Sugar, vanilla, chocolate coated, soft or crispy; Belgian waffle house Biscuiterie Thijs knocks out thousands of batches of the batter snack every day. What started as a family business in 1976 has grown into a waffle empire supplying the likes of Aldi, Lidl, Carrefour, Jumbo and other European supermarkets.

In 2013 the company’s waffle plant in the Flemish province of Herentals acquired six new FANUC M-2iA robots, able to pick over 150 more waffles per minute than human hands. The four-axis M-2iA pick-and-place delta-style robot is one of the few IP69K-certified robot systems able to withstand high pressure and temperature washdown procedures.

“In addition to being more hygienic than humans, these pick-and-place robots make our line more profitable,” says the facility’s Assistant Manager Geert Smolders. “With the new FANUC robotic line, we’ve gone from packing 300 waffles a minute to 450.”

As a parallel-link robot, the ceiling-mounted M-2iA robot is both compact and dexterous. With a wrist rotation of 3,500 degrees per second, it can pick from a conveyor at extremely fast rates. The robots fluid motion has proven to be especially beneficial for the signature Belgium waffles, which are rounded in shape with a delicate jagged edge. Smart features like iRVision and visual line tracking make the process much smoother.

In addition to an overhead camera which feeds information to each robot via the controller, the conveyor belt is illuminated from underneath to further enhance visual product inspection. The most striking feature is how seamlessly each camera directs the robotic actions.

John Greymans, owner of the Dutch company that commissioned and installed the line, says: “We created a customised software solution whereby the robots communicate fully with the packaging line. Opting for a duo pick – whereby each robot grips two waffles – saves valuable time and further enhances the transfer speed.”

Overall, the Belgium waffle team is extremely satisfied with the efficiency of their six FANUC M-2iA robots. “Automating our packing line has significantly improved the quality of our waffles plus we’ve increased production by over 30%!” concludes Geert.

Tel: 02476 518415

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