There is a new braai master at Ford

There is a new braai master at Ford South Africa’s Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria, but just don’t expect a reply when you tell him how well you want your meat done!

Ford Braai2

That is because TCF BBQ – as it is affectionately known – is a robot.

What TCF BBQ (Braai Boerewors Quickly) lacks in communication, it more than makes up for in speed. 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.

The Ford Braai Robot in action.

The TCF BBQ robot was the outcome of an internal competition held by Ford South Africa where 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.

Inspired by Heritage Day and the local assembly of the Ford Ranger bakkie for domestic sales and over 100 export markets, Claude Roux, Area Manager from the Trim and Chassis and Final (TCF) Line, came up with the ambitious idea of transforming one of the robots into a braai bot. Claude had only one non-negotiable: safety compliance.

BBQ - Braai Boerewors Quickly...

“We decided to use a Fanuc robot, which was due to be disposed of during the extensive Silverton Assembly Plant 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,” he says.

In its capable robotic hands, TCF BBQ is programmed to place the grill on one of three braai stations surrounding the unit, 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 – 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 water or cooldrink and serve a full tray to people. And as a final touch befitting of a proudly South African robot, it can wave the national flag.

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