How to Automate Food Manufacturing Using Robots
Companies have been automating food manufacturing for years. Much of this automation includes using robotic technology. Robots are able to provide improved cleanliness, reduce costs, and increase production capacity. What if you aren’t sure your food manufacturing needs match up with the use of a robot? What if you aren’t sure exactly how to incorporate a robot into your food production environment?
That’s what we are going to answer for you in this post! Keep reading to find out what applications robots are being used for, and how you can begin using a robot for your food manufacturing needs today!
Applications Robots are Commonly Used For
Robots can be used for nearly every process in food manufacturing. Between robot accessories and the robot itself, robotic technology can do many of the things that their human co-workers would prefer not to do! This means human co-workers can focus on tasks that are not as repetitive and tedious.
Some of the food manufacturing tasks robots can alleviate from humans are:
- Pick and Place
- Packaging & Palletizing
- Rack Unloading
- Cutting & Slicing
- Food Preparation – View one example of a Staubli robot scoring bread!
Steps To Begin Using a Robot
While it would be wonderful to just decide you need a robot and buy one today, it’s not that simple. Many robots can be setup and configured in one day, however, there are a few steps that must take place first.
Step One: Decide Which Robot is Right For You
There are many different types of robots, all with their own advantages and disadvantages. Finding the right one for your food manufacturing application can be a hard decision. But fear not! We have many articles on the different types of robots.
The main question you must consider is whether your robot will need to work alongside humans. If the answer is no, then an industrial robot is likely a great investment for you. If the answer is yes, you may very well be looking at using a collaborative robot. Below you will find the different types of common robots:
- Cartesian Robots – Most commonly used for industrial applications such as CNC machines and 3D printing
- SCARA Robots – Typically used for assembly and palletizing, as well as bio-med application
- Articulated Robots – Applications are assembly, arc welding, material handling, machine tending, and packaging
- Delta Robots – Used for fast pick and place applications in the food, pharmaceutical, and electronic industries
- Polar Robots – Commonly used for die casting, injection molding, welding, and material handling
- Collaborative Robots (Cobots) – Typically used for pick and place, palletizing, quality inspection, and machine tending
Step Two: Engineer Your Robotic Solution
Now that you have selected the right robot for your food application, your next step begins with identifying the accessories and configurations required. You may require specific guarding, stands, grippers, etc. to use your robot efficiently for your application.
If you aren’t quite sure what accessories and configurations you need, you may wish to speak to a robotic specialist. You can contact ours by email.
Step Two: Set Up Your HRC Space & Install
HRC Spaces (human robot collaboration spaces) are necessary for most types of applications. While your robot may not be directly in contact with people handling food at all times, ensuring that you prepare for instances where human contact occurs is absolutely necessary.
Certain applications require guarding, certain distances need to be set, and other precautions may need to be taken. Guarding is not generally necessary with collaborative robots, however. Cobots use less force than other industrial robots and have built-in sensors, so when they do come in contact with a human, the impact doesn’t create an injury.
We have a guide that can walk you through setting up human-robot collaboration spaces.
Step Three: Integrate Your Robot with Other Systems
Your facility may be using other systems such as compressed air and automation to power your food application. These systems generally need to integrate with the robot system. As you can imagine, integration can be a tough task. Generally, our best advice is to hire a specialist to create integration and install everything perfectly.
Step Four: Service Your Robot
Finally, let us talk about service on your robot. Robotic equipment may need service from time to time. Many companies, including our own, have 24-7 emergency service available for your robotic system. System shutdown can lead to a loss in production and expensive time loss. In summary, knowing what company to call ahead of time can help reduce the time of shutdown.