Constant quality from the pallet to the cup

With the clear objective of further increasing its production capacity, Kimbo has adopted a Comau robotic station for the palletizing of boxes containing various types of coffee packs. Operational flexibility, high performance and reliability are the most appreciated features of the selected solution.

Kimbo, a national and international reference point in the coffee toasting and production sector, has always pursued a mission: spreading Italian coffee all around the world. In other words, this authentically Italian high-quality product – which is inspired by the Neapolitan tradition and produced with the most advanced technologies while respecting both people and the environment – is now available to everyone. Kimbo provides an excellent product without compromises, paying great attention to the long and complex journey faced by coffee grains before they can be enjoyed in form of liquid emotions. The production process also includes, at the end of the packaging lines, a delicate phase of industrial palletizing in order to place the heat-sealed packs of coffee in various types of boxes using a 6-axis articulated robot produced by Comau.

“The need to use this robotic station,” explained Johnny Frank Baldoni, manager of the Kimbo plant in Melito di Napoli (Naples), “was dictated by an existing solution whose efficiency no longer complied with the desired requirements. Therefore, we had to redesign this operational phase, and not without issues in terms of space and height limitations. At the same time, the system had to guarantee high flexibility, operational continuity and a low-maintenance impact in the broadest sense, while being easily programmable with an extremely user-friendly interface.”

According to the technical requirements provided by Kimbo, the ideal machine for this type of application was not a standard palletizer, but a Comau articulated robot, the NJ High Payload 110. The choice was driven by the fact that the robot was needed to be integrated inside a previously existing environment, where the verification of the “flatness” and the overall footprint of other components would have resulted in longer installation times or in modifications to the existing layout, even if it was working perfectly.

“A choice that has proven successful,” emphasized Baldoni, “and has satisfied all our production needs in terms of accessibility, reach and ‘frequency/cycle times.” The NJ High Payload 110 6-axis articulated robot provides high levels of dynamics, an appropriate wrist payload, a horizontal reach just under 3 meters (2,980 mm) and a repeatability of 0.07 mm.

High performance and flexibility work together
Taking a look at the Kimbo line in further detail, the Melito di Napoli plant features two separate conveyors that load the robotic station with heat-sealed packs. These packs are stored on pallets that have been previously indexed by lot or treated with other traceability parameters. “Our production system,” explained Baldoni, “can handle ground coffee, grains or pods, although the line is primarily dedicated to palletizing packs containing 250-gram bags of coffee powder.”
The cycle plan calls for the use of the robot’s pneumatic gripper, which creates a vacuum and collects a certain number of packs depending on the mapping or the stacking requirements for the handling of the current batch. “In this specific case,” continued Baldoni, “the final pallet consists of two overlaid pallets containing the related product.”
It should be noted that an operational problem related to this stratification emerged, as the height of the double layer actually exceeds the maximum reach of the robot. The solution adopted is a mobile platform – calibrated on two different positions placed at different heights – which circumvents the mechanical limit.
A further peculiarity of the Comau solution is the opportunity to pick and place pallets or footboards stored behind the robot with the very same gripper. This allows the company to avoid the use of other equipment or devices such as those known as “separators”. In this case, there is no need to add interlayers (elements providing separation between layers or flaps) but they can be easily integrated without making major changes to the gripper.

“Palletizing may appear to be simple but the various phases of product handling are both complex and delicate,” concluded Baldoni. “Coffee contained in packages, cardboard boxes or any other type of containers, even vacuum packs wrapped in transparent film, inevitably suffers the effects of temperature, humidity and pressure variation, in other words, variable environmental conditions which are very different from those which would occur if the handling did not involve a “living product” such as coffee, but other elements which are not subject to these effects.”
Kimbo: the symbol of Italian coffee and Neapolitan espresso for half a century
For over 50 years, Kimbo has been one of the protagonists of the national market as the perfect expression of a legendary Italian symbol, the Neapolitan espresso. The selection of raw materials, production control and traceability throughout the supply chain ensure product excellence, while the most selective international certificates testify to the respect of resources and environment. With a total income of 170 million Euros, made possible by the work of 150 employees, the company has an important role in all distribution channels in Italy and abroad, under the brand name “Kimbo Espresso Italiano”. Founded in 1963 by the Rubino brothers, Kimbo has always been growing in success, and this is certainly the result of rigorous loyalty to tradition and quality. This is reflected by the 40,000-square meter plant of Melito di Napoli (Naples), where the constant updating of equipment and production processes guarantees the achievement of high standards in full compliance with environmental policies. Furthermore, since 2009, Kimbo has also reached pioneering results in the sector of integrated logistics, with the Kimbo-Hub (18,000 square meters) located at the freight terminal of Nola (Naples).


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