Top Robotic Applications In Food Processing

Food manufacturers focus on either primary or secondary food processing. Primary food processing converts raw agricultural goods into consumable food products like butchering meat as an example. Secondary food processing takes the primary food ingredients and combines them to create new consumables, like hotdogs from the butchered meat. Food processing is constantly evolving to be quicker and more efficient to meet increasing demands. Automation has significantly advanced the food industry by increasing sanitation, increasing production, and improving quality. Here are the top applications enhanced by automation.

Robotic Butchery Cutting Applications

Butchering requires precision and knowledge of the animal's body to remove all unwanted parts and create the best cuts from the animal carcass. Meat and poultry manufacturers are on automation to increase cut-efficiency and product quality. Robotic deboning uses automated tools and pre-programmed outlines of the animal carcass to make the appropriate cuts to meat and remove the bones. 

Scott Technologies, the parent company to RobotWorx, takes this a step further, using x-rays, artificial intelligence, and automated machine learning to enhance the robot’s cut accuracy and recreating the quality of an experienced butcher. Scott Technologies’ robotic assembly line first develops a 3d model of the meat carcass and, using artificial intelligence, identifies where the robotic tool will need to cut. The longer the system runs, the more it will learn and apply when making cuts to the product.  An example of Scott’s innovative deboning technology is their research into automated King Salmon pin bone removal. This breakthrough would replace the manual labor of removing pin bones by hand with an automated machine. Advanced deboning automation from companies like Scott eliminates excess waste, ensures safety for assembly workers, increases sanitation, and improves production output. It is clear why so many meat and poultry manufacturers are turning to automation for robotic butchery.

Packaging Pick and Place Applications

To keep a high standard for quality control, food manufacturers need to sort and package batches of product quickly and efficiently. Top robotic brands have developed their own series of robots, specifically designed for the food industry, that allow these manual processes to be automated. Pick and place robots can use a combination of vision technology and food-specific tooling to sort through product and put it in its packaging or on a conveyor belt. The speed and accuracy of pick and place robots are unrivaled, picking and placing products like fish fillets at 100 per minute. Just nine of these robots in an assembly line would add up to 900 fish fillets per minute. Adding vision software and tooling also allows the robots to perform quality control, avoiding undersized or misshapen fillets. The design of these robots is made to handle unpackaged food without contamination and have the ability to withstand heavy sanitation that is commonly used with food safety standards. The precision and adaptation of pick and place systems are an ideal way for food manufacturers to keep up with the rapidly increasing demand of food products, making pick and place applications so popular.

Transportation and ShippingPalletizing

At the end of most manufacturers, the production line is palletizing. The food and beverage industry is no different, needing palletizing to stack and send off goods to be transported. These products are shipped to stores all over the United States and worldwide. With robotic palletizers, manufacturers are able to move products at a faster rate without the risk of product damage. With the advancement of robotic grippers, even fragile products can be palletized without an issue at the end of the line. Palletizing is a very popular application and is seen quite often at RobotWorx.

A case study done through Scott Technology showcases the success of automated palletizing at James-Strong Kyabram, the largest supplier of infant formula and nutritional powder packaging in Australia. The final result of their robotic palletizing solution has allowed James-Strong Kyabram to palletize 300 cans of formula in a minute. The new system integrates three robots into the production line. A Motoman UP50 handles the unrolled tin sheets, used to create the cans, while two KUKA KR180’s palletize the formula cans simultaneously. One robot uses a magnetic gripper to pick and place a complete layer of cans onto the pallets; the second KUKA robot uses a vacuum gripper to manage the divider boards and top frames. Systems like this are becoming more popular within the food processing industry and for good reason; it’s efficient and boosts production quality.

Food processing sectors are seeing rapid growth in the market, with it being estimated to reach $4.1 trillion by 2026. In response, robotic applications being used in food processing will continue to increase as well. For more information on robotic integration, contact the experts at RobotWorx online or at 740-251-4312.


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