Robot auto-calibration tool helps food processor meet pandemic demand

Essential workers at food processing plants have been particularly at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic due to cramped working conditions. They are often unable to use the primary tool to prevent spreading the disease: social distancing, or staying at least 6 feet apart from one another.

Recently, one of the nation’s largest meat processors came to LEONI looking for a solution that would limit worker exposure to the coronavirus by automating carcass processing and cutting. Traditionally, workers process incoming carcasses by manually removing waste. LEONI suggested computer vision - an area of LEONI expertise - to automatically locate fat and other waste tissues on whole carcasses for automated meat processing.

The client also needed a reliable way to measure the position of the automated cutting blade between operations to ensure that automated systems could process carcasses with the quality and accuracy previously provided by manual workers. LEONI’s advintec tool center point (TCP) system for identifying the position of robotic end-of-arm tooling (EOAT), including in this case electric cutting blades, was the perfect tool for the job.

TCP monitors position in 6D

The advintec TCP system calibrates the tool or fixture electronically in six dimensions (three axes plus angular rotation around each axis), and it does it without touching or contacting the EOAT. Noncontact calibration is particularly important in the case of cutting tools and food processing, where contamination concerns are always paramount.

The robot program is automatically corrected by the measured variations, which ensures that the tool always operates at the correct position. The advintec TCP is a high-precision calibration system that can be used with all robot types and most robotic tools, making it independent of specific manufacturers.

“After modifying the TCP enclosure to be IP69K-washdown safe, initial testing of the TCP in food preparation has gone extremely well,” said Jim Reed, Vision Product Manager of LEONI Engineering Products and Services. “By applying automation to food processing plants, companies can protect the nation’s nutritional supply chain and essential workers by allowing them to work at safe distances. Robots have been helping to protect workers from dangerous and difficult jobs for many years. TCP is an important step in that evolution.”

For more information on LEONI’s advintec TCP and its capabilities for the food processing industry, contact Ron Spence by e-mail ( or call him at 248 484-5521.