The concept of robots has captivated our imagination for decades. Comic books, movies, novels, and other media have tried to give us a sneak peek of what living in a world with robots would be like. But these days, we don't have to imagine what and how robots can perform tasks that were done by humans. In this article, we discuss how robots have changed the way we make and prepare our food.
1. Fruit and Vegetable Sorting
To us, the task of figuring out which fruits or vegetables are worthy for packaging and sale at the store is a simple thing. Not for robots! Robots should be able to identify a good fruit or vegetable from a rotten one, but also handle it with the same deftness and delicate touch as a human to avoid damaging the produce. Recent developments in robot grip tech have made it possible for robots to sort and gently pick produce, at speeds and consistency unmatched by humans.
The grisly and complicated process of slicing up and deboning animals used to be the property of human butchers with years of experience. Now, there are robots that can be tuned to analyze animal carcasses like beef, then programmed to make cuts into the carcass at a specific spot with incredible accuracy. In the recent past, processes like beef butchering were extremely difficult to assign to robots. How then were Australian beef companies able to automate it? Smart factory software offers a clue, along with other advancements in process automation.
3. Picking and Placing Products
This is similar to the new fruit and veggie-sorting capacity that newer robots offer, and has been around for decades. Product picking and placement is mostly used by big food companies that have a uniform size, weight, and shape to their products. Products with standard dimensions and specifications are easier to pick up and place onto the next step of the manufacturing process, or to place in the final packaging before shipping.
4. Making Pizza
At least one famous company is trying to put hand-tossing the crust back in the pizza-making process, although many pizza makers are turning to robots. As of now, there are no crust-tossing robots, although robots that prep the ovens and spread the pizza sauce are available. Maybe later we'll see expert crust-spinning-and-tossing robots and robots that sprinkle mozzarella cheese.
5. Decorating Cakes
The exacting process of filling pastry bags and applying to ice or creating delicate flowers to decorate cakes is now automated. A robotic arm that works like a 3D printer can be loaded with icing on its quadruple dispensers and put the icing on cupcakes or create simple decorative flowers on cake tops. It can also write the usual “happy birthday” greeting on a cake, and make it look like it was made by a human.
These are a small sample of the many applications for robots in the food industry. Robots are also being used in customer-facing businesses like mini-cafe kiosks that prepare tea-infused or coffee beverages without a human barista. As technology is fine-tuned and becomes more advanced, we can expect many more amazing applications of robots in the manufacture, prep, and packaging of our food.