Along the food supply chain which includes production, processing, and distribution, robotic assistance can be an excellent advantage for multiple application areas
FREMONT, CA: As the world population reaches over 7.5 billion, food demand continues to rise. With this food, suppliers are under high pressure to work more efficiently to fasten production. Along with these consumers are demanding better quality, sustainable food to be available at their convenience. Robotics and automation act a pivotal role to meet this challenge. The food manufacturing sector is relatively slow to adopt robotics when compared to other industries. But, over the few years, robotics has started to make its way into almost every link in the food supply chain and the industry is transforming.
• Robotic Butchery
Butchery is a difficult task to automate. An expert butcher will adapt each cut to the shape and position of bones and meat. Recently, manufacturers have started looking for ways to introduce robots into their factories. Some of the processes are hazardous for human workers, which involves operating a high-speed circular saw for several hours. Manufacturers managed to automate this action using robot manipulators and various vision sensors. The application has improved overall worker safety and product consistency.
• Fruit and Vegetable Pick and Place
Fruits and vegetables are risky to handle with a robot due to their different sizes and shapes. They also demand delicate handling to avoid damage. For these reasons, these tasks have traditionally been handled by human workers. However, recent developments in technologies look to change all that. Robot manufacturers have introduced a flexible gripper which can handle delicate food items.
• Robotic Cutting and Slicing
Cutting and slicing of food items are easy to automate, and even kitchen food processors can slice food items into uniform shapes. As robots are not required for these tasks, the industry has relied on robotics for more advanced cutting and slicing. It includes fish cutting, which involves removing defects from the fish as well as cutting fillets to uniform shapes and sizes.
Food processing for a long time has been an elusive industry for robotic technology. The challenges inherent in food products had prevented adoption. Today, however, the most advanced technologies have led to increasing use of robotics in food processing, which is likely to ramp up soon as manufacturers compete to be the most productive on a global scale.