dispatches from Emballage 2014, Paris

Adept targets food and packaging growth

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

The Lynx Conveyor robot  in action
The Lynx Conveyor robot in action

Related tags: Want, Need

Adept has said it wants to grow its mobile robot business in food and packaging to make a new type of industry.

The Lynx Conveyor robot combines a Lynx autonomous intelligent vehicle (AIV) base with a motorized conveyor platform, producing a robot that can receive, transport and deliver goods.

Adept Lynx AIVs self-navigate, avoiding obstacles and selecting the best path to complete a task.

The vehicles can work as a fleet and run in conjunction with the user's existing warehouse management system.

Innovation Award win

The robot, used in Europe since August 2013, won an Innovation Award during Emballage 2014, in Paris.

Bruno Adam, general manager for Adept France, said the machines can help with traceability.

“The main application we have today is to take and bring samples from the production line to the lab for quality analysis instead of having people putting samples on a small cart or trolley and pushing it,” ​he told FoodProductionDaily during the trade show.

“We have also used the robot for production changes, when you move from one production to another. Normally you need some new products, ingredients, labels, stickers or whatever and so we see more and more companies need flexibility so we can change the production several times a day and they may have several lines.

“So instead of having people going to the warehouse and picking some new labels, new components and bringing it to the lines each time there is a production change, we have an automatic request sent by the ERP to the warehouse.

“Somebody prepares the kit and sends it directly to the production line and then the line manager takes the kit and prepares the new lines for the new production and sends the old stuff to the warehouse for stocking.”

On-board intelligence

The on-board intelligence of the vehicle eliminates the need for additional infrastructure such as tracks, reflectors or magnets.

Adept  Lynx Conveyor 4
Adept's Lynx Conveyor robot

It has more than eight hours battery life, after several hours the Fleet Manager brings the vehicles to a docking system so it can recharge. It takes one hour to charge a battery that will work for five hours, said the firm.

The system, which has a laser to detect in front of it, can go up to 1800mm per second but will decrease speed if it detects an obstacle. It does not have to stop and can compute a new route to avoid the obstacle.

Adam said the industry reaction has been a ‘big surprise’.

“People who were integrating this technology on their plant were happy as it is fun. It makes noise, speaks in different languages and it is collaborative, it is not like a fixed robot in a cage,” ​he said.

“If the robot stops for any reason, people will start looking at that and wonder ‘why has it stopped’ and try to help it. In addition to that, people really enjoy having their company investing in some ‘factory of the future’ production tools.”

Carrying capability

The AIV can carry goods weighing up to 135kg but not heavier due to safety reasons. It is not intended to carry pallets for example, said Adam.

“More and more people want to have their production in a human-sized environment, they don’t want to have big parts and lines which is great because it is productive but it’s very limiting in terms of flexibility,” ​he said.

“People want to come back to the kind of small factory with some type of specialist that makes good food in a smaller environment. In the past, everybody was looking at reducing costs and having the lowest cost food.

“This is not the case anymore now people want to have high quality, they want to have organic food, traceability and safe food and they want to have a big variety so we need a lot of flexibility. We need small vehicles like that to move from one production island to another one.”   

Adam said the robots are initially moved around via joystick in the whole environment.

“The system defines a map during this process and then the map is saved and when you place the system in the environment it tries to correlate what it sees with the map it has in its memory,” ​he said.

“It takes just one hour to create a map and then on your map you’ll define some goals and you ask the robot to go to goal number one and then goal number five and the robot computes each time different routes so there is no predefined route.

“We have another piece of software called Enterprise Manager so we can manage a fleet of robots. It will define the priority and a task for each robot so if a machine asks for a robot the manager will select the robot closest to the machine that has enough power, the right configuration to do the job.”​ 

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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