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Guidelines for the design of low-cost robots for the food industry

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Purpose ‐ At present, the majority of industrial robots are not well suited to the specific needs of the food industry. Additionally, the high cost of robotic systems means that it is currently difficult for food manufacturers to financially justify the use of this technology. This paper aims to examine the unique requirements of the food industry with regards to robot manipulator design and outlines the design features of a low-cost robotic arm developed specifically for use in food production. Design/methodology/approach ‐ Considerations for the design of the robot arm in addition to industrial requirements for hygienic design, low cost, fast pick and place speed, safety for operation alongside human workers and ease of reprogramming are discussed in detail. Findings ‐ A successful manipulator design must consider functional requirements relevant to food production from the very outset of the design process. The principal three requirements are those of ease of cleaning, speed and low cost. Practical implications ‐ The availability of low-cost industrial robots specifically designed for food production might encourage a wider adoption of robotics and automation in the food industry and would benefit food manufacturers by reducing production costs and increasing competitiveness in what is becoming an increasingly difficult market. Originality/value ‐ This paper is of value to engineers and researchers developing robotic manipulators for use in the food industry.
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Keywords: Food industry; Food manufacturing equipment; Robotics

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 19, 2010

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