Handling Division

According to the client’s handling and storage needs, D.F. Srl studies the best solution to optimise the timing of these projects with considerable savings in economic and human resources.

D.F. Srl has developed a range of loading and unloading equipment, suitable for handling steel crates containing vials/PFS and filling them in the dedicated trolleys, loading the autoclaves, where the containers are sterilised after the packaging process.

Using anthropomorphic technology, a number of high-performance applications have also been implemented for filling vials and syringes inside steel cassettes.

Automation dedicated to sterilization systems with ethylene oxide

Automate the sterilization process with eto in compliance with the criteria that regulate it and the expected performance, aimed to obtaining a continuous cycle

The process is divided into 3 phases:

  • Pre-heating;
  • Sterilization;
  • Degassing.

Lots composition:

  • 32 Europallets;
  • 24 US pallets.

Initially a single line, consisting of 3 sections: pre-heating tunnel, sterilization autoclave, degassing tunnel; approximate length of each section 16 meters.

In the two years following the installation of the first line, 3 more lines and an automatic warehouse for the process of second aeration, storage and formation of outgoing orders have been added.

Each line is equipped with 2 single bays side by side, sturdy and equipped with guides to allow the simple deposit of individual pallets by fork lift. Immediately after deposit, the pallets are measured.

The positive feedback of the measurement allows their moving on the conveyors installed inside the preheating tunnels.

Here the batches are formed: on the basis of their quantity and type, the pallets are spaced at fixed measurements, which is an essential requisite for the success of the sterilization process.

Once the batch has been completed, the tunnels close and the pre-heating cycle begins, at the end of which the autoclave will open.

A system that does not require any modification within the autoclave allows the entire batch (consisting of 32 EU or 24 US pallets) to pass from the pre-heating tunnel to the autoclave.

Keeping unmodified the planned interspaces between the pallets, they are transferred in less than 70 sec.

The autoclave can close again and the sterilization cycle begins, while another load can be set up in the pre-heating tunnel.

At the end of the autoclave cycle, once the autoclave doors and the degassing tunnel are open, the entire lot is transferred from the autoclave to the tunnel, as happened during the loading phase.

While the degassing cycle begins, a new batch occupies the autoclave.

At the end of the degassing cycle, the pallets leaving the 4 lines are sorted by a double shuttle on a transport line, where the successful outcome of the sterilizing and dimensioning process is checked.

The pallets are then transferred in a automatically handled warehouse, in which the aeration or degassing take place at a constant temperature of 50 ° C. The lots retain their composition, as the pallets are placed at a distance from each other.

Storage takes place in depth and in height.

The building is divided into 3 sections: two dedicated to aeration, the last one to storage and creation of outgoing orders.

Each section has 4 floors, 12 lanes for 8 EU or 6 US pallets (384 EU or 288 US per section), for a total of 1152 EU or 864 US pallets.

Loading of autoclaves with shuttle

Automation of the autoclave loading and unloading process avoiding changes inside the autoclaves and in conditions of unavailability of space on the autoclave fronts

Automation of the autoclave loading and unloading process avoiding changes inside the autoclaves and in conditions of unavailability of space on the autoclave fronts

A modular system that can also be easily installed by the customer.

It includes a pallet storage bay and a battery-powered shuttle that runs on bent sheet metal rails along the entire length of the autoclave.

The automatic systems for the loading and unloading of autoclaves require a space equal to or slightly greater than the autoclave sides.

This space is not always available when the automation is needed. In these cases DF proposes a loading and unloading system with a battery-powered shuttle, which is an independent system, capable of covering the entire length of the autoclaves, picking up or releasing single pallets or multiple pallets.

The solution involves a bay on the front side of the autoclave where the shuttle is stored during the sterilization cycle.

This bay can slide longitudinally, so it can be moved allowing the autoclave to open in case it is provided with a door sliding horizontally, vertically or it is hinged.

The sequence includes the opening of the autoclave, then the bay reaches the end of the inner chamber; a continuity is created between the bay and the inner chamber, so the shuttle in the bay is able to pass inside the chamber.

At this point it is possible to start releasing the pallets: they are released by the forklift truck on profiles that represent the height extension of the rails along which the shuttle runs, and not directly on the shuttle in order to avoid collisions.

The shuttle lifts the pallet from the support profiles and starts advancing towards the inside of the autoclave.

Once it reaches the programmed depth, it lowers allowing the pallet to rest inside the autoclave and the shuttle returns to the bay where in the meantime the next pallet will have been released.

