ABB helps Zume offer compostable food trays

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Switzerland-based ABB Robotics says it has signed an agreement to collaborate with California-based packaging maker Zume to supply robotic cells designed to boost Zume’s production of what Zume calls 100 percent compostable packaging “made from plant-based agricultural material.”

“ABB robots will automate production, enabling the scale and speed required to make Zume’s packaging a cost-effective alternative to single-use plastics,” state the two companies in a joint press release.

ABB says it will integrate and install more than 1,000 molded fiber manufacturing cells (MFCs)—including up to 2,000 robots—at Zume customers’ sites worldwide over the next five years. At full scale, the plan has “the potential to produce millions of pieces of sustainable packaging annually,” say the companies.

Zume says its packaging material is made from sustainably harvested plant material left over from agricultural production, including bamboo, wheat and straw. “Unlike plastic, plant-based material is 100 percent biodegradable and simply breaks down after use,” say the two companies, who do not mention the mechanical recycling potential of the material.

“Automating production of Zume’s sustainable packaging with ABB robots makes this a viable and economic alternative to single-use plastics,” says Sami Atiya, president of ABB Robotics & Discrete Automation. “Our collaboration showcases what is possible when organizations that are committed to pursuing a low-carbon society work together.”

Zume says its “patented and innovative” manufacturing process can produce compostable packaging for anything from food and groceries to cosmetics and consumer goods. Containers are molded from the plant material by Zume’s molded fiber cells integrated with two ABB IRB 6700 robots, with each cell processing up to two tons of agriculture material every day, creating up to 80,000 pieces of packaging.

Working with ABB, Zume says it expects to equip factories with up to 100 robotic cells each. With the automation, speed and scalability provided by the MFC, each site would have the potential to process 71,000 tons of agriculture material annually, potentially producing up to 2 billion pieces of packaging each year….”

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