Processing

This robotic dog is Spot on for some red meat processors

Terry Sim, 25/10/2022

Spot the robotic dog with, from left Joe Ryan and Kevin Cohen from RAMP RFID and DroneDeploy operator Benedict Davidson at the AMPC showcase.

SPOT the robotic dog can chase sheep, though is unlikely to replace the Kelpie or Border Collie, and no, it can’t cock its leg.

But nevertheless, the yellow robotic dog with special skills is about to be put on the job in Australian meat processing plants.

At the recent inaugural Australian Meat Processor Corporation Innovation Showcase, an AMPC-funded Spot circulated among participants along with other robots.

Spot’s maker, Boston Dynamics, describes it as an agile mobile robot that navigates terrain with unprecedented mobility, allowing the automation of routine inspection tasks and data capture “safely, accurately, and frequently.”

The AMPC Spot version has a LIDAR system on it, an articulated arm on the front and 360 degree camera. With warranty and support, Spot was valued at around $200,000 when delivered to AMPC co-innovation manager Greg William’s house before last Christmas.

“So he was my Christmas present.”

AMPC co-innovation manager Greg Williams with Spot the robotic dog.

He said there are many potential applications for Spot in meat processing plants, depending on the value proposition, though issues included battery longevity and its 35kg payload limit.

Spot’s current battery life is 90 minutes, depending on what it is doing, plus a 15 minute recharging time.

“If you can get it working 20 hours a day doing a myriad of tasks, the value proposition is there.”

He said AMPC has done case studies with DroneDeploy on using Spot, including deploying it in an emergency situation, involving the robotic dog going into an engine room with compliance issues such as restricted access.

“It was used to make sure it could go through the area, so maneuverability, steps, rises, falls, hoses on the ground, all those sorts of impediments.

“But we also put an ammonia detector on it as well with an imaging system,” he said.

“So the intent there is if you ever have a disastrous ammonia leak, you can send Spot into the environment and identify what the problem is before your emergency response team goes in and they know what to rectify when they go in.

He said other Spot “value propositions” are based around general inspection.

One of the other AMPC case studies tested Spot’s maneuverability by going into a boning room environment to do a pre-op swab test, rather than have a quality assurance officer personally do swabs on tables every morning.

Mr Williams said the processor involved in the case studies is interested in using Spot and three other companies have come forward to start using the AMPC’s Spot from next month.

This will using Spot as a showcase unit linked with AMPC’s More To Meat campaign, to attract people into the industry.

“The second application will be walking around a Victorian processing plant monitoring and inspecting services – steam lines, water lines, electrical systems – using the imaging to walk a particular route and identify if there is a particular problem.

“The third one is actually putting it in a processing plant and it’s as simple as handling consumables,” Mr Williams said.

At the moment, when blank cartons are brought into a carton forming room with a forklift, someone is needed to pick up the carton blanks and put them into the carton-forming machine, Mr Williams said.

“Spot is going to be trialled in doing that.”

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