Ford South Africa’s braai robot can cook 120 pieces of meat in 12 minutes

Ford South Africa’s Silverton Assembly Plant has modified one of its old vehicle assembling robots using decommissioned tools to turn it into an automatic braai machine.

The TCF BBQ (Braai Boerewors Quickly) can braai 120 pieces of meat in 12 minutes without breaking a sweat, Ford South Africa said.

“TCF [BBQ] calmly flips and moves grills around with speed and precision — and is guaranteed to be the centre of attention,” the company stated.

The robot is programmed to place the grill loaded with meat on one of three braai stations surrounding the unit and then turn the grill after a set time.

It can offload the grill from the braai onto the braai station, which was manufactured using a scrapped Ford Ranger Wildtrak bumper and grille.

The robot can also flash the bakkie’s headlights, indicate, beep the horn and flash the parking lights.

Other abilities include pouring water or cool drinks and serving a full tray to people. It can also wave a flag.

The robot resulted from an internal competition held by Ford South Africa.

“Various departments were encouraged to design something unique using whatever scrap materials and decommissioned tooling they could find and was available at the plant, following the extensive upgrades to the assembly line that took place in 2021,” the company explained.

Claude Roux, area manager from the plant’s trim and chassis and final line (TCF), came up with the idea of transforming one of the robots into a braai bot.

“This was when the innovation and curiosity of that ‘small child’ inside all of us came to life,” explained Roux.

“We took our knowledge of braaing and our understanding of manufacturing vehicles and married the two to create a machine with the ability to pick up and manipulate the meat on a grill.”

Roux and his team used a Fanuc robot that was due to be disposed of during the upgrades, along with scrap metal, discarded wood pallets for a base, metal trolleys for braais, and a Siemens programmable logic controller (PLC) for the controls.

“We had a qualified electrician, qualified fitter, PLC programmer, and a controls specialist working on it for around four weeks during the plant shutdown,” Roux said.

The team managed to get the robot to mimic a human braaier, and Ford said the robot hadn’t dropped a piece of food yet.

It has since been dismantled, but Ford said a next-generation version could not be ruled out.

“Maybe we will see a new version to coincide with the launch of the next-generation Ranger,” said Ford South Africa vice president of operations, Ockert Berry.

Below is a video showing the TCF BBQ in action.

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Ford South Africa’s braai robot can cook 120 pieces of meat in 12 minutes