Top 6 robotic applications in food manufacturing

 

by Robotiq Inc.

via Robohub.org - August 9, 2017

 

Robotic food manufacturing is a rising trend in the food industry. The value of the global food automation industry is expected to rise to $2.5 billion by 2022. In this article, we introduce six robotic applications in food processing. As we discussed in our previous article on the food industry, food manufacturing can be separated into two stages: primary food processing and secondary food processing.

 

Top 3 Robotic Applications in Primary Food Processing

 

Primary processing involves handling raw food products, which are cleaned, sorted, chopped, packaged, etc. Some foods, like raw vegetables, will only undergo primary processing before they are packaged for the consumer. Other foods will undergo secondary processing before packaging.

 

Up until quite recently, robotic processing at this stage has been limited or non-existent. Raw foods are variable in size, weight and shape. This makes it difficult for robots to handle them. However, recent developments in sensing and soft gripping has made it possible for robots to handle many raw foods.

 

1. Robotic Butchery

 

Butchery is a very difficult task to automate. Every animal carcass is different. A skilled butcher will adapt each cut to the shape and position of bones and meat. Some butchery tasks are simpler to automate than others. For example, high-volume chicken leg deboning is an established part of the meat processing industry.

 

Beef butchery has traditionally been very difficult to automate. Recently, beef manufacturer JBS has started looking for ways to introduce robots into their factories. Parts of the process are very dangerous for human workers. Rib cutting, for example, involves operating a high-speed circular saw for several hours. JBS has managed to automate this action using robot manipulators and various vision sensors. The application has improved safety and product consistency.

 

2. Fruit and Vegetable Pick and Place

 

Fruits and vegetables are challenging to handle with a robot due to their variable sizes and shapes. They also require delicate handling to avoid damage. For these reasons they have traditionally been handled by human workers. However, recent developments in gripping technologies look to change all that. Soft Robotics Inc has introduced a flexible gripper which can handle very delicate foods, even individual lettuce leaves!

 

Another example is Lacquey’s gripper, which uses paddles to lift soft fruits and vegetables.

 

3. Robotic Cutting and Slicing ...

 

Top 3 Robotic Applications in Secondary Food Processing

 

1. Product Pick and Place ...

 

2. Cake Decorating ...

 

3. Pizza Making ...

 

Finally… Washing Up! ...

 

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