Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Food Robotics

Every time when one goes to the supermarket to buy a pack of sliced meat and opened it, one can observe that the meat is nicely sliced with equal dimensions. How could humans have done that? Unless we are talking about Japanese sashimi chefs who slice fish at the highest precision, it is impossible to accomplish that feat. We have seen how robots are used in car assembly lines. What is happening here is the introduction of robotics to the food and beverage industry. Robots have been utilized in the management of food. A pity that they are not as widely used as their assembly line counterparts. There are three main sections of food management, (1) picking, (2) packing and (3) palletizing. Current factory settings involve humans to filter out poorly produced items and pick the rest for packing. Different individuals may have different perceptions of poorly produced items. Their vision may differ too, thereby resulting in inconsistency of selection. With robots programmed to fixed perceptions, the inconsistency will be massively reduced. It was mentioned that vision systems determine the characteristics of the items being scanned. Meat cutting is also pre-programmed to be done at certain orientations, thereby resulting in consistency in the dimensions of the meat. In a fast-paced competitive industry, it pays to be fast. Manual packaging takes a long time, even with a large factory workforce. With robots, this process will speed up by many folds. They can be pre-programmed to do such tasks over and over again, tirelessly and at high speeds. Moreover, they are flexible in that they can multi-task, by packaging more than one item at a time, and also to deal with a variety of packaging containers, such as boxes and trays. Handling packed products can also be a chore when it comes to storing the packages. Some items, especially frozen food, have to be stored in places with low temperatures. Robots are able to withstand long hours in such places, thereby speeding up the process. The weights of different items may vary. Therefore, stacking a heavy item over a lighter one can be damaging. Using vision systems to inspect the items, robots can place the packages in the correct orientation so as to prevent any damage. In the beverages industry, Motoman Inc., invented RoboBar, which serves as a bartender. It can mix different kinds of drinks through dispensing guns that pump the liquor and mixes, and can also add ice, depending on the choice of the customer. Most importantly, it can perform the order in a breeze. Besides mixing alcohol, it can also whip up a sumptous cup of coffee. With robots in the food and beverage industry, flexibility and speed can be introduced. Everything and anything can be handled and at great speed. Besides maintaining the robots, nothing else is done since the process has been pre-programmed. Since everything is automated, there will be a better distribution of the workforce to other human-specific tasks, thereby increasing the efficiency in their work. In addition to that, they can do the work of many people. Safety problems will also be reduced to a minimum. These robots certainly make us run for our money, eh?
Related Articles:
Video on Motoman RoboBar:
Cheong Wen Li, Ronald U036405J


Industry said...

If you are interested in finding out more about this topic, you can check out the links on the related articles (already in the blog but not as a hyperlink).

Video on Motoman RoboBar:

Anonymous said...

Technology has definitively made human as redundant. There will come a day when these robots will start to blog on topics on like "Human - What to do with them."

Tng Thomson U046231A