Flexible robotic systems point the way forward

Delegates from industry, academia, industrial associations, professional institutions and research institutes attended the second workshop in a series of PicknPack dissemination events at the University of Lincoln’s National Centre for Food Manufacturing (NCFM).

PicknPack is a flexible robotic system, funded by the European Union Seventh Framework
Programme, which is being used to develop highly innovative automated adaptive processing and packaging for fresh and processed food products.

The workshop raised awareness of current capabilities and future trends in emerging technologies within Europe which will impact on the food sector.

The day was initiated by Professor John Grey of Manchester University and delegates were welcomed by Professor Timothy Gordon, Head of the School of Engineering at the University of Lincoln.

Mike Dudbridge, Principal lecturer at NCFM, gave a broad overview of the current role of automation within food manufacturing and outlined future trends that will place the emerging technologies from PicknPack in a realistic context. Mike took delegates on a comprehensive tour of NCFM and they also had the opportunity to network and view stands from ABB, ACO, ePlan, Olympus, Propec, Rittal, Siemens and UV Technology.

Erik Pekkeriet, Co-ordinator of the PicknPack Project, provided background to the project; followed by Richard Seager, Technical Director of Marel, who described the advanced manufacturing processes now being produced by Marel in the UK.  Richard van de Linde, Director of Lacquey, introduced its range of innovative grippers developed specifically for automating processes in food manufacturing with emphasis on handling fruit and vegetable products.

Alan Spreckley, Global Manager of ABB Food and Drink Sector, outlined the evolution of robotics in international food manufacturing while Emma McGuire, a food scientist from Campden BRI and an expert on hygienic system design, outlined the stringent hygienic design rules that must be applied to all machinery employed in the manufacture of food products.

Andrew MacPherson, National Team Manager from Festo gave an outline of some blue sky technology that could eventually be directly applicable to food manufacturing, focussing on the development of close human/ robot interaction which could be a feature of food factories of the future.

Andrew Stark, Chief Operating Officer of PPMA, gave a comprehensive overview of the current market for packaging machines in the food sector and outlined future trends on the market for machines and process systems.

For more information on the PicknPack Project, photos from the workshop and access to presentations please go to www.picknpack.eu/ or contact Nasreen Akhtar at the University of Manchester on 0161 306 4795.

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