Rich Walker to discuss robot developments at this year’s PPMA Show

Rich Walker, managing director, Shadow Robot Company will be asking delegates to ‘hang up your apron and meet the robot that can cook’ when he takes to the stage at this year’s PPMA Show. He will discuss how robots have come a long way from the first industrial robotic arms. The event takes place at the NEC Birmingham on Tuesday 28 September – Thursday 1 October and Walker’s seminar session will be hosted by Automation’s editor, Neil Mead who asks him a few questions about his presentation….

Can you give me an overview of the company you work for?

Shadow Robot Company is an independent robotics development company that is based in London. Shadow has been involved in robotics for over 20 years and had made some considerable advances in the robotic technology world.Shadow Robot Company provides bespoke products for customers such as their Shadow Dexterous Hand and also develops solutions for specific problems brought forward by a wide range of clients.The client base is truly international with Shadow Robot Company working with businesses from as far afield as China and Japan, and also across Europe and the US. The range of work is also hugely varied and we have had to opportunities to work with space agencies, government labs and major internet companies to deliver hardware solutions.

What are you speaking about at the PPMA Show?

At the PPMA Show I will be discussing one of our most recent projects. A client came to us and set us the challenge to build a kitchen that could cook by itself. The client did not want their automated kitchen to look like a production line. What they wanted was a robotic cook that cooked the way a chef does, in a kitchen a person could also use.We took the project back to basics and identified human hands as the pivotal part of the build.  We have been working for two decades with specialists from around the world to create robotic hands that can perform at the same level as a human can. The robot chef comes about as close as we can get to the human hand and the base technology could be widely used across the FMCG sector in the future.The robotic chef has some interesting needs – for example, ingredients prepared and packaged in specific ways – that we think should have a lot of interest for PPMA attendees, as it creates a wide range of new business opportunities.

How can robotics influence the food industry in the future?

Robots are getting cleverer, easier to configure and are now more versatile than ever. They will be able to cope with a wider range of tasks and will be easier to modify to undertake new tasks. The use of robotics could be cost effective on short run production lines that have as little as a 6 month payback period, because a versatile robot allows a manufacturer to redeploy the robot to multiple successive production lines. Robots will no longer been seen as instruments for speciality tasks – easily adapted robots will be universally used across the food industry.        

What is the future of the robotics industry in general?

The robotics industry in general will likely follow the same path as that of the food manufacturing and processing industry. Robots are fast becoming more flexible in the tasks that they can undertake and their ability to execute complex tasks reliably and quickly is rapidly increasing.Jobs where we use humans out of frustration will become a thing of the past and the improved reliability of robots will lead to greater use. Take for example the way in which we currently harvest fruit. It is a laborious job and requires a lot of workers which are often hard to source. Robotic technology could be used to solve this industry wide problem and streamline operational efficiency for many businesses.

Why have you chosen to speak the PPMA Show?

I have chosen to speak at the PPMA Show to reach the key figures in the packaging and processing industry and the PPMA Show is the perfect event to do it at. The influence that robotics could have on the industry could potentially rip up way in which the supply chain currently operates and totally rebuild it. We currently have all the tricks and toys necessary to offer an increased level of automation across the industry. By speaking at the PPMA Show, I’m hoping to have some really profitable conversations with industry professionals regarding how they feel robotics can benefit their business and also identify potential solutions to any problems they may have. It is the best place to meet the people with the ‘knowhow’ and also a great way to network with food processing and packaging professionals.

You can find out more about the PPMA Show, including how to register to attend at www.ppmashow.co.uk

The event is co-located with Sensors & Instrumentation, The Machine Building Show and Micro Nano MEMS.

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