Illycaffè and the search for perfection

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Omron Industrial Automation is a leading manufacturer of technologically advanced industrial automation products and application expertise.

Retaining freshness is of key importance for all food packaging, but how about keeping coffee beans in just-roasted condition for three years or more? It’s a major challenge, because the maxim in the business is that it takes 50 beans to make a perfect coffee – and only one to ruin it.

The right raw materials and excellent quality control in the production process have been guiding principles for illycaffè ever since the company’s founder, Francesco Illy, invented the forerunner of today’s expresso coffee machine in 1934. This passion for quality is vitally important because the company sells a single blend of premium coffee. Made with 100 percent Arabica beans, illycaffè has an unmistakable flavour that’s the same wherever the coffee is served – and it is served in over 50,000 establishments in 140 countries worldwide.

Quality focus leads to innovation

At the company’s production headquarters inTrieste, the company’s quality focus has led to many innovative production control features, including a system for testing 3 kg tins of coffee, which has recently been redesigned to be both faster and more effective. These 3kg tins are sold only to catering establishments, and are designed to go directly on top of the grinder-doser of a coffee machine.

Once filled with beans, the pressurized tins are tested to guarantee that they are completely airtight, which preserves the flavour of the coffee for three years or more. The main test consists of submerging the tins of coffee in a tank, where they are put under pressure and then viewed for a few seconds to make sure that there are no air bubbles, which would indicate a failure in one of the welds.

Upgrade test system to improve speed

The previous test system had been in use for 25 years and was in need of a complete upgrade to improve productivity and to sort out some issues that caused machine breakdowns. The upgraded test has twin lines that operate in parallel around the clock, five days a week. Precise and efficient handling of the cans is critical, and the transport mechanism on the test unit is controlled by three Omron Xtra series linear motors that move the cans through the process.

On these linear motors, the servo drive and axial control board are integrated, which reduces the size of the unit so the size of the test machine could be reduced, and the transfer times and materials used could be reduced. Linear motors also don’t have the mechanical components used in traditional technology which also improved reliability – critical given that water is used in the test. The new system tests twelve tins a minute, twice the previous output, and it makes the work of the operator much simpler: there’s less reliance on experience, which can be easily lost if an operator moves on.

Equally importantly, the system has the potential for increased volumes in the future as illycaffè continues to grow its market. And with its chain of “espressamente illy” franchised coffee shops, growth seems assured.

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Omron Europe

Omron Industrial Automation is a leading manufacturer of technologically advanced industrial automation products and application expertise. From its European headquarters in Hoofddorp, near Amsterdam in the Netherlands, she operates locally in every European country and is dedicated to providing unrivaled automation products and customized expert solutions for any industry.

The product portfolio includes state of the art Factory Automation services & Know-How, Sensors and Safety, Mechatronics and Drives, Industrial Components and Vision Systems.