The local food industry is set to become a lot safer when JLS Automation’s innovative tortilla machines reach Australia. The robotic machines, developed in Pennsylvania, feature a round “tortilla tool” which operates using the Bernoulli principle.
Air radiates from the centre of the tool, sucking up tortillas without damaging their delicate layers of dough. The unique machine lifts and stacks tortillas without human interference using the same physics guidelines that keep an aeroplane in the air.
‘Project Octopus’ Coming to Australia
JLS Automation’s machines are in place in many factories across the United States. Now a tortilla production line with eight robotic arms, known as Project Octopus, is scheduled to reach Australia in the near future.
"What we're doing with tortillas, a hand never touches the product," explained JLS Automatic president and chief executive officer Craig Souser.
This makes production much cleaner, as the robots don’t come with the germs and bacteria that human hands do. Robots also can’t cough or sneeze around the tortillas, unlike their human counterparts.
The machine’s concept sounds simple, but Souser insists developing such technology “takes a very specialised knowledge. You have to understand how to pick up a product and move it without having it fly off or fall apart. You have to be able to handle food gently.”
Implications Across the Food Processing Industry
Souser believes the patented tortilla machine has implications across the food processing industry. For example, he suggested it might be used for packing products which should be kept at close to zero degrees, like meat, cheese, and frozen foods. People don’t want these kinds of jobs he reasoned, especially in Australia where the minimum wage nears $20 an hour.
"Why would you stand on a line freezing your butt off?" he quipped. "People are doing these repetitive motions and it's hard. It's hard work."
Souser won’t disclose which Australian company will utilise the machine for confidentiality reasons, but the deal’s set to revolutionise the buyer’s processing plant.