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Robotics Increase Efficiency In Poultry Industry.

Hybrid materials handling robot eliminates risky labor activities for poultry workers.

Georgia Tech Research Institute researchers have developed a robot to increase efficiency and competitiveness in the poultry industry. The intelligent integrated belt manipulator (IIBM) removes items from a conveyor belt and transfers them into a packing carton for shipping. The IIBM can eliminate lowskill, highly repetitive labor activities that are a risk to workers. The system increases workers' safety by reducing injuries and cumulative trauma disorders, like carpal tunnel syndrome.

The IIBM was conceived in 1992 and has gone through a number of refinements and redesigns. The first-generation robot was powered by pneumatics creating a fast, inaccurate machine. The current model is a hybrid of pneumatics and electro-servo drives. This combination provides motion in four different directions: up and down, parallel with the conveyor belt, perpendicular across the conveyor belt, and 90-degree rotation on a pivot.

After four months of lab testing, the IIBM prototype was sent to the ConAgra (the producer of Butterball and Country Pride products) plant in Gainesville, Ga. Field test results show that IIBM's average cycle time is 2.1 sec, which is comparable to that of a human worker. The robot's pick-up rate has also improved significantly. Although the robot would occasionally drop a tray pack in the lab, missed pick-up is almost non-existent in the plant.

In addition to cutting costs, the IIBM is simple to install and maintain. While traditional robotic systems require as many as 300 individually programmed positions, the IIBM has far fewer and it is easy to get it up and running. Only a few physical dimensions need to be programmed, including the size of tray packs, the location of packing cartons, and the height of the conveyor belt.

Current models are being refitted for placement at the Gold Kist poultry processing plant in Live Oak, Fla.

For more information, visit Georgia Tech online at

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Comment:Robotics Increase Efficiency In Poultry Industry.
Publication:R & D
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 1999
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