Robots Without Hairnets

By: Saadia Muzaffar

Remember those scenes in old TV shows where factory workers wearing hair nets stood by conveyor belts and stacked food products such as chocolates, muffins, cookies, even chocolates by hand?

Make way for today’s robots. At the recent site tour of ABB Robotics in Brampton, Innovate>Forward attendees watched numerous robots in action, including those used in food packaging (minus the hairnets!)

One of the most fascinating —and deft—is the Flexpicker, used in what is called “pick and place” applications. Timed metal claws are able to sense the size of a delicate food item, pick each one up gently, stack or fit them into a package. We watched our particular robot “play” with poker chips, but in real world applications you can imagine the possibilities.

In fact, these kinds of robots are in use at HoneyTop Pancakes in the UK. , Pancakes on a conveyor belt are fed into an enclosure where ABB’s FlexPicker grabs and stacks them at over 400 per minute!

Additional highlights of our tour was a robot carefully stacking cardboard boxes, and another insect-like robot sorting bread and donuts. The tour was part of the demo section of Innovate Forward, held April 17 at ABB’s facility. Join us on May 15 for Channel Development.


Saadia joins the RIC team as the Operations Coordinator responsible for building and execution of activities that fulfill RIC’s mandate. She brings several years of relationship management, corporate communications and operations experience mainly from the financial services industry.

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