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Intelligent Cutting

04 September 2014

Modern food production requires modern techniques and over the past few years, the use of robotics has become much more common place, particularly where highly labour intensive repetitive processes are involved.

Western Mechanical Handling UK Ltd, the highly innovative automated production specialists, has already worked on a number of successful robotic projects in the Food and Pharma sectors and their latest innovation is designed to help prepared food manufacturers reduce costs and improve production performance and quality. 

Working in close partnership with Mitsubishi Electric, WMH has developed a high speed cutting station which incorporates an intelligent vision system guiding an ultrasonic cutter mounted on a robot.   The trial demonstration unit uses a Mitsubishi RV-7FM MELFA robot fitted with a Telsonic, ultrasonic cutting blade enabling clean, high speed portioning.

Mitsubishi’s MELFA F-Series robots are designed to be flexible, fast, functional and food safe meeting IP67 standards, allowing easy cleaning of the arm, while HG1 food grade grease is used for lubrication. As a result they are ideal for many applications in the food and beverage industry. 

The six-axis robot can rotate the blade to form radial slices from round products like pies and cakes.  It can also be programmed to cut in a parallel motion for individual portioning of slab cakes or cheese and has been used for squaring the edges of non linear products.  

For lines where a range of products need to be cut in different patterns, a robot provides a more cost effective solution than traditional methods.  In addition, the functional flexibility allows for future product changes by a simple programme edit, whilst keeping the hardware intact.

When coupled to a vision system, the unit can be used for accurate portioning of random sized products like fillets of meat or fish.  The software linked to the camera system calculates the weight and determines the position for each cut, providing repeatable very accurate portions, reducing the percentage of give-away.

“Ultrasonic cutting technology coupled with robotics and intelligent vision control can provide producers with huge rewards in labour reduction, increased quality and reductions in product give-away and wastage,” said WMH Controls Engineer, Matt Hurley.

The unit provides a valuable addition to WMH’s robotics and automation test facilities.

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