High-speed automated gripper boosts quality control, says firm

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food safety, Food, Foodborne illness

A pneumatic gripper developed to pick and place fresh, cooked or frozen food products reduces costs for processors and ensures sanitary handling of produce, says its US manufacturer.

Automatic Robotics said that the gripper’s supported jaw guides in treated steel offer considerable grip force and can handle fresh meat, fish, cheese, bacon and many other non-uniform products in a stable and reliable manner.

According to the manufacturer, the gripper’s rapid open and close times and consistent, smooth movements make it suitable for use on all high speed robots currently on the market.

In a bid to cut costs, more and more food processors are looking to increase the speed of their processing and packaging lines. They are also automating tasks that were previously done by hand.

Food safety

Joanne Brown, marketing communications manager, Applied Robotics, said that the development of the gripper was informed by the meat handling requirements of one of the largest brands of premium fresh chicken in the US.

Brown told FoodProductionDaily.com that this particular client had difficulties recruiting workers to handle raw meat, and was also seeking a system that would ensure greater food safety and production line efficiency.

She said that with the recent outbreaks of foodborne illness related to pathogens such as Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli, ensuring a contaminant-free food processing environment and handling fresh food (especially meat) cleanly and sanitarily is proving vital.

According to Brown, the gripper is manufactured from light weight materials, which are Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved and so enable wash downs to be performed quickly and easily.

Quality control

Brown claims that new gripper, which can handle over 100 meat or cheese products per hour, can help reduce wastage and improve quality control:

“With proper installation, no pieces are dropped or damaged and it performs consistently with high throughput and repeatability."

She said the gripper was designed for easy integration with a robot and that the company’s applications engineers and technical support team can assist manufacturers in this regard: “We also offer a full line of tool changers and collision sensors which work with this and other grippers,”​ she said.

Packaging

The gripper’s pick up head enables portions or groups of portions to be loaded gently, accurately and quickly into trays, thermoformers or other packaging, explained Brown.

She said that in multiple head operation, each head can also be programmed to produce a different size or type of pack format.

Brown added that the gripper is available globally through Applied Robotics' extensive distribution network.

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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