Ford South Africa has turned one of its old robots at its Silverton assembly plant into a braai master that can prepare up to 120 pieces of meat in 12 minutes.
The TCF BBQ – BBQ being short for Braai Boerewors Quickly – is the result of an internal competition run by the company in which it encouraged various departments to design something unique using only the scrap materials and decommissioned tooling available after the extensive factory upgrades.
The winning team was the Trim and Chassis and Final Line department, hence the TCF in the braai-bot’s name.
“What TCF BBQ (Braai Boerewors Quickly) lacks in communication, it more than makes up for in speed,” said Ford South Africa.
“[It is] able to braai 120 pieces of meat in 12 minutes without breaking a sweat, TCF calmly flips and moves grills around with speed and precision – and is guaranteed to be the centre of attention.”
How it’s made
The TCF department at Ford decided to use a “Fanuc robot” that was due to be disposed of when the plant upgrades were done.
The TCF BBQ only had to comply with safety regulations, said the company, thereafter, the winning team was free to do what they pleased.
Main components of the braai-bot comprise scrap metal, 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,” said Claude Roux, area manager for the TCF department.
“Mimicking the complex yet smooth moves of a braai master was the next challenge, and TCF BBQ hasn’t dropped a piece of food yet.”
The TCF BBQ is programmed to place the grill on one of three braai stations surrounding the unit, then turn the grid after a predetermined time.
Furthermore, it is able to offload the grill from the braai onto the braai station, which was manufactured from the bumper and grille of a scrapped Ranger Wildtrak.
“It can even flash the headlights, indicate, beep the horn, and flash the park lights.”
TCF BBQ’s other abilities include being able to pour a drink and serve a full tray to people, as well as wave a flag for those all-important Springbok rugby days.
“This competition brought out a strong yet friendly rivalry that saw various teams working together in secrecy until the reveal date,” said Ockert Berry, vice president of operations at Ford South Africa.
“Now TCF BBQ has hung up his apron and has been dismantled, but a next-generation version can’t be ruled out.”