Robotic technologies are revolutionizing food portioning and cutting applications in the food industry. These automated systems offer improved precision, speed, and safety while reducing costs and waste. This article covers robotic food portioning and cutting technologies in the food industry, including their benefits, current commercial landscape, and future prospects.
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Robotic technologies are increasingly used in the food industry, particularly for food portioning and cutting applications. The need for food safety, increased productivity, and cost reduction drives this trend.
The food industry is complex and labor-intensive, with various challenges, such as rising labor costs and safety concerns. Automation through robotics provides a natural solution to address these challenges.
Benefits of Using Robotic Technologies for Food Portioning and Cutting Applications
Robotics technology in the food industry provides various benefits, such as improved food safety, increased productivity, reduced operational costs, and enhanced employee satisfaction. These automated systems can perform repetitive tasks, measure portions accurately, and track inventory and ingredients with the help of AI and machine learning.
Robots also minimize waste and lower the risk of contamination, making them a valuable asset to the industry. In addition, they assure compliance with strict food safety regulations, lowers labor expenses, and boost overall productivity, resulting in cost savings and increased production capacity.
Current Commercial Landscape
The global food industry is rapidly adopting robotic technology, with a CAGR of 12.80% between 2022-2028. The pandemic has accelerated the transition to automation in the industry, driven by increasing labor costs, inflation, and the need for efficiency.
Robotics has revolutionized food portioning and cutting, overcoming challenges such as product variation and complex tasks. Advanced gripper technology has overcome fruit and vegetable handling limitations, ensuring delicate products are not deformed or damaged. Machine vision solutions enable robots to sort and handle different products based on size, color, and shape, ensuring quality control by detecting and removing sub-optimal products.
These advancements in robotics have led to increased productivity in food processing, with some manufacturers reporting a 25% boost compared to human labor.
Companies are seeking expert robotic solutions tailored to their specific food processing requirements to optimize efficiency and meet customer demands for product variation. As a result, the use of robotics in food portioning and cutting is transforming the food industry landscape, enabling precise and efficient operations while addressing cost and quality control challenges.
Leading food-cutting and portioning robotics companies include FANUC, Newtech, Abrigo, and FoodTools. These companies offer a range of innovative machines such as the compact RPS-100S robotic cake slicer from FoodTools, the conveyor-based RoboSONIC Inline from Newtech, and the high-performance Flexcut Multi cutting system, which can cut up to 100 products per minute and is compatible with various food products.
These robotic systems offer advanced features like ultrasonic technology, user-friendly interfaces, and remote access capabilities, making them efficient and reliable solutions for the food industry.
JBS and Robot Butchers
JBS is the world's largest meat processing company, operating over 300 production units worldwide. To increase processing efficiency and worker safety, JBS acquired a controlling share of Scott Technology, an automation and robotics company, in late 2015.
The meat processing plant uses multiple robots to carry out various tasks. The first robot takes X-rays and CT scans of the carcass to create a 3D model of its shape and size, which is then used by another bot to drive rotary knives and make cuts through the hanging carcass.
The cuts are then sorted and moved by another robot to specific conveyor belts while another weighs and package them for shipping. The robots achieve an average accuracy of 90% in cutting and packaging the meat.
Scott Technology's machines use artificial intelligence and deep learning to map each carcass and decide the most efficient way to cut it. The robots then use this data to become more efficient over time.
Elliptical Design and TM Robotics: A Collaborative Solution for Cheese Cutting Challenges
Elliptical Design, a British design and manufacturing company, collaborated with a UK cheese manufacturer to overcome cutting challenges and improve efficiency by implementing an ultrasonic cutting system with TM Robotics' industrial robots.
Elliptical Design installed the THP700 SCARA robot from TM Robotics for pick and place operations, as it offered fast cycle times and had an IP65 rating suitable for food production environments. In addition, the TV1000H 6-axis industrial robot was installed for ultrasonic cutting, providing high repeatability and a maximum cycle time.
This robotic system enhanced the cheese-cutting process, enabling precise and accurate cuts without causing damage, reducing cheese waste by up to 83%, and improving product uniformity to meet quality standards and food quantity legislation.
The cheese manufacturer previously took four to five days to meet its weekly quotas using manual processes, but with the Elliptical Design's robotic ultrasonic cutting system, it achieved the same quotas in only two days.
Are Robots Taking Over the Food Industry?
While food robotics have become increasingly prevalent in the food industry, they are not likely to completely replace human labor in all operations anytime soon.
The use of robots in food cutting and portioning requires human input and management on all levels, and there are still many food-related tasks that only humans can complete. Additionally, enterprises will only invest in robotic technology if it can optimize or reduce the operational cost of performing a specific task and yield significant returns on their investments.
However, with the increasing demand for food production and the need to fulfill global food requirements quickly, robotic technology can solve various problems in the food industry by maximizing efficiency and minimizing waste.
References and Further Reading
Iqbal, J., Khan, Z. H., & Khalid, A. (2017). Prospects of Robotics in Food Industry. Food Science and Technology, 37, pp. 159-165. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/1678-457X.14616
Kumar, P. (2022). Robotics Intervention in Food Processing Industries: A Mini Review. Current Journal of Applied Science and Technology, 41(40), pp. 1-9. https://doi.org/10.9734/cjast/2022/v41i403985
Radke, A. (2018). Could Robot Butchers Replace Employees in Packing Plants? [Online]. Available at: https://www.beefmagazine.com/outlook/could-robot-butchers-replace-employees-packing-plants
Ridler, G. (2023). Cutting and slicing: Integration, Innovation and Robotics. [Online]. Available at: https://www.foodmanufacture.co.uk/Article/2023/03/06/Cutting-and-slicing-Integration-innovation-and-robotics
SavorEat. (2022). The Arrival of Robotics in the Food Industry. [Online]. Available at: https://savoreat.com/the-arrival-of-robotics-in-the-food-industry/
TM Robotics. (2021). Making "Cheddar" With Industrial Automation - Achieving 83 Per Cent Waste Reduction in Food Manufacturing. [Online]. Available at: https://www.roboticstomorrow.com/article/2021/05/making-cheddar-with-industrial-automation-achieving-83-per-cent-waste-reduction-in-food-manufacturing/16848/
Abrigo. (2023). FLEXCUT_MULTI. [Online]. Available at: https://www.abrigospa.com/en/soluzioni/soluziont-flexcut-multi
Foodtools. (2023). RPS-100S-Robotic Ultrasonic Portioning. [Online]. Available at: https://foodtools.com/product/rps-100s/
Newtech-Ltd. (2023). RoboSONIC Inline. [Online]. Available at: https://www.newtech-ltd.co.uk/food-cutting-machine/robosonic-inline/