1) Introduction to Robotics:
1.1) What is robotics?
The term robotics was first introduced in the 1940s by the science-fiction author Isaac Asimov. Robotics is a branch of engineering and it involves design, manufacture, and operation of robots. This field contains electronics, computer science, artificial intelligence, mechatronics, nanotechnology, and bioengineering.
1.2) Types of Robots:
Robots have many applications and can be used in various different fields and domains. Some types of Robots and their field of use:
- Industrial robots: Industrial robots are robots that are used in an industrial manufacturing environment. Usually, they are articulated arms specifically developed for welding, material handling, painting and other applications
- Domestic or household robots: They are Robots that are used at home. Such as robotic vacuum cleaners, gutter cleaners and others that can perform different chores.
- Medical robots: Robots that are used in medicine and medical institutions and facilities.
Such as surgery robots.
- Military robots: Robots that are used in the military. This type of robots includes bomb disposal robots.
- Space robots: robots that are used on the International Space Station, as well as Mars rovers and other robots used in space.
2) Application of Robots in the food industry:
Since the world is evolving and technology is blossoming, the mechatronic systems such as robotic systems and robots have without a doubt found their way into the food industry. Here are some examples and tasks that robots are used in the food industry:
Since Butchery is a difficult and a very dangerous task for human workers, mechatronic engineers have managed to automate this action by using robot manipulators and various vision sensors. This way cutting bones and meat is faster, safer and more accurate than the traditional way.
- Robotic Cutting and Slicing:
Cutting and slicing is a task that is dominated by human worker²s, it may seem like a basic and simple task to perform; however, there are some more advanced types of cutting that involves detecting and removing defects from food as well as cutting uniform shapes and sizes. In these applications, robots and automated systems are defiantly needed.
- Product Pick and Place:
Pick and place are tasks that are simple to automate that’s why robots are taking over this field since it is faster and easier to handle it robotically, automated systems and robotic arms are being used for many years.
- Cake Decorating:
Cake decorating involves the use of robotic arms and 3D printers, they pipe icing onto the cake.
There are also robots that can cut and slice cakes.
- Pizza Making:
The application of robots in pizza making is not as common as the other applications; however, Silicon Valley pizza has used and made a pizza using the aid of robots. A delta robot spreads the tomato sauce and a manipulator tends the pre-baking oven.
- Robotics in Food Manufacture:
Food manufacture or food processing is a task that can be automated. By the year 2022, the value of the global food automated industry is expected to double. Food manufacture can be divided into two different steps:
- Primary processing: which is the cleaning, sorting and transporting of raw food. It may also include butchery.
- Secondary processing: this step includes the forming of new food products by cooking or baking or chilling of the combined ingredients.
Robotics in Food Packaging:
Same as food manufacture, food packaging can be divided into different steps, and these three steps are:
- Primary packaging: pick and place robots pack individual foods.
- Secondary packaging: pick and place robots pick this time individual packages and group them together.
- Tertiary packaging: a palletizing robot put packages together and group them for shipping.
Robotics in Agriculture:
The use of robots in Agriculture is relatively new, and their application can be split into two categories:
- Plant Agriculture: these Robotic applications may include planting, identifying, sorting and seedlings. There are also other types of robots that are used such autonomous tractors, weeding robots and harvesting robots.
- Non-plant Agriculture: Robots are being used in the dairy and beef farming industries, these applications may include autonomous feeding and milking, egg collection and sorting, and finally autonomous cleaning.
3) Application of Robots in Restaurants:
Since Robots are already taking over so many fields in the food industry, such as agriculture and food manufacture, it is not a surprise that they are also being used in restaurants. For example, restaurants in China are replacing waiters with robots.
Robot waiters are taking off in China because they’re novel and fun, many robots in Chinese restaurants appear anthropomorphic thus making them attractive to customers, and also they are still cheaper than human wait staff. Robots are not only being used in waiting and serving they are also being used in cooking since perform simple prep tasks such as slicing meat and vegetables. These Robots run on magnetic tracks to deliver meals such tracks can even support robots on bikes.
In order for the customers to order their food, the customer places the order using electronic menu bar which is composed of an LCD, a keypad, and a Bluetooth module. The electronic menu is usually attached to the robot. In order for the waiter Robot to move to its designed destination, it uses four IR sensors, the two sensors are placed in the center and are used for line following and set the robot online. The other two sensors are installed on sides are used for table counting.
The food service industry is generating billions of dollars in annual revenue and in 2016 it did represent 2.1 percent of the U.S. GDP. That’s why investors all over the globe are investing a considerable amount of money and research into developing and making upgrades in the automated systems and robots that are used in the food industry such as agriculture and restaurants. Robots may not seem to be perfect, even though they can perform with more precision and accuracy than human workers however they are still expensive to buy and to maintain, and they can’t perform complicated tasks which human workers with enough experience can perform with extreme ease. However, this does not hide the fact that it is estimated that in the near future robots will be more common restaurants and food factories and maybe one day, they will even take over the role of human workers and waiters.