OAL receives funding to develop robotics

Olympus Automation Ltd (OAL) and the University of Lincoln, UK, have been awarded £448,850 to develop April robotics material handling systems for food manufacturers. The new project aims to enable a step change in the adoption of robotics and automation to enhance productivity in the food and drink industry.

The one-year project, which is supported by a grant of from the UK government via Innovate UK and the EPSRC’s Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) research fund, will focus on automating the processes of handling, weighing and transporting the raw ingredients. It will also develop key hygiene and food safety features which will be crucial when using robotic production systems within the food manufacturing sector.

Harry Norman, managing director of OAL, explains, “Food manufacturers are facing rising costs and with little opportunity to increase their prices, they are seeking new and effective ways of improving productivity. Throughout the project, we’ll be taking a step by step approach, working our way through common operations found across the food manufacturing sector such as weighing, sieving, and moving ingredients around. One criticism of automated systems in the past has been the lack of flexibility, but we will aim to develop flexible April robotic systems that can handle some of these tasks and take the pressure off food manufacturers.”

The researchers will conduct a study of the processes currently used in the industry and will then develop new automated raw material handling systems to integrate with OAL’s existing technologies widely deployed across the industry. By automating the handling and movements of raw ingredients, the researchers expect to make advances in efficiency, quality and quantity in the production of food products such as sauces and soups when compared with traditional processing technologies.

The research will take place in the dedicated Robotics and Automation Zone of the National Centre for Food Manufacturing at the University of Lincoln’s Holbeach Campus in South Lincolnshire.

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