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Food Robotics 101: Understanding Cobots in the Industry

conveyor line in plant

In the food production and processing industry, robotics has emerged as a pivotal technology driving efficiency, safety, and productivity. Among the various types of robots, collaborative robots, often referred to as cobots, have gained significant traction in the food industry due to their ability to work alongside human operators. 

We’ll look into the intricacies of cobots in food robotics, exploring their applications, benefits, challenges, and prospects.

Evolution of Robotics in Food Processing

The adoption of robotics in food processing traces back to the late 20th century when industrial robots began to revolutionize manufacturing across various sectors. Over the years, advancements in technology, including sensor capabilities, machine learning algorithms, and human-machine interfaces, have propelled the integration of robotics into the food industry.

Role of Collaborative Robots (Cobots) in Food Automation

Cobots represent a specialized category of robots designed to collaborate with humans in shared workspaces. Cobots can work alongside human operators, unlike traditional industrial robots, which typically operate behind safety barriers. In the food industry, cobots are important in enhancing flexibility, agility, and adaptability in production environments.

Basics of Cobots

Cobots are robotic systems with advanced sensors, actuators, and control mechanisms to facilitate safe and efficient human-robot interaction. They are characterized by their ability to perform a wide range of tasks, including picking, packing, sorting, and assembly, in collaboration with human workers.

Advantages of Cobots in Food Processing and Manufacturing

Cobots offer several distinct advantages in the context of food processing and manufacturing. They enable greater flexibility in production lines, allowing for rapid reconfiguration and customization to accommodate changing product specifications and consumer demands. Moreover, cobots enhance workplace safety by reducing the risk of accidents and injuries associated with manual handling of tasks.

Applications of Cobots in the Food Industry

Cobots are increasingly used in food production facilities to streamline assembly processes, such as sandwich and pizza assembly, where precision and consistency are paramount. Their ability to perform repetitive tasks accurately and efficiently makes them invaluable assets in optimizing production workflows.

Packaging and Labeling Processes

In food production’s packaging and labeling phase, cobots are vital in automating packaging tasks, including carton assembly, product loading, sealing, and labeling. By automating these labor-intensive processes, cobots help food manufacturers improve output, reduce packaging errors, and ensure compliance with labeling regulations.

Quality Control and Inspection

Maintaining consistent product quality is essential in the food industry to uphold brand reputation and consumer satisfaction. Cobots equipped with advanced vision systems and sensors can perform precise quality control inspections, detecting defects, contaminants, and irregularities in food products with unparalleled accuracy and efficiency.

Handling and Sorting of Food Products

From palletizing and de-palletizing to sorting and bin picking, cobots excel in handling a wide variety of food products, including perishable items, fragile goods, and irregular shapes. Their dexterity and adaptability make them ideal for tasks that require gentle handling and precise positioning, such as loading trays onto conveyors or transferring products between processing stages.

Components and Features of Cobots

Cobots rely on an array of sensors, including proximity sensors, cameras, and LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) systems, to perceive their environment and navigate autonomously. These sensors enable cobots to detect obstacles, identify objects, and adjust their movements in real time, ensuring safe and efficient operation in dynamic environments.

Grippers and End Effectors for Manipulation and Handling

Grippers and end effectors are essential components of cobots that enable them to manipulate and handle objects of varying shapes, sizes, and textures. From vacuum grippers and suction cups to pneumatic grippers and robotic arms, cobots can be equipped with various end effectors tailored to specific tasks and applications in the food industry.

Safety Features and Compliance Standards for Human-Robot Interaction

Ensuring the safety of human operators working alongside cobots is very important in food processing environments. Cobots are equipped with various safety features, including collision detection sensors, emergency stop buttons, and speed-limiting mechanisms, to minimize the risk of accidents and injuries. Additionally, cobots adhere to stringent safety standards and regulations, such as ISO 10218 and ISO/TS 15066, to ensure compliance with industry best practices.

Connectivity and Integration with IoT and Data Analytics

Cobots are increasingly being integrated into interconnected ecosystems enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT) and data analytics platforms. By leveraging cobot data, food manufacturers can gain valuable insights into production performance, resource utilization, and product quality, enabling them to optimize processes, reduce waste, and drive continuous improvement initiatives.

In the context of food processing and manufacturing, one notable system is the ProFeeder. It’s a compact modular robot cell that can be expanded in 2 steps, from production automation of small series that can be upgraded, to full automation of large production series.

A prominent system worth mentioning is the ProFeeder. This compact modular robot cell possesses the unique capability to scale up in two stages, starting from automating the production of small series which can be later upgraded, ultimately leading to the full automation of large-scale production series.


As the food industry continues to evolve in response to changing consumer preferences, regulatory requirements, and technological advancements, the role of cobots in food robotics is poised to expand significantly.

By embracing cobots as collaborative partners in food processing and manufacturing, companies can unlock new levels of efficiency, agility, and innovation, paving the way for a more sustainable and resilient food supply chain.

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