The sequence is repeated for the available pallets; if the shuttle finds no pallet, it remains in the bay leaving enough space to close the autoclave door.

At the end of the sterilization cycle, the same door or the one on the opposite side reopens, the bay gets closer and the shuttle begins to extract the pallets that the forklift truck will take from the bay for their next destination.

The shuttle can also be managed in automatic systems, using it for different autoclaves.

Automation dedicated to tuna fish sterilization systems

Automate the tuna fish sterilization process including the formation of load units and the management of production batches

The intervention gradually replaced the existing sterilization lines, avoiding production losses.

A new manual system of unit load formation consisting of 5 lines has been obtained (2014).

The following year a completely automatic system of new supply and supplied in a single solution of 5 lines with automatic loading and unloading (2015).

To re-propose the validity of the previous supplies in 2022, a third plant will be put into production consisting of 5 sterilization lines with automatic unload loading and unloading. For a total of 15 working lines.

Canned product, 6 units per second, to be correctly positioned in layers inside supply unit load, built in stainless steel, with all the useful features for the transport and storage system, suitable for sterilization and with identification systems that allow tracking with RFID technology.

• Sorting of the unit load in respect of the production lots by means of a shuttle sliding on tracks capable of serving an increasing number of sterilization lines;

• Accumulation of unit load on the entry conveyors to the autoclaves for the formation of sterilization lots consisting of 6 UL;

• Automatic loading in autoclave and interfacing with it;

• Automatic discharge at the end of the cycle;

• Elimination and recovery of residual sterilization water;

• Sorting of the unit load to the product emptying line and recovery line or to the waste lines if sterilization has not been successful.

From a process consisting of the loading of the autoclaves directly by the operator with trolleys pushed by hand to closed systems that provide a management interface through an operator panel, which is connected to the customer’s management system.

Automatic autoclave loading and unloading system

Automation of the sterilization process for infusion bags, replacing a manual plant and adapting the autoclave

The revamping intervention involved the transport system and the autoclave.

The existing manual transport system has been replaced by a new automatic system, the autoclave has been updated, adapting it to automatic loading and unloading processes.

The proposal has been adapted to the existing layout, avoiding the need for major changes to the building and the systems. The result is an asymmetric system where the load process is carried out in two steps and the unload process in one, which means that the autoclave for 6 loading units is filled in two 3+3 phases and discharged in a single step of 6.

DF is responsible for the design and execution of the loading units.

The layout has a load section that is half the length of the unloading section. Therefore, it was necessary to distribute the 6 load units before and after the sorting shuttle, in order to keep the transfer sequence in the shadow of the loading sequence.

The systems inside the autoclave that allowed the accumulation of the load units have been removed and new ones have been installed, allowing a greater exploitation of the volume to the advantage of the product quantity that can be processed per cycle.

The millimetric exploitation has imposed the installation of a shape-control system at the entrance, so the margin between the space used and the indispensable space for the passage before the interference has been reduced.

The discharge removes the six load units in a single continuous solution, providing for their transfer to the unloading bay after the approval of the operator.

The loading and unloading bays allow the operators to extract the trays always at the same height, and have been designed for a possible anthropomorphic update.

A reversible storage system is provided between the unloading and loading bays.

The load units are equipped with a binary recognition system, unalterable over time, which allows the compilation of tables relating to the product transported, conditions and processes in force.

This data is collected in a file with a history function. DF provides remote assistance.

Automatic warehouse for the management of sterilized products

The system consists of a transport system of about 40m where the activities of creating the loading unit, wrapping, labelling, control, as well as accumulation and reject take place, and it connects the storage system for 6300 udc (12m high, 20 wide and 100m long).

The request concerns the possibility to create a storage system for pallets coming from a radiation sterilization process (x-ray irradiation).

The high rotary and low rotary units correspond to the pallets destined for end users and those that will have to be subjected to further segmentation at the sorting center located in central Europe.

The solution re-proposes the concept of redundancy in each section of the plant, ensuring a reduction in the flow, which is oversized, but avoids the shutdown of the plant. The system is powered by a transport line that connects sterilization to storage.

At the beginning the pallet is formed by physically and logically joining the contents to the container.

Afterwards, all the activities that are necessary for the physical and logical identification take place, such as size control after filming and labelling.

The line has two input areas and a reject outlet, the activities carried out automatically maintain the possibility of manual execution.

