Jens Philipp Mehnert, sales engineer, ABB Automation said in 2013, 6,200 robots were sold across the food industry worldwide and saw less fluctuation in other market segments during this time.
Bakery, sweets, meat, cosmetics & pharmaceuticals
“Sales of parallel robots went up due to the changing market of the food industry, particularly in meat,” he said in a seminar at Anuga FoodTec, in Cologne, Germany, last week.
“About 70 years ago buying meat was something special by visiting the local butcher and 20 years ago people ate meat almost every day.
“Today, most people buy meat in the supermarket, they don’t need to go to a butcher for the service and information is printed on the package. Due to this, we have seen an increased demand for packed meat and robot applications for that sector.”
Mehnert said a few years’ ago, ABB Automation decided to focus on several industry segments; automotive, foundry, welding and cutting, plastics and metal and painting and packaging. Now it focuses on five segments in packaging; bakery, sweets, meat, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
“We distinguish what we sell into picking, packing and palletizing,” he added.
“Our Delta robot is used mainly for picking and packaging. For picking we use a 6- axis robot, and we have also developed related systems like the PickMaster, RobotStudio and customers can optimize their robots online before commissioning them.
Swiss company Demaurex
“The Delta robot with three arms was invented in the 1980s. First produced by Swiss company Demaurex with the first Delta robot in 1987 and in 1999, ABB started selling the FlexPicker.
“The major advantages are fast pick and place, low moved mass, low energy consumption, high stiffness, high repeatability, and it needs less space than a 6-axis robot because it works above the product.
“The ABB FlexPicker family is now in its second generation versions with increased compact, high speed, hygiene and high payload.”
Mehnert said simple tasks are easy to automate in a growing market in packaging, and especially in countries such as Germany, where a minimum wage was introduced at the beginning of the year, they require minimum labour.
“Delta robots are very fast, high quality and provide high uptime,” he said.
“We can reduce contact between the worker and and unpacked food which provides two advantages; decreasing the risk of contamination and extending the minimum shelf life durability of perishable products, as well as improvement of working conditions regarding manual labour.”
Mehnert added there is a growing variety of packaging designs coming onto the market and robots need to be flexible.
“Often, we deal with natural products, ie chocolates, fruit, and vegetables and there are discussions right now about lubricants, how to clean a robot without using aggressive cleaning agents,” he said.