It was less than 50 years ago when the food and beverage industries were still manually intensive relying on manpower in production although the use of basic machinery is facilitated with proper handling by a human operator. In other words, the machine will not work without someone supervising its use.
Fast forward to 2023 is the age of Industry 4.0 which is driven by disruptive technologies which include the rise in human-machine interaction and the growing use of robotics in manufacturing to increase productivity while enhancing quality, safety and volume of production.
The food and beverage industry is one of the major beneficiaries in this 4th industrial revolution and the use of robotics technology is increasing in Asia as manufacturers aim to better manage the rising cost of production.
AFBR has the opportunity to interview Mr Shi Xiong Neo, LCA Engineer at igus Singapore Pte Ltd, to uncover the use of robotics technology, particularly its SCARA robot and its possible applications in the food and beverage industry in this region. Although this part of the world is still behind its western counterparts in terms of application of robotics, there are countless opportunities ahead, and this is made possible and affordable by igus, a motion plastics specialist.
SCARA robot from igus – slimmer and more serviceable
According to Neo, igus SCARA robot is much more serviceable compared to other SCARA found in the market. The design is also much slimmer on top of the fact that its parts are easily replaceable with easy maintenance by customer in the event of breakdown. On the other hand, competitors’ SCARA robots could have a proprietary design and components, with some having a longer lead time for ordering.
SCARA pick-and-place precision has applications in the F&B industry
The SCARA robot offers both vertical and side movement with precision requirement of up to 0.5mm with a load of up to 3kg. The type of movement is ideal for picking object from a pigeon-hole like shelf. One suitable use of SCARA robot is in the food vending machine. Apart from that, it can also be used in food manufacturing, in catering business which requires speed and consistency; and in fast-food business. Neo also mentioned the use of SCARA in food processing, packing or parallelization where time is of the essence in these applications.
The SCARA robot from igus can achieve a maximum of 30 picks per minute and in some instances, can even be comparable to a human hand. Not only that, it offers consistency of performance. Neo added that in terms of return on investment (ROI), if a SCARA robot is used to replace a human hand whose wage is S$100 (US$73.3) per day, it could potentially breakeven in 6 months.
igus facilitates business to implement SCARA robot at production floor
igus provides global assistance to food and beverage players, not to mention, its user-friendly igus® Robot Control system software which allows for easy setup and programming of the SCARA robot. These services are provided free of charge at no additional cost,
igus SCARA robot is made up of mainly tribologically optimised plastics and it also has a long service life and requires no maintenance.
igus is also developing a new SCARA robot with better functions while the existing software is also constantly patched.
Future of robotics in the food & beverage industry
With stricter hygiene in a post-pandemic world, and as the industry demands for faster yields, more and more robots will be applied on the production floor. With the implementation of chatGPT, it will also assist the industry to adapt to the rapidly changing market much easier as robots are much more flexible to be changed instead of having a specific design system. chatGPT will also fasten programming and allows for more flexibility in adapting to changes in product lines to meet the rapidly evolving market needs.
As such, it is beyond any doubt that robotics will make a great impact to the food and beverage industry in this region in the next 10 years.