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The Role of Robotics in Baking

Food and Beverages | Wednesday, February 03, 2021

A cobot can operate comfortably alongside humans without a functioning cell or industrial barrier. It is fitted with external sensing, allowing it to easily detect contact with foreign objects within its operating envelope and avoid traveling immediately.

FREMONT, CA: Robotic management of baking and snack items has historically been difficult due to various products and differences in scale, form, and fragility. Robotics advanced grip technologies helped address some of these problems; robots are now using improved sensing and pressure sensitivity in handling baked food and snacks. Robotics will boost pick-and-place filling capacity and reduce the need for hand packaging products such as bars and tray-based non-perishable snacks (for example, cookies). Robotics may have higher precision case filling for shelf-ready or retail-ready food packaging for secondary packaging.

Enhanced use of machine vision solutions allows robots to manage and sort different products by differentiating them according to any number of variables such as scale, shape, or form. For example, robots are used for quality management by capturing the overcooked product during manufacturing and before packaging. The convergence of vision technologies, along with exponential advances in artificial intelligence and in-depth research, provides possibilities for further automating this quality management process. Cameras will track characteristics and use this information to detect deviations from appropriate criteria. For example, a snack cake that has broken may be detected and withdrawn from the manufacturing line.

Although automation and safety devices have significantly led to the reduction of injury to the workplace, robotics can help minimize the risks to workers. The Stock-Keeping Unit (SKU) proliferation is producing shorter production times, and manufacturers expect that robotics will continue to expand along the baking and snack packaging lines. Broad use of 3D and color cameras can address a wide variety of applications, including de-palletizing, bin pick-and-location, assembling, packaging, and quality control, to achieve reliable product performance and maximum production. In terms of the increase in capabilities, robots have become more cost-effective, particularly for programmable pick and place robots.

Collaborative robots (cobots) can lower the cost of a workstation on shorter run lines or uncommon kit setups. A cobot can operate comfortably alongside humans without a functioning cell or industrial barrier. It is fitted with external sensing, allowing it to easily detect contact with foreign objects within its operating envelope and avoid traveling immediately. This aspect makes it easier to operate openly with humans without fear of risking harm. Unlike conventional robots, cobots run in a cageless environment. It minimizes the footprint of cobots while also reducing the initial upfront costs.

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