"Our robotic case packing systems consistently handle the clamshells more gently than laborers did and much more gently than our old drop door case packers. Transitioning to the Adept systems gave us the gentle handing we needed to redesign our clamshells," said Torquato. "We used to have a shrink band on the clamshell, which we wanted to eliminate to take PVC out of the environment. Our new patented clamshells feature a lid that's sonically welded to the tub. The Adept system is gentle enough to lift the clamshell by its lid and not break the easy-open perforation."
One component of ClamPAC that contributes to the system's gentle handling at high speeds is the design of its SoftPIC™ grippers. Selected specifically for each customer's range of products, SoftPIC grippers are made of soft silicon that conforms to the shape of the clamshell and provides a direct vacuum path to the product. For lines that handle multiple clamshell sizes or designs, the SoftPIC grippers can be changed in less than two minutes.
"The ClamPAC systems nest the flanges of the clamshells during case packing. This keeps the clamshells in a better position so they are less prone to damage during transportation. It also allows us to put the same number of clamshells into a smaller box, which reduces packaging materials," explained Torquato.
The first four ClamPAC systems at Earthbound Farm are case packing 5 oz clamshells filled with an assortment of washed lettuces into six- and eight-count cases. "ClamPAC tracks the box coming into the system and actually begins to fill it while it's still in motion. That's one way the system achieves its very high speeds while maintaining such gentle handling," said Torquato.Earthbound Farm operates two production shifts and one sanitation shift a day, six or seven days a week. Electing to operate under the same high sanitation standards as dairy, meat and poultry plants, their sanitation routine is rigorous. "Adept's robotic packaging systems are designed with sanitation in mind, which supports an efficient sanitation process and leads to a clean, safe product," said Will Daniels, Senior Vice President of Operations and Organic Integrity at Earthbound Farm.