Fruit sorting robot developed
Robotics technology that can pick up and sort irregular organic items such as fruit and vegetables has been developed by Cambridge Consultants in the UK. The system uses high-powered image processing algorithms with low-cost sensors to identify and handle the objects.
‘The system is capable of handling objects for which no detailed computer-aided design model exists – a necessary step to using a robot with natural objects which, although they share some characteristics, are not identical,’ said Chris Roberts, head of industrial robotics at Cambridge Consultants.
The company believes that the technology could be used across the agricultural supply chain, from locating and removing specific weeds among crops in a field to sorting fruit and vegetables in a warehouse. The use of machine vision in agriculture is increasing: there are now weeding robots being developed and vision systems are being employed to sort food further along in production.
Cambridge Consultants demonstrated the technology by sorting fruit stacked randomly in a bowl. The robot uses machine vision and smart software to identify which piece of fruit is on top. It translates this information into real-world co-ordinates and positions the robot gripper to pick the required fruit, while avoiding other objects.
‘The custom-made hand adapts to the shape of the fruit and securely grips it without damaging it,’ explained Roberts. ‘Once picked, the fruit can also be sorted by colour so that, for example, red apples can be separated from green apples.’