Collaborative robot handles and quality checks vegetables
Under the auspices of the EU project agROBOfood and in close cooperation with the spring roll factory Daloon and the Danish Technological Institute, Technicon has developed a prototype for the food industry.
The solution consists of a cobot from Universal Robots. Together with vision equipment and artificial intelligence, the flexible cobot makes it possible for Daloon to handle and quality control the more than 15 tons of cabbage heads, which are part of the daily production of over one million spring rolls at Daloon’s factory in Nyborg.
The innovative solution can handle heads of cabbage in different sizes and shapes, reduces food waste, increases the food industry’s productivity and at the same time spares employees from grueling work tasks.
The solution has great perspectives, especially because it is possible to handle and check organic items that vary in size and shape. It emphasizes that flexible automation can solve complex production challenges – also in the food industry.
The overall solution consists of three main elements. One is a robot skin, which means that we can get this collaborative robot into food production. Then there is a grapple that can handle vegetables of different sizes. And finally, there is a vision system which helps with quality control and orientation of these vegetables, says technical project manager for the solution, Mads Eskelund Kristensen, technical project manager, Technicon.
If you want to know more about the solution, see more here or contact Mads Eskelund Kristensen at email@example.com.
20 tons of cabbage for spring rolls in the hands of a robot
The number of rolling heads of cabbages at Denmark’s spring roll manufacturer exceeds most people’s wildest imagination. Somewhere between 15 and 20 tons of cabbage are handled every day at Daloon. They are all turned, weighed, and assessed in the hands of the factory’s employees and then end up as spring rolls, which are served throughout Scandinavia and several places in northern Europe.
– We produce about a million spring rolls every day, where we of course use a lot of raw materials – including a lot of cabbage. Today, our process is relatively manual. There is a lot of one-sided and repetitive work around the handling of these cabbages, which we really want to solve, says Peter Madsen, who is technical manager at Daloon.
Therefore, the system integrator Technicon, together with the Danish Technological Institute (DTI), has developed a prototype of a robot solution under the auspices of the EU project agROBOfood. The solution will in the long run make the handling of cabbage more productive, reduce food waste and remove the hard tasks from the employees.
Heads of cabbages are a natural product. They vary in size, diameter, and design, and therefore it is difficult to make a machine that handles these cabbages the same way. And that is where the robot solution is a good idea, Peter Madsen states.
This is not the first robot solution on the floor of the Daloon production. In fact, as many as 34 robots are at the Danish spring roll manufacturer – most of them, however, are used as “pick and place” robots.
– But exactly this process with cabbage we have not automated yet. We have had incredible difficulty finding the right solution for it, because the product varies as much as it does, says Peter Madsen.
SEE ALSO: If you are developing or selling robots that can be used in agri-food, tell us about it by participating in agROBOfood’s new study.
Handling fragile cabbage
Collaborative robots, the so-called cobots, spare employees from tedious work tasks, they are flexible, and they can handle delicate items. And that is why it is precisely this kind of robot – combined with cameras and artificial intelligence – that can take care of Daloon’s cabbage.
– What we have built consists of three main elements. One is a robot skin, which gets this collaborative robot into food production. Then there is a grabber that can handle vegetables of different sizes. And finally, there is a vision system that helps with quality control and orientation of these vegetables, says Mads Eskelund Kristensen, who is technical project manager at Technicon.
And senior consultant at the Danish Technological Institute Carsten Panch Isaksen elaborates:
– The key to this solution is the way we have used cameras and artificial intelligence to find the head and the stick of the cabbage. Today the system does not know what sizes the cabbages are and therefore they are all drilled in the same way. With the new system, we can calculate how much of the core needs to be drilled and thus reduce waste.
The future of food industry
In the food industry, it is important for quality, among other things, that all phases of processing and handling take place uniformly, carefully, and hygienically – all tasks that robots are ideal to handle.
– The fact that we now have a skin for the collaborative robots from Universal Robots, means that we can get it into the food industry. I see great potential in that, says Mads Eskelund Kristensen.
And Peter Madsen from Daloon agrees:
– The Danish Technological Institute and Technicon have really come up with some good input here, and it has given us all a boost. This has allowed us to handle the food much more accurately.
AgROBOfood – funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 program – aims to move robots into the food industry, among other things by providing financial support through open project calls for the development work itself. Right now, the second call is open and the deadline for applications is May 31, 2021.
Do you have questions about agROBOfood or the application process for the open call?
Then contact senior consultant Rune Hahn Kristensen from the Danish Technological Institute via firstname.lastname@example.org or 72 20 13 27.