The simulation system, which CenFRA is currently targeting at the fresh produce sector, produces interactive 3-D computer models of factory layouts, which factor in existing equipment and systems.
CenFRA can then use these to advise firms on tailor-made solutions for their factories, identify unforeseen obstacles and highlight potential areas for improvement.
It can also use component assembly drawing and freeform surfacing to demonstrate how, for example, bananas could be peeled using a machine.
A range of automation options are now available to firms in the fresh produce sector from high-speed flex pickers able to deal with randomly-positioned or delicate foods such as aubergines or avocados, to non-contact grippers for lettuce leaves, and new systems for coring cauliflowers and top-and-tailing cucumbers.
However, CenFRA is also keen to work with manufacturers to develop bespoke systems and solutions where no suitable commercial option is currently available, said a spokesman.
“These latest offerings are invaluable to the fresh produce industry, which up until recently has been extremely reluctant to automate.”
Given that access to finance was one of the biggest barriers to investment in automation, CenFRA was also able to advise on a range of funding options, he added.
“For example the Rural Enterprise Investment Programme offers grants starting from £25,000 and is available to rural businesses wanting to grow and become more productive.”