Robotic Fruit Crate Handling

Robotic Innovations was commissioned by the largest fruit juice producer in South Africa, Ceres Fruit Producers, to supply a robotic solution to detect, empty out and re-stack fruit crates.

Being fed into the plant, 3 crates high by forklifts, makes positive location impossible. Requiring a rate of 140 crates per hour, this caused 2 major challenges. The first being that CFP have 80,000 crates all in various stages in their lifespan. How to accurately detect the position of the crates all having different levels of wear and tear? The answer was found in the new Fanuc digital robotic camera system that allows for super-fast exposure speeds, which in turn enabled us to focus on specific characteristics of the crates even if they were not all 100% alike.

The second challenge was the gripper design that also had to allow for all the variance of the crates. The gripper had to not only grip the crates, but also had to tip the fruit out of the crates into a water trough, and that all in 25.71 seconds per crate from detect, lift, tip and re-stack 3 high again.

Robotic Innovations selected a Fanuc M-410iC 700kg capacity robot with an extra servo axis for the tipping, together with two 2D Fanuc digital camera systems for this project.