One of the most important achievements in human history is inventions in the area of agriculture and food production. Purposeful and large-scale production and processing of food products made possible the sustainable development of human civilization. The population on Earth is steadily growing, and therefore, today’s food industry continues to be one of the main pillars of the world economy.
The Internet of things, Rios robotics, and automation ushered in the era of the fourth industrial revolution. These technologies, along with huge data and analytics, as well as cyber-physical systems (the integration of computing resources into physical processes), underlie the new industry model. Together, they are creating new real-time connections between machines, processes, and systems that are currently driving fundamental changes in how manufacturing is organized, driven by entirely new business models.
Of course, automation, as well as data collection and processing, have existed in the food industry for decades, but today’s consumers are more demanding than ever when it comes to food quality. Environmentally friendly production methods with the ability to trace the origin, as well as the absence of artificial additives – all these points are now very important. New demand is driving the food industry to respond and rethink its products and how they are produced.
Obviously, the creation of a modern product that meets the high-quality standards of consumers also requires the involvement of significantly larger resources. This is where the novel industry comes into play: intelligent robotic and sensor technologies open up completely new possibilities for increasing production efficiency.
Smart Solutions for the Food Industry
Modern industry provides manufacturers with the opportunity to collect, analyze, and process massive amounts of information and then consistently improve manufacturing efficiency through automated robotics. As a result, they can get a better product at lower operating costs.
When we talk about intelligent automation, robotics cannot be ignored. It performs the most tedious work with high precision and also greatly increases the productivity of one workplace. This is especially true for the food industry, which places strict demands on lean manufacturing in terms of product quality compliance.
Thanks to intelligent production capacity management and efficient processing of raw materials, the number of resources involved in food manufacturing can be significantly reduced. And with the help of modern video surveillance technology and fast computerized image processing, packaging robots can perform a variety of increasingly complex tasks, right down to the individual packaging of goods. In this way, a bridge between industrial production volume and high quality can be achieved while reducing costs.
Food Production and Robotics
Before talking about food handler solutions, let’s divide food production into two stages.
This step is about handling raw materials to clean, sort, package, etc. Some of them, such as raw fruits, only need it before being sent directly to the packaging stage. Other products are also re-processed.
Until recently, food handling robots had limitations or could make this work as raw foods are quite different. However, modern innovations in sensing have enabled robots to do this work and softly grip the needed items without damaging them.
This task was really challenging for food handling systems. Each carcass has its own individual dimensions, and an experienced butcher checks it. Still, some tasks are easier to perform and automate respectively. Thus, large-scale deboning of chicken legs belongs to the options that can be done automatically.
In addition, manufacturers searched for ways to use robots in their factories because some production processes are quite harmful to people. Thus, if cutting a whole carcass is made via utilizing a high-speed circular saw throughout the entire work shift, the risk of serious work injury is very high. The solution may be to automate this process using robotic manipulators that have vision sensors and can perform everything easily and without risks.
Fruits and vegetables
Similar to meat processing, this task has also always been difficult and required new food handling solutions. These products also need soft handling to avoid damage. However, modern technologies in capturing seem to change all that. The flexible and delicate machine vision grip will help you handle the most fragile foods.
Cutting and shredding
Most cutting and shredding tasks are easy enough to robotize. Thus, household food tools have been able to cut almost everything into uniformly shaped particles for quite some time now.
However, for more advanced tasks, such as butchering fish, it is necessary to take into account the elimination of fish defects, as well as cutting the fillets uniformly. In this case, robotization with the use of all the latest developments in the area of capture and machine vision becomes simply indispensable.
This stage is already used for more complex types of products. Robots are used in this direction for a long time, especially for picking and moving. Still, there are areas for the application of robots and new technologies.
Manual processing of contaminated food leads to occupational diseases. Robotization may substantially decrease these risks as humans are not needed anymore, but in this case, the robots must not cause any additional problems.
One of the most difficult challenges is also the fact that every piece of equipment must be washed and sanitized to avoid re-contamination of food. That is why developers are working to improve the level of moisture protection of the bodies and other exposed parts of robots. This allows them to undergo a thorough flush at the end of each work cycle.
At the moment, the use of industrial robots in the processing of different types of products and the collection and placement of processed foods are becoming increasingly relevant throughout the world. This expansion is driven by technological advances, such as adaptations to use a special tool at the end of the arm or the latest gripping technologies.
Sales of industrial robots in the food market continue to grow steadily. Modern industry is already being introduced to many enterprises all over the world, and the owners benefit from these technologies.