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3 minute read • published in partnership with KUKA

Feature: KUKA hygienic oil portfolio increases food safety

They pack, they palletize, they transport – and they make no compromises when it comes to hygienic handling. KUKA’s Hygienic Oil (HO) robots were developed to meet the demands of sensitive industries such as pharmaceuticals and food, and work exclusively with H1 lubricants. The new version of the KR IONTEC completes KUKA’s HO portfolio. And thanks to special software such as KUKA.PalletTech, the robots can be easily integrated into any production process.

One in eight food products is contaminated with mineral oil residues that can be harmful to health. This was the result of a foodwatch analysis of more than 150 products in various European countries in 2021. The dangerous contaminations happen partially in the automated production and packaging process, but those can be completely prevented with the right technology. Industries such as medical, pharmaceutical and food have a zero percent tolerance for contamination and require plant manufacturers to use so-called NSF H1 lubricants. KUKA has launched a complete HO portfolio with robots that meet these high requirements.

KUKA’s Hygienic Oil robots were developed to meet the demands of sensitive industries such as pharmaceuticals and food, and work exclusively with H1 lubricants / Picture: KUKA

All axles with food-grade lubricants

For machines used in these industries, this means in concrete terms that they must be designed and built in a way that prevents operating fluids that are hazardous to health, including lubricants, from getting in touch with the products. If some lubricant leaks, it must be composed in a non-toxic, harmless way and, of course, shouldn’t affect the taste of the product. “As KUKA, we take this very seriously, especially since our robots are increasingly used in these fields,” explains Dieter Rothenfußer, portfolio manager at KUKA. “All axes of our HO robots are therefore equipped with food-grade lubricants, as is the energy supply system to the robot tool.” This makes consistent NSF H1 lubrication of the HO portfolio possible along the entire process chain – not only in production machines and conveyor systems, but also in the robot. The U.S. National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) checks whether the lubricants are compatible with foodstuffs and grants them H1 approval, i.e. food-safe. This means that if a lubricant from an HO robot comes into contact with food or pharmaceuticals – for example, after a malfunction of the robot or if oil vapors escape from the machine due to compressed air – this is harmless to consumers.

This means that KUKA’s entire HO portfolio meets the necessary hygiene requirements in accordance with the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC as well as DIN ISO 14159. These regulations additionally state that machines must be designed, built and installed in such a way that the ingress of operating materials such as lubricants, hydraulic fluids and signal-transmitting liquids into the product must be prevented. Another plus is the “HO” identification as a food-safe robot, which is visible from the outside. Any errors during maintenance – for example, the use of standard oil – are thus easily avoided.

New KR IONTEC HO completes the family

There’s good news for all businesses in the food and pharmaceutical industries that are planning to automate: the range of Hygienic Oil robots from KUKA is growing. Three hygienic variants of the KR IONTEC have now been launched on the market. They complete the portfolio, which previously consisted of corresponding variants of the KR QUANTEC, KR CYBERTECH, KR AGILUS and KR DELTA. With a new, sealed stainless steel flange and even hygienic oil of an even higher quality, the new version offers strong support, particularly in the food sector. With a payload of 50 to 70 kilograms and a reach of between 2101 and 2501 millimeters, it finds numerous areas of application. “In cheese processing in particular, many of our customers have been waiting for this new robot variant,” reports Rothenfußer.

The new KR IONTEC impresses with a dirt-repellent, highly corrosion-resistant surface of category C4, in accordance with DIN EN ISO 12944-2:2018-04. In addition, even the energy supply system for the respective robot tool is available with HO cable greasing. In addition, customers benefit from the fundamental advantages of the KR IONTEC: it has low energy consumption, low operating costs, can be flexibly installed, and its particularly slender design also qualifies it for production environments with little space.