage to Quest’s Robotic systems is that we give the robot “eyes.” With vision being implemented to provide constant quality checks, something that a human can do, Hygienic designs for the cameras themselves must be considered. Vision guidance helps tell the robot where to go, but make sure it’s within the safety of the hygienic design. Hygienic design should never compromise safety. Such things as barriers, light curtains, environment and maintaining a safe to operate system are huge. Robots that are to be hygienic in design still need to meet OSHA/RIA standards. Safeguarding options include: light curtains, mesh fencing, welded wire fencing, polycarbonate shielding, and more. How does each type of safety device affect the overall hygienic properties of the cell, must also be considered.
Bringing it all together to make a system work is difficult, but Quest Industrial’s robotic experts have it down to a science. We consider all the angles, influences and moves. Making robotic arms that are hygienic and cleanable need to include: the robotic arms need to be the right size for the job, EOAT design is critical but remember – its connected, consider robots that are to be hygienic in design still need to meet OSHA/RIA standards, and safeguarding is critical to keeping operators and technicians safe.