CenFRA Doing the funky robot

Robotics consultant to the food industry CenFRA celebrated its first birthday at its facilities in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, with an open day for industry members.

The past year has seen Europe's first centre for food robotics and automation receive a further £1m in funding from Yorkshire Forward and being appointed the UK's Strategic Champion for robotics and automation within food and drink manufacture by the National Skills Academy.

Commercial director David Cheeseman gave a presentation on the work CenFRA does and urged food manufacturers to embrace robotics and automation more and to move away from misconceptions that the technology is always expensive. "We're trying to break that barrier down that people think they cannot afford it," he said. "It is very flexible and very affordable. We are trying to get the word out to people that we need to start looking."

Cheeseman added that if the food industry did not start investing in new technologies, the whole sector would fall behind international competitors such as in South Korea. "If we do not do something, we are going to suffer," he said.

The ready meals sector is one area that CenFRA feels its expertise would help, with robotic and automated solutions to boost productivity and cuts costs. CenFRA said one major UK-based food manufacturer, which asked for help on its ready meal pouches, has now seen startling results by using computer-aided simulation.

Cheeseman added: "The complex design of the packaging meant the opening needed to be protected from contamination during product filling. With our in-house resources, such as simulation, modelling and proof of principle design, this was the ideal project to demonstrate the advantages of automation."

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