The line converges in two elevators needed to serve the 5 floors, where the over 6300 pallets are stored in multiple depths.

Each plan is independent to reaffirm the concept of redundancy.

The warehouse is not symmetrical, on one side we find pallets stored in 11 depths and on the other side in 9.

Basically, this last one is a consequence of the first: 11 is in fact the sub-multiple quantity of pallets that can be loaded in standard transports equal to 33 or 54.

Within the channels with depth 11, pallets can be stored in addition to shipping orders.

On the side of the warehouse there are 4 “windows”, each one allowing the view of 3 + 3 overlapping channels inside the building.

The pallets are stored, the orders are prepared, and in compliance with the unloading sequence, they are prepared on the shipping channels, which are in front of the “windows”.

When the lorry arrives, the dock-window association is communicated, so that there is a direct correspondence between where to pick up the pallets and where to deposit them.

An automatic system advances the load to the window from which the forklift truck can pick it up and carry it inside the truck.

The system allows the preparation of the load in compliance with the starting order, allowing last-minute corrections.

Above all, the exposure of the load to an open environment is avoided, but the passage of the load from a closed system, the automatic warehouse, to another closed system, the truck, is ensured; considering the pharmaceutical product this is not a feature to be underestimated.

Automatic bag positioning system

The system allows the automatic positioning of bags inside trays contained by trolleys for sterilization.

The system consists of an anthropomorphic robot, movable on a slide and equipped with a dedicated vacuum system.

The robot operates alternately on two side-by-side bays. In each of these bays there is a trolley, a tray extraction and introduction system and a bag sorting system.

The bags are transported by a belt system that marks their frequency and ensures their correct positioning. One or more bags are placed in front of the anthropomorph.

The s format determines the quantity to be taken in each sequence and the way in which they are arranged inside the tray.

The vacuum device is equipped with multiple suction cups individually controlled, accorded to the area occupied by the bag can be chose which cups have to be active.

The trolley trays inside which the bags will be positioned will be all extracted. At the end of the loading of each tray, tray is immediately repositioned inside the trolley, uncovering the next tray underneath to be filled in.

A camera system verifies the correctness of the sequences and the “empty tray” condition. Once the first trolley has been completed loaded, the robot moves to the bay next to it, where a second trolley has already been positioned and the trays extracted, thus reducing downtime.

Automatic bag unloading system

System for the automatic unloading of bags placed inside trays of trolleys used for sterilization.

The system of simple design allows the unloading of any size of bag contained inside the tray without special settings.

The trays are extracted inside a compartment surmounted by a conveyor belt.

The compartment-conveyor belt system rotates -180 ° allowing the bags from the tray to settle on the conveyor belt, which activating allows them to be removed.

The system returns to complete 180 °, in the opposite direction.

The tray that is now empty is returned to the trolley.

The sequence be repeated for each tray until that trolley be completely empty, and replaced by another full trolley.

Automatic sausage loading system and automatic sorting of the unit load

Consisting of two pick up area, where the operator positions the support trolley of the bars, from which the sausage that make up a layer weighing a maximum of 600 kg are hung.

The layer is checked and recognized, and only after this phase is taken board on automatic load system, otherwise any anomaly detected is signaled to the operator and explain him, how to intervene.

Bars are intercepted at their ends by two special profiles in order to secure them on board while maintaining their initial position and correct spacing.

The support trolley and the special profiles are made so that there can be no contact with the finished product, avoiding even the slightest deterioration.

The layer is lifted and brought to the target layer.

The drying frame is positioned opposite side of the pick-up area, up to 5 meters high, it allows the storage of several layers.

The filling order is a consequence of the type of product being managed and the related stored system map.

If on the pick-up side, the support trolley for single sausage’s layer, is entrusted to the operator for his positioning and removal, on the deposit side the multilayer frames are alternated automatically.

A Cartesian operating from above, nothing on the floor, in order to facilitate cleaning, removes the full frames, and placing empty frames to fill again.

The number of frames that can be sorted by the Cartesian are 4 for each pick up area: empty, in process and two complete ready to be transported to the drying tunnels.

In addition to the previous ones, there are two further empty multilayer frames, available at the bay that requests them, so as not to have downtime waiting.

The Cartesian manages a total of 10 multilayer frames and 2 for single layer on the outside.

The modular structure allows for easy expansion, extending the Cartesian stroke, proposing the use of what has already been described and adding loading bays.