Red meat R&D: Progress in shadow robotics

Beef Central, 28/10/2021

WELCOME to the regular series of articles focusing on red meat R&D, presented by Beef Central and the Australian Meat Processor Corporation. These items highlight a range of projects designed to enhance the efficiency, productivity, product quality and safety of Australian red meat sold into the domestic market and around the world.

All have the ability to help underpin Australia’s unrivalled reputation as the world’s premier export of quality beef, lamb and offal. Links to previous articles in the series appear at the bottom of this page.



EARLIER this year the Australian Meat Processor Corporation issued a challenge to technology providers across the world asking them to develop concepts for ‘shadow robotic’ solutions and how this might apply to meat processing – and the results have been outstanding.

The aim of the technology is safety and improved accuracy. ‘Shadow robots’ have the ability to have employees operate equipment, without directly interacting with it. Successful solutions will ensure employees do not need to engage directly with bandsaws and cutting implements. A ‘shadow robot’ might do this for them.

The technology will initially see processors place operational staff within control rooms on processing floors.

With advances in connectivity such as NBN and 5G, processors could have employees housed in control rooms away from the processing location or have staff operate equipment from their computers at home, or from anywhere in the world.

Shadow robotics will not only improve safety but make it possible for a wider range of employees, including those who are less physically strong and those not located on site, to be trained in new roles.

AMPC is now 9 months into the project and has selected five technology providers from Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. They are looking at shadow robotics in a different way and are all at different stages of development. Some have provided videos outlining how their solution may work, whilst others are at concept development stages. Others are trialling their equipment to see how it works.

The technology solutions range from haptic joystick technology where feedback is provided back to the operator (think of feedback you receive through the steering wheel of your car) through to vision tracking sensors that track a human movement where a robot then shadows the operator’s exact movements.

AMPC’s Program Manager Stuart Shaw said the next steps for AMPC were continuing to work with these providers to complete their current development work as well as talking to processors to install ‘proof of concept’ and prototype systems in their processing facilities to run production trials.

“This will take time, and depending on the how the processing plant wants to use the technology, it may require further development,” he said.

“It’s an exciting time for AMPC. The project has moved quickly and I’m really looking forward to trialling this in plants in 6-12 months’ time.”


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