The demonstration center, connected to its Amherst, New Hampshire facility, allows customers and integrators to view and try out advanced robotic equipment before fully committing to a purchase. The various robots can package, handle, dispense and assemble products and containers.
Automation is a booming business. According to research by intelligence firm Research and Markets, demand for industrial automation and robotics is expected to grow each year, hitting an estimated $37 billion by 2018.
Glenn Hewson, senior vice president at Adept Technology, changes in consumer buying habits, shortage of skilled labor, and stepped-up government regulation are increasing food processors’ interest in automation.
“Food processors are looking to robotics with integrated vision and conveyor control to provide the speed of hard automation but with flexibility for quick changeover between products,” he said. “Robotics also can profitably ease labor shortage issues for both primary and secondary packaging while delivering on the sanitary conditions required by government regulation.”
Hewson added the primary goal of the new tech center is to give a convenient location for end users and integrators in the eastern US to see and test applications on industrial and mobile robotic platforms. Adept Technology also has similar locations in California, Germany, France, Singapore and China.
Equipment in action
Hewson said one benefit of seeing the robotics solutions in action is food professionals get to see that implementing automation is easier and more within their grasp than they might have believed.
“One of the biggest challenges in the industry is managing the shift from dedicated lines to robotics in order to create flexibility in packaging operations,” Hewson said. “This usually means reexamining the approach in how to maximize throughput using robotics rather that just duplicating the process that was handled via hard automation.”
The company’s technical staff is available to work with various packaging system integrators to help customers in the food industry test and prove their concepts at any of its centers.
The 5,000-sq.-ft. New Hampshire center offers design, programming, testing and training for Adept Technology’s kinematics, including the Quattro HS, a USDA-approved parallel robot. The new machine reportedly is intended for handling primary packaging with slippery, oddly shaped or varied-orientation products.
As automation technology evolves, the center will endeavor to help clients keep up with the changes. Hewson anticipates the industry will see increased use of robotics in primary food packaging for sanitation reasons.
Hewson added that the industry most likely will see increased use of mobile robotics to handle custom cases, moving them directly from the packaging lines to transport vehicles.