Academics at the School of Engineering, University of Lincoln, have been awarded a BBSRC grant of almost £35k in order to develop an autonomous portable system used to seal ready meal food containers.
Dr Colin Dowding, Dr Becky Margetts and Dr Jonathan Griffiths will oversee the postgraduate projects to commission the highly valuable exhibition system proposed by 28th February 2018. Dr Holopainen of the School of Computer Science, University of Lincoln will offer his significant human-computer interface expertise to ensure intuitive operation of the system delivered.
The grant will deliver a more portable system (see Figure 1) designed to promote viewer access by use of a long (CO2) laser wavelength which cannot pass through tough and visibly transparent enclosure materials such as sheet polycarbonate. Optical elements will be mounted individually in a bespoke optical train modulated by a 50mm linear stage to yield a variable focal length and scanning field. The exhibit system will house a bespoke machine vision system which communicates with the laser control PC. All devices within the system will utilise the familiar but powerful MATLAB environment to enable maximum flexibility, ease and speed of program development.
The system could be used to demonstrate dynamic food tray sealing (where the tray shape is identified and then laser sealed autonomously) or, for demonstrations to potential industrial collaborators, it could be programmed to permanently laser mark a doodle drawn by the audience on a plastic coupon for them to keep as a memento and prove system flexibility.
Laser mediated food package sealing will deliver great advances over contact based food sealing technology; more than doubling production line energy efficiency, reducing manufacturing facility capital and operational cost, increasing production line integrity and yield via greater seal reliability, infinitely increasing production line flexibility and greatly reducing gas usage for Modified Atmosphere Packages in an industry worth £420bn in 2005  and set only to grow.