Servizio Comunitario di Informazione in materia di Ricerca e Sviluppo - CORDIS

Periodic Report Summary 2 - PICKNPACK (Flexible robotic systems for automated adaptive packaging of fresh and processed food products)

Project Context and Objectives:
The PicknPack concept offers the food industry the benefits of automation – cost reduction, greater hygiene and more efficient use of resources – combined with the unique ability to adapt to the product and batch size at hand. PicknPack will give the European food industry a vital competitive advantage in the rapidly changing marketplace of the future, where customers demand more quality, more choice and more safety for lower prices.
The project will develop three types of modules that can cope with the typical variability of food products and the requirements of the sector regarding hygiene, economics and adaptability. This is the main objective. Three modules are working closely together. A sensing module that assesses quality of the individual or small batch products before or after packaging (i), a vision controlled robotic handling module that picks up and separates the product from a harvest bin or transport system and places it in the right position in a package (ii) and an adaptive packaging module that can accommodate various types of packaging with flexibility in terms of package shape, size, product environment, sealing and printing (iii). These modules connect to a multipoint framework for flexible integration into a production line that optimally makes use of the capabilities of the modules. The communication is based on a shared, vendor-independent vocabulary. The combination of modules will be with a user-friendly interface and all modules are equipped with automated cleaning systems to ensure hygiene. All available information in the production chain and the information produced by the sensors in the system is combined, stored and made available to the different modules and both upstream and downstream in the chain. With added intelligence this will lead to maximum performance in quality, reducing change over time, reducing time for reprogramming, adaption to operators, reducing waste of food and packaging material and stock. Human intervention will be reduced to a minimum.

Project Results:
After the second period, the PicknPack project has delivered the PicknPack modules to Wageningen for integration in the food production line. Work packages 2 and 7 worked on integration functionality and liaised other work package leader to solve integration issues. From the beginning until the end of the third year modules arrived for integration. At the end of the second period all modules were close to final integration. Modules are mounted in the following order:
1. Thermoformer with flexible mould and fast changeover mechanism
2. Flexible sectional frames to provide all modules with packages
3. Delta robot wit adaptive gripper and 3D camera controlled bin-picking functions
4. Negative weight load cell to support bin-picking
5. Quality Assessment unit with multiple sensors (3D RGB geometric features, hyperspectral camera, microwave scanning and 3D X-ray)
6. Direct decorative printing unit of top foil with two colours)
7. Laser sealing and cutting unit of top foil
8. Infrared integrity test camera to check and improve laser seal
9. Fast cable robot to provide flexible and small footprint to pick the packages and pack them into crates on different conveyers
10. A cleaning robot is able to run through to line to clean all modules. Some modules have a clean in place facility.
Due to current problems with the laser and quality of packages is chosen to integrate first the modules 1-5 and later as a separate line the modules 6-9. Full software integration between the lines can still be demonstrated. The cleaning robot is focussing on the first part of the line.
During the second period, a UHF RFID hardware system consisting of 2 RFID readers, 4 antennas, a handset reader, and an internet hub has been established. Following the technical solutions for integration proposed by WP2, the communication protocol, data format, and software design model have been implemented in the traceability system. The information is wrapped with Javascript Object Notation (JSON) and communication is made with ZeroMQ, which is now also updated to Zyre. With the cross-platform protocols and tools, the traceability software can communicate to all other modules and understand their messages, based on the agreed WP2 protocol.
Most efforts in WP4 were focussed on the (re)design, construction and integration of the Quality Assessment and Sensing (QAS) module. The QAS module comprises of two submodules, one containing the X-ray unit (built by InnoS) and the other containing the remainder of the sensors (RGB, 3D, hyperspectral and microwave, built by KUL).
WP5 realized two different Pick and place manipulators. One will be placed at the beginning of the Pick and Pack line, introducing bin picking. The second one will be at the end of the line classifying the products into the output crates. The second one (Cable robot) named Pickable has been patented.
The work of WP6 is almost ready. The thermoformer and flexible mould system produce trays. The printer, the flexible heating system and integrity system also work. The flexible sealing and cutting system is not ready. Two videos document the almost full function of the packaging line.
The work on Demonstration is still just started as demonstration is planned for the last project year. We have now a written agreement on a plan to demonstrate in Wageningen (NL) and Holbeach (UK).
To avoid difficult dependencies and risks, the line will be split in at least two parts:
The combination of thermoformer/delta robot/QAS module working full speed with PET to assure that we have an integrated line with a packaging module, robotic module and quality assessment module as agreed in the contract.
The combination of cross-sectional and sectional module with the laser/scanner, integrity test, printer and cable robot with RFID applicator working with slow speed as a second part using PP is possible but also testing APET.
This decision was made also on the advice of the Industrial Advisory Board and made on the project meeting in Leuven.

Potential Impact:
The results of the PicknPack project will impact the food sector in various ways. The main focus of the PicknPack system is cost reduction, focussing on fully automated production lines, standardized modules with huge market potential to reduce equipment production and service costs, reducing costs on packaging materials and waste of packaging material (by direct decorative printing, digital moulds and adaptive sealing) and reducing food waste due to better quality assessment and packaging conditions in (climate) controlled air conditions optimal for food quality. In the food industry many tasks are done manually, such as separation tasks form (harvest) bulk containers, scanning functions, putting food components into the package and palletizing the packages. Also much labour is involved to change to other products, replacing a huge variety of package materials with different decorations and people who are doing the management, instructions and cleaning.
The PicknPack solutions will make the food industry of higher production quality via a decrease in dependency on human labour which is often variable both in quality and continuity. The flexibility and cost-effectiveness of the PicknPack system will bring automated packaging concepts within the reach of small food producers. The same modules can be used for a variety of different tasks, packaging types and sizes. Also the large (non-SME) food companies will benefit strongly from the project, thanks to highly improved flexibility to customer requirements by using the modules in many different ways to adjust the right capacity to the customer demand without having an over-capacity on machinery, factory space, storage of packaging materials and internal logistics beyond the seasonal boundaries.
The regulatory requirements for the future will perfectly match with the PicknPack challenges. Less human interference, improved quality assessment and the possibilities to carry out production in a controlled or clean air environment with optimal climate conditions will generate a safer food product.
Food safety will also be assured by using the intelligence in the system. Traceability aspects are implemented in every module which will provide the required traceable information in every step of the production. The novel multi-modality sensing approach implemented will not only assure the product quality, but will also support product traceability when combined with RFID and information communication technologies.
Effective and efficient cleaning is a precondition for effective machine disinfection. This is one pillar in the technical platform for the production of minimally processed food. In this way food producers may have the possibility to follow market demands and to strengthen their competitiveness. The production of minimally processed food is only possible if preserving agents and preservation steps are eliminated. To produce safe food under such conditions all possible contamination spots have to be excluded. This will be supported by the hygienic design of the machine and hygienic layout of the process. Easy-to-clean PicknPack-modules also reduce the cleaning costs, the energy consumption and the cleaning time.
The PicknPack system will reduce waste. Waste of packaging materials is reduced by adjusting the food component to the ideal package size (flexible mould and fitting components) and reducing the number and variety of decorative packaging materials at the food production site by using direct decorative printing of clean blank plastic.
The PicknPack system will be designed in such a way that is will be easy to operate by using available information provided by the system and traceable information upstream and downstream on an intelligent way. A special task is dedicated to the user interface making it as adaptive as possible. This will ensure that is can be used by all kinds of SME’s up to the grower level with fresh fruits and vegetables.

List of Websites:

Informazioni correlate

Documenti e pubblicazioni


Christianne Marcelis- van Acker, (Coordinator of EU Affairs)
Tel.: +31 317 480843
Fax: +31 317 418094
Numero di registrazione: 182055 / Ultimo aggiornamento: 2016-05-25
Fonte d'informazione: SESAM