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Automated Sprout Peeling

Scorpion Robot Vision Spout Peeling

One of the UK’s leading vegetable growers produces 50,000 tonnes of fresh vegetables for British Supermarkets per annum, and is one of the largest suppliers of swedes, leeks and sprouts.

In order to trim the high volume of sprouts grown each year, the company was using a mechanical saw blade with smooth edges. However, due to varying degrees of wax and juice present in each sprout, the blade would not only dull quickly, but could allow for potential cross contamination between sprouts, resulting in a shorter shelf life.

Having identified the need for a more robust solution to trim the sprouts, through various testing it was concluded that vision guided robots would be a suitable replacement solution.

In order to select the most effective machine vision system, a number of options were trialled. However after intensive testing, only Scorpion Vision could offer the flexibility and accuracy required for pick and place sprout identification when integrated on a robot.

Furthermore, the food product has its own challenges as the size and shape could vary depending on the weather e.g. warm weather in late autumn causes the sprouts to be softer and therefore more difficult for the robot to pick up. To overcome these additional challenges Scorpion Vision adapted the vision system in the way it looked at the sprout to manage changing sizes and shapes all year round. 

The overall solution comprises six SCARA robots, picking and cutting 360 sprouts per minute using a 55,000 psi light jet water slice. If a product is found to be defective, the vision system ignores the item which stays on the conveyor and eventually falls off the end. Where compliant, the cut sprouts are dropped onto a separate central conveyor which runs in between all six robots, and are taken to the packaging area for distribution. Production runs 24/7 during autumn and winter, with two shifts per day during the summer low season.

Key Benefits – the heart of this solution is the vision system which identifies which way round the sprout is on the conveyor, allowing the robot to pick up and position each sprout accurately for the water blade.