The project request from DMF Bait was straightforward: Automate a diverter that sorts paper and plastic bait cups.
The challenge in this project was to make it as small and as simple as possible. The customer wasn’t looking for $100k system to complete this simple task. Their warehouse space is also being well-used, and there wasn’t a lot of room to install large equipment.
DMF Bait is the world’s largest wholesale bait company, based in Waterford, Michigan. With a new product – bait to be sold in convenience stores – in growing demand, they wanted the ability to divert the different types of cups on the fly. This part of the process is after the cup is filled with dirt and just before it goes to be lidded. Different cups have different lids. Previously, every time they wanted to shift between cups, it would cost about 30 minutes to empty out the line and change over the machines. Therefore, they wanted to automate this process so that they could fill product as needed.
What made for a smooth solution was using a specialty sensor from Keyence that detects color (Keyence Full Spectrum Color Sensor). The cups are printed differently, so they were able to teach the system: If this part is white, it’s paper. If it’s orange, it’s plastic. The speed of the line can fluctuate and there is no set pattern, so detecting the color made for the simplest, most reliable way to divert the cups.
For the controls system, we used the Siemens S7-1200 and incorporated room for expansion, allowing the potential to add 1-2 more diverts. We also worked with Best Industrial Group, who specializes in the mechanical side of conveyors.
“We’re able to produce two products at the same time now, and can easily adjust the volume as needed,” said Dan Beaudoin, Co-Owner and CEO of DMF Bait. “As we hope to keep expanding, working with Patti Engineering has brought the opportunity of customized solutions. We don’t have to deal with making a standard machine fit.”
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