AMRC Cymru is the Welsh Government’s £20m research & development facility in North Wales. It has secured BITES (Business, Innovation and Tourism Escalator Scheme) funding to develop an emerging ‘technology demonstrator’ for the Welsh food and drink sector as part of the hub. The demonstrator is a re-configurable, modular system for prototyping production processes.
The hub will accelerate the adoption of waste-reducing eco-innovations by integrating industry 4.0 technologies in the packaging industry. It will become a centre for the uptake of emerging technologies and materials in the food and drink packaging supply chain.
Its development was delayed due to the facility converting to producing ventilators in March in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lesley Griffiths, Welsh minister for environment, energy and rural affairs, said: “Our ambition is to raise Wales’ international profile and proactively market our innovation in quality food and drink to the world. I believe the innovations we are exploring at AMRC Cymru can deliver a range of measures to future-proof the industry in Wales.
“We want to see the food, drink and packaging industry reducing its reliance on manual labour and increasing skill levels within the sector and are extremely interested in exploring innovation in processes.
“This will drive forward the industry into a new era of green growth in the Welsh economy and it is vital the sector responds to these high potential opportunities. This can only be achieved by urgently developing new processes and incorporating the new technologies to tackle single-use plastic and recycling.”
The hub will exhibit the AMRC Cymru’s capabilities in advanced automation, collaborative robotics, additive manufacturing and visualisation and there will also be prototyping and functional test equipment for new packaging solutions and ideas.
Bobby Manesh, AMRC Cymru’s food and drink technical lead, said: “These technologies are widely used in other industries but don’t really exist within food and drink
“There are new challenges for us as food and drink packaging companies work in a high-speed, low-cost environment, so the demonstrator will display how they can be implemented in a different manufacturing set up
“The hub will have a central demonstrator based on a conveyor system which will be linked together with collaborative robots, AGVs [automated guided vehicles] and our own engineers wearing exoskeletons.
“Everything will be visualised and tracked through cameras so we will have a digital twin of the process that can be viewed on a screen in real time.”
Minister for economy, transport and North Wales Ken Skates said: “The successful delivery of the Food and Drink Packaging Sustainability Centre will create a more resilient Welsh economy which helps develop companies that are profitable and sustainable.”