The EU-funded project PicknPack on robotics and flexible automation of food product packaging kicked off on Nov. 12, 2012, in Ede, the Netherlands.
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. 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.
The PicknPack project is a four year project which has a total budget of 11.88 M€ and an EU contribution of 8.76 M€. It is part of the research theme Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, and Biotechnology of the 7th Framework Programme.
The project is coordinated by Wageningen UR in the Netherlands and the consortium is made up of 14 partners from 9 different countries:
- Wageningen UR, the Netherlands
- Teknologisk Institut (DTI), Denmark
- Tecnalia, Spain
- Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium
- University of Manchester, United Kingdom
- Fraunhofer AVV, Germany
- Lacquey BV, the Netherlands
- ITENE, Spain
- Spectroscan, France
- Marel, Iceland
- Tecnalia-AZTI, Spain
- Cam-Tech AS, Denmark
- XaarJet AB, Sweden
- Marks and Spencer, United Kingdom