An existing customer set us the challenge of printing and spreading pizza sauce to achieve a more 'hand-made' feel to their pizzas.
In December Stecks’ robotics team was challenged by an existing customer who, having seen our success at printing both Starch and BBQ sauce using the DR2, invited us to come up with a new solution to print and spread tomato sauce. The customer currently uses a variety of different sized Steck Pizza Heads but was looking to add technology that would be more flexible in an industry which is constantly fighting for production differentiation. The solution also needed to be able to cope with particulates such as tomato pulp and basil.
Using Stecks' ‘RuggedEye’ Vision system our software engineers developed a program which could identify a variety of different shape and size pizza bases as they travelled along the conveyor and apply sauce to designated points within the required coverage area. Once this was in place the next problem was to work out how to spread the sauce as the customer was looking for a more ‘human’ effect than printed dots of sauce. Initially a ’ladle’ end effector was developed to spread the sauce around the base, mimicking a human, but it quickly became apparent that this would not be successful in a full production environment as it could not achieve the line speed required. After much thought and 3D printing a spray jet design was developed which is contact free and has nozzles large enough not to block but small enough not to trail sauce over the crust. Whilst still in the R&D phase Steck now has the ability to apply a printed sauce pattern to any size or shape pizza base without the need to even change a program!