Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Flexible food packaging systems

Researchers and engineers have designed mechanisms that can pack a wide variety of food products in packaging that can quickly and easily be modified for specific markets. They can meet the requirements in the food sector regarding hygiene, economics and adaptability, providing maximum product quality as well as convenience for consumers.
Flexible food packaging systems
The European food industry is a rapidly changing marketplace in which customers demand more quality, more choice and more safety for lower prices. An EU-funded project, PICKNPACK (Flexible robotic systems for automated adaptive packaging of fresh and processed food products), developed three types of modules to meet these challenges. Working closely together, the three modules include a sensing module, a vision controlled robotic handling module and an adaptive packaging module.

PICKNPACK examined the focus products for functionality. The products were vine tomatoes, grapes and ready meals/chicken breasts. All the specifications and concept designs of the modules were analysed. As a result, detailed designs of the line and modules were created. Following this, the researchers built the modules and line integration functionality. The modules were then tested in stand-alone operation and afterwards in line operation. In parallel, researchers worked on hygiene issues, societal impact, life-cycle assessment and exploitation opportunities.

A cable robot was designed to pick and place packages in a flexible working range. Metallic cables are connected to a mobile platform on one side and winches control the length and tension of the cables resulting in controlled movement. A rectangular workspace provides the ability to grasp foodstuff from conveyors. This innovative robot can work at high speeds without increasing commercial cost, making the work volume more efficient.

Systems for cleaning the line were also developed. The mobile cleaning device is an automated and self-driving machine that can move through the entire PicknPack line while cleaning all the modules consecutively with individual cleaning progress. Different nozzle types are used and several cleaning agents can be sprayed. An automatic hose drum supplies the cleaning agent and stands on a moveable table. This makes movement through the factory easy for cleaning many machines.

Dissemination activities included social and professional online media, training sessions and publications.

Related information


Packaging, food products, food sector, PICKNPACK, robotic systems, cable robot